Sunday, September 04, 2011

Sticking it to ‘The Man’

Though I am very critical of the teachers' unions, I fully appreciate the messed up system in which they work – there's a vicious cycle at work here for sure.  Here's one of the more insightful articles I've read about this recently, written by Neerav Kingsland (, Chief Strategy Officer of New Schools for New Orleans:

Once, someone asked me about the modern education reform movement, and this is what I said: "The past twenty years of education reform consist of brilliant people working very, very hard to achieve moderate gains."

Why has this occurred? See picture below:

In short: we've built an irrational system. Let's just call it 'The Man' — and we all know who the Man is. The Man is the existing structure, one that evolved over time to serve a now-vanished 19th century world and no longer serves its original purpose. The Man causes rational people to act in ways that cause the whole system harm. And, when it comes to educators — specifically, unions and charters — who are held down by the Man, I can sympathize with both sides of the debate.

Why do I sympathize with the union perspective?

1.       In most cities, there is only one major employer (the Man) in town – if you get fired, you can never work again at a public school in the town you live in, even if you're fired for a terrible reason.

2.       If you stay in the classroom, there's a high likelihood you're going to work for a low-quality principal at some point. Or you might just work for criminals.

3.       If you get a bad principal and this principal fires you – there goes your career.

4.       So is it crazy that unions have gravitated toward job protection? I don't think so. When there's one dysfunctional employer (the Man) in town, job protection matters.

Why do I sympathize with the charter school perspective?

1.       Everyone will criticize you on the grounds that your work is not important because charters will never get to scale and serve the majority of students. Even your friends have doubts.

2.       Most district leaders will fight to prevent you from opening a school and probably not give you a facility.

3.       And they'll probably give you less money too.

4.       So is it crazy that you don't scale to serve more kids? I don't think so. The system (the Man) is structured to stifle your growth.


Sticking it to 'The Man'

August 23, 2011 – 8:00 am | By Neerav Kingsland | 5 comments

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