Large scale success in education requires a fully coordinated effort by teachers, administrators, parents and students. If fully focused effort from any of the four groups is missing, then the results suffer. Unfortunately, in many places, we're at a point where all four groups are below par. However, since the classroom is where the tire meets the road in education, the teachers tend to be singled out as the problem. That's clearly unfair.
That said, it's also true that teachers unions have helped to paint themselves into this corner.
1) The teachers unions have historically defended and protected ineffective teachers who should have been forced to leave the profession. Self policing has been a failure and the public is aware of that.
2) The public is also upset in areas where teachers get automatic annual pay raises, regardless of their skills as a teacher. Just showing up year after year is not a valid reason for making more money, especially when that means that more effective teachers who have been around for fewer years are underpaid due to budget constraints.
Both of those situations, which are union negotiated privileges, are today coming back to bite teachers. If you are not in the teaching profession, it's unlikely that you have either of those associated with your job. Therefore, it's quite easy as a taxpayer to resent teachers having them, especially when the educational results are dropping.
Teachers are not the solution or the problem. They are just one of the four key groups that must perform well in order for a school system to perform well.
This is a twofer for some - scapegoat teachers for the results of our deplorable under investment in public education in many districts, while neutering the formidable political opposition of unions to the austerity for the masses trickle down economics and deregulation for the wealthy largely responsible for the country's current plight.
Wall Street couldn't countenance the old inefficient model of responsible corporate citizens contributing to their communities and paying their employees well, too much waste. Better to squeeze companies to squeeze employees and communities and send the difference to Wall Street on its way to the Caymans and Bermuda.
There's absolutely nothing worse for Republicans and conservatives today than organized smart people with the money to fight back.
I don't think we will ever fix our education system until we address the fact that far too many Americans do not value learning. We obsess over celebrities and sports stars and mock people who are smart as nerds and geeks. Parents spend a lot more time and attention on their kids' sports than they do on educational activities. Political leaders who are knowledgable about policy are derided as boring wonks. We should never forget that our mainstream journalists and pundits lauded Bush as being more fun to have a beer with than boring old Al Gore. When we do talk about education as a valuable enterprise it is literally in terms of value - the value of getting a well-paying job. In fact we are now treating our schools as job training institutes, not places where kids prepare to be citizens in our democracy - which was the reason we created public schools. One of my relatives is majoring in aviation in order to be a pilot. A German student I know is going to Lufthansa next year when he finishes high school to be trained to be a pilot. Our country was founded by men who had broad-based "liberal" educations in science, history, philosophy, etc. Yet many of the people who claim to worship them reject this kind of education. Sadly too few Americans are well educated enough to realize this bizarre contradiction.
The teachers union biggest mistake was to except any speck of merit pay ever. It. Is educational macarthyism
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