My dad, a blue-collar Dem, is a die-hard union man and I grew up in a pro-union household. But I was a temp worker most of my working life until becoming a teacher, and prefer to set my own rate and negotiate my own terms, even though I’m probably not very good at it. Consequently, I was not ever a big fan of unions, and until three or four years ago, agreed with the classic reform positions on teacher unions: they were responsible for keeping smart people out of teaching, they were responsible for ballooning education costs, they stood in the way of good teachers getting the job done with ridiculous rules and regulations, they protected bad teachers.
My views have changed, and the change began even before I became a teacher.
Do Unions Keep Smart People Out of the Profession?
If I could beat one new reality into the nation’s head, I would choose teacher cognitive ability, and that beating would take four parts. First, that high school teachers have always been pretty smart, and drawn from the top half of the college grad pool. Second, that testing and knowledge standards for elementary teachers was once low, is now much higher and more than reasonable since the states dramatically increased the credentialing test difficulty as part of their adherence to NCLB. (see table). Third, that this dramatic increase did not result in either improved outcomes or evidence that new teachers who qualified with tougher tests were superior to teachers who didn’t. (Cite: This is the dog that didn’t bark. All research since 2001 still shows that new teachers aren’t as effective as experienced teachers until they’ve taught for a couple years. Ergo, harder tests to find smarter teachers didn’t make a huge difference.)
2007 ETS Teacher Quality report, page 23
Fourth, that the research at best shows that smarter teachers give a teeny tiny boost to outcomes, and if we’re just being reasonable instead of squinting hard, shows no real relationship at all between teacher cognitive ability and outcomes. Both progressive and reformer discussion of teacher quality begins with the premise that mouth-breathing morons predominate. Yet the data clearly shows we are not.
Besides, unions have next to nothing to do with teacher credentialing, which is where content knowledge requirements are set. That’s a state function. The states have, as I mentioned, dramatically raised content knowledge for elementary school teachers at least once (twice if you count the original institution of Praxis I and variations). I assume unions protested, although I’m not sure why. But the states have a much bigger problem than unions—namely, disparate impact. Set credentialing standards high, and you lose your black and Hispanic teachers, something I’ve documented at length here, here, and here, and that Stephen Sawchuk has been covering vis a vis the CAEP push to raise standards.
So unions aren’t responsible for stupid teachers, both because there really aren’t that many, and because that’s the state’s job.
But that’s not all, reformers say. Unions promote pay scales that give all teachers the same raise, regardless of quality. They pay old teachers more than young teachers and protect the first at the expense of the second. They oppose merit or performance pay. The best teachers, the really smart ones, the ones who could be hedge fund managers or financial analysts, the ones we’d like to have instead of these dreary wage slaves we’ve got now—well, those sorts of people want competitive salary structures and the knowledge that they’ll be rewarded for their excellence. Otherwise, they’ll sneer at teaching and take jobs that pay them millions to obliterate the country’s financial stability.
Okay. So the very notion of a union is antithetical to getting competitive, performance-driven people who want rewards for their hard work. I’ll pretty much agree with that. But in blaming teacher’s unions, I thought—perhaps wrongly—that the gravamen of the charge was that unions weren’t in and of themselves the problem, they just needed to improve. However, this charge can only genuinely be resolved by killing teachers unions entirely. Good luck with that.
Sure, there are efforts to come up with merit pay or other pay for performance plans. Most of the research shows they don’t work. I have written up my results for algebra I growth in my students, both in algebra I and in algebra II and geometry. I subtitled one of these “Why Merit Pay Won’t Work”, even though I didn’t mention the subject directly.
I realize I am offering anecdata, but I assert here and now that my anecdata is supported nationwide, that the bulk of high school students who enter a math class will leave it scoring at roughly the same percentile of ability. Performance pay of any sort will not alter this fundamental reality. And once everyone else realizes this, no one’s going to pay big bucks to move kids taking algebra I for the third time from Far Below Basic to Below Basic. I suspect that reading ability suffers from the same constraints.
