Monday, February 01, 2010

Why We're Failing Our Schools

In questioning Randi, Scarborough quotes from this brilliant Joe Klein column in Time that BLASTS the unions (including an amazingly prescient 17-year-old quote from Al Shanker that I'd never seen before):

The New York teachers' union was launched in 1960 and led in the early years by the smartest and toughest union man I've ever met, Albert Shanker. The teachers are among the most powerful interest groups in New York State (and nationally, in the Democratic Party). The UFT's slogan is "A Union of Professionals," but it is quite the opposite: an old-fashioned industrial union that has won for its members a set of work rules more appropriate to factory hands. There are strict seniority rules about pay, school assignment, length of the school day and year. In New York, it is near impossible to fire a teacher — even one accused of a crime, drug addiction or flagrant misbehavior. The miscreants are stashed in "rubber rooms" at full pay, for years, while the union pleads their cases. In New York, school authorities are forbidden, by state law, to evaluate teachers by using student test results.

Toward the end of his life, Shanker began to realize the union was headed down the wrong path. In a 1993 speech, he talked about the need for more accountability: "I wouldn't be saying these things ... if I didn't have the sense that we are at the same point that the auto industry was at a few years ago. They could see they were losing market share every year and still not believe that it really had anything to do with the quality of the product ... I think that we will get — and deserve — the end of public education through some sort of privatization scheme if we don't behave differently."

…No, teachers' unions are not the only problem here. Troglodytic local school boards and apathetic parents are just as bad. But the unions, and their minions in the Democratic Party, have been a reactionary force in education reform for too long. Barack Obama began to change that last year with Race to the Top. It's a fight he needs to expand, and win.


Why We're Failing Our Schools

By Joe Klein Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010,8599,1957277,00.html#ixzz0dwz8Nyf2


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