So I’ll agree that the union compensation structure keeps competitive, high-performance people from even thinking about teaching. However, were such people to enter teaching, the realization that the nation’s stated goals for educational outcomes are utterly disconnected from reality would drive them right out again. No point in performance pay if the objectives are delusions.
Do Unions Increase Costs of Education?
Are unions responsible for the ballooning costs of education? Not on a day to day basis. The bulk of increased costs is due to special ed, and we can blame politicians for that one. I agree that unions and politicians are responsible for pension costs, although teacher unions aren’t any worse than any other government union on that count. In fact, given that teachers can’t work overtime per se and retire at an average age of 59 (cops work 20 years and out, and while I can’t find average national data, California cops and firefighters have an average age of 54), teachers are probably among the least offenders. Less likely to get disability, too.
Districts are far more interested in figuring out how to keep teachers than fire them. Teacher turnover is a huge issue and major expense, and one that can’t really be laid at the union’s door.
So I would argue that unions own responsibility for the huge pensions, but day to day costs, I’d want to see more evidence. And where’s the evidence that teacher unions are worse than other government unions?
Do Union Rules and Regulations Prohibit Productivity?
Yeah, this is nuts. What are you all talking about? I assumed, before becoming a teacher, that there’d be union reps all over the place telling me what I can and can’t do, that teachers were busy bitching out other teachers who worked harder and made them look bad. Where is this happening, and is Nick Nolte on the staff?
Just one example: class assignment often results in English and history teachers getting classes bigger than the contract stipulates (usually 34 or 35). I know teachers who have had 40 kids in a class. They complain. Let me be clear: the teachers complain. The teacher union rep (who also has overlimit classes), in response to the complaints, fills out forms and encourages everyone else to do the paperwork. Some do, some don’t. In this last year, the issue was never resolved. The union didn’t attack the school. They get the difficulty of assigning classes. But at the same time, they continue to work the problem—and will probably escalate it. The union is not enforcing rules and regulations that the teachers are fine with, insisting on arcane objectives that no one gives a crap about any more, but rather responding to teacher complaints about onerous work conditions. How is that not its job?
As a math teacher, I’ve been over the limit a couple times, and I didn’t much care—it’s a whole different issue in math than English and history, with grading time being the chief determinant. However, I didn’t have enough desks. So after a union meeting, I went to the rep and mentioned that I had 35 students but only 32 desks.
“You are overlimit! You should grieve it,” she said, instantly.
“Yeah, it’s just not a big deal. But I need more desks.”
Did she insist that I grieve? Look at me with disapproval? She did not. She just gave me the bad news: other teachers had an even higher ratio of missing desks to students, and short of going out and buying my own desks, I was screwed. She didn’t deliver the news with snark, but with understanding sympathy, since her missing desk to student ratio was 6:1. We commiserated, agreed that attrition would probably fix most of the problem, but wasn’t it annoying that we had to wait? For desks, even!!
It was a nice conversation.
Again, I don’t get this complaint at all. I try to think what else it could be, what case it is that unions, as opposed to teachers, insist on silly rules that stop “progress”—which is, of course, whatever the complainer thinks would be a rilly cool idea. Examples?
Do Unions Protect Bad Teachers?
Ah, the big Kahuna of teacher union beefs. It’s hard to fire bad teachers, because unions make administrators lives living hell in order to discourage them from even trying.
There’s an easy out on this one, though. If government unions ceased to exist tomorrow, teachers would still have Loudermill, the relatively recent Supreme Court decision that says that employment is a property right, and states can’t deprive their employees of property rights without due process. And most states have tenure written into their laws, independent of union contracts. So the changes necessary to undo teacher rights are far more than just dumping unions. Moreover, even the states that have eliminated tenure, like Oregon, seem to hold onto most of their teachers. Oregon dropped tenure for 2-year teaching contracts; a story just two years later reported that nothing had changed. This CAP report report on teacher tenure shows that Oregon is below average in teacher dismissal rates. While some states without tenure laws have high dismissal rates for that year (Alabama, Alaska), others have low ones (Mississippi, Texas).
In fact, as this second CAP report on state tenure laws spells out, the bulk of the apparently onerous dismissal laws are encoded in state law. So how is that the unions’ fault?
Naturally, there’s state laws, and then there’s enforcing state laws. Once, I noticed that one of my employers (a large national corporation) wasn’t paying me overtime. I thought that odd. I emailed someone in HR, and was ignored. I emailed again, no response. I emailed a third time, was told that I misunderstood the law. This annoyed me. It wasn’t the money. In fact, I knew that the employer would simply stop me from working overtime, if they took the law seriously. But they didn’t. So I reported them to the state, who eventually subjected the company to a regional audit, and months later I got a nice check. The company had to revamp its time sheets, at considerable expense, and educate managers on overtime laws by state. (To the company’s credit, I wasn’t fired. A senior HR person called me, I told him I don’t like it when companies ignore the law, he observed that I’d probably saved them a class action suit years down the line.)
This took upwards of a year to resolve, and this was on an issue that I had the corporation dead to rights–around 9 separate incidents of submitted timesheets showing overtime, and paychecks showing no overtime. And yet the corporation ignored me, figuring what the hell, it could break the law. Had my case not been so easy to prove and I been less adept at documentation, I’m sure the corporation’s strategy would have proved out.
It will not shock anyone to learn that private corporations routinely ignore state employment law.
So unions merely force their employers to follow state law. Down to the letter. They do it so effectively that districts are loathe to incur the costs of dismissal.
The CAP report I linked in makes a good case for changing state laws. I suspect that unions will fight any attempt to change, but so what? The “onerous” process required for firing government employees involves state law and federal case law. That unionized government employees simply have the means of forcing their employers to follow the law whereas employees of private corporations are screwed unless the violations reach the level of class action suit says more about the state of employment in America than it does about unions. We shouldn’t need unions to ensure the law is followed. Clearly, we do.
Of course, your average eduformer doesn’t want a state law change. Reformers want to abolish all protection for state employees, barring the usual ones, and give principals a free hand. They are okay with competent teachers being fired simply because the principal wants a younger teacher, a different style, or simply a different teacher (which of course means a cheaper teacher). Checker Finn: “The single most important form of freedom for charter schools is to hire and fire employees as they like and pay them as they see fit.” Whitney Tilson: ” Ending LIFO is a critical first step to getting to what’s really necessary: that every principal has the full power to hire and fire every adult (not just teachers) in the school and he/she sees fit..”. Rick Hess, whose new book Cagebusting might be subtitled “How to Fire Teachers Quickly and a Few Other Administrative Tips I Threw In So No One Can Say This is Just a Book about Firing Teachers”, encourages administrators to use private philanthropy to get the equivalent legal power on their side, but at least he’s working within the system instead of ignoring its realities.
So should unions eat the blame for denying reformers their holy grail of hire and fire power? I think not. Go change the state laws and get back to me.
So in the end, what are teacher unions to blame for? Big pensions—and even then, they were just doing their job with politicians who didn’t want to do theirs. A compensation structure that repels competitive, performance-driven workers. Many of the teacher protections and all of the standards lie at the state level, entirely out of the union’s purview. But there’s another point to consider.
It can’t have escaped notice that most of the beefs against teacher unions are, in fact, true for all unions. So I repeat a question I’ve written about before: why the big push against teacher unions? Cops and firefighters are just as hard to fire. DMV employees harder still, no doubt. As Richard Posner points out, judges also get paid whether they are any good or not, and without a union, even (I have other good things to say about that Posner essay). So do politicians, who get paid with taxpayer dollars if they’re elected, even if they’re horrible, also without a union.
Education is big business and education reformers are often, but not always, Republicans, a group who—totally coincidentally, I’m sure—favors an outcome that weakens or obliterates a big pile of Democrat money. Neither of those facts, however, explain why it’s apparently okay to single out teachers, castigating them for “privileges” that are de rigueur for all government employees. I just cited two separate Center for American Progress reports calling for a weakening of teacher tenure, and unless I’m mistaken CAP is one of the few pro-union organizations left. I’ll leave that question unanswered save for my previous wonderings, but it is something that nags at me.
I am no more in favor of unions for myself than I ever was. I was just reading Andrew Old’s diatribe about scabs—in fact, I think that essay was the cause of this one, because I realized again that I just couldn’t see myself going out on strike. My view of unions have undergone a profound change, but I don’t think of myself as a union member. I get paid, I go to work. I would probably strike if I voted to strike, but there’s the rub, since I can’t see voting to strike. This is visceral. I’m not sure if I can even explain it. (Note: Andrew Old’s views have changed, but I think he’d still call me a scab for not striking.)
But the past decade has made me much more sympathetic to unions in general. I was just rereading this piece by Kevin Drum on the death of unions, realizing that I would have scoffed at it back in the 90s. I still believe that America is largely antithetical to true union thinking, that union acceptance in the post-war period was a fluke due to our economic dominance in the global market. But the disappearance of work will undoubtedly travel up the pay scale, and I’m much more open to the idea that we need to constrain businesses from putting profit before everything, that stockholders don’t really matter more than workers, and that Amazon’s work practices are obscene.
Is my sympathy caused by my job change? Perhaps, but remember that I am not protected by tenure and may never attain it. Speedy termination until I’m too old to hire is a high-probability outcome for me, which is depressing, but at least suggests my opinions aren’t of the “I got mine, Jack” category.
I will grant anyone that unions make education more expensive, both by scaring politicians and, importantly, by holding onto some of the compensation value the private sector has lost because it doesn’t have the same protections that government employees have —unionized or not.
But are unions responsible in any way for our failure to achieve our educational goals, those lofty objectives that declare all high school graduates will be ready for college or career training?
No. Put another way: Pretty much everything Terry Moe says is wrong.
Those who think that teachers, or unions, or poverty causes our educational outcomes are kidding themselves. Our expectations are absurd. Criminal. The cruelest thing our education system does to our kids is not give them terrible teachers protected by thuggish unions, but ignore the role that cognitive ability plays in their ability to learn the material. Our system punishes bright kids, makes life too easy for middling ability kids, and as for the lowest ability kids, disproportionately poor, we give them all sorts of attention coupled with all sorts of absurd expectations, and leave them feeling hopeless and disconnected.
No one is comfortable admitting that. Reformers tried blaming parents, but they just got tagged as racists. Teachers are the only people left to blame. Unions are just a convenient proxy, a way for reformers to try to avoid alienating the largest profession in the country while still gutting its wages and protections—let’s assume, generously, in the genuine belief that teachers are genuinely responsible for student outcomes in an educational world with absurd and cruel expectations.
In fact, I believe teachers could make more of a difference in educational outcomes if we educated by cognitive ability and set goals accordingly. I believe we should spend more time teaching content to low-mid ability kids, and critical thinking and analysis to mid-high ability kids. But all of this starts by accepting the role that cognitive ability plays in outcomes, and coming to terms with the fact that unions have nothing to do with them.
July 7th, 2013 at 10:15 pm
When Lysenko was in favor back in the old Soviet Union he came up with the idea of sowing wheat seeds on snowfields. He thought that they would sprout. When this was done the seeds didn’t sprout but just rotted. Why did Lysenko’s great idea fail? Obviously it was because those who had done the sowing were saboteurs and no doubt American spies also. They were arrested and shot or sent off to the Gulag.
Teachers are the obvious scapegoats to be demonized for the failures of the ideological fantasies of our rulers.
July 8th, 2013 at 5:08 pm
In your opinion, what percentage of teachers believe, deep down, that you’re right regarding cognitive ability? And what percentage honestly believe that inefficient teaching is the only thing between a mid-low ability NAM and a Harvard mathematics PhD? I have to believe that if more people thought like you, massive curricular change would be an inevitability.
July 9th, 2013 at 8:18 am
The teachers I know seem to be acutely aware of it on a personal/local level. Get them talking about, say, “merit pay”, and they can be incredibly eloquent and convincing about cognitive abilities and how they impact results. No matter where they stand on the nature-nurture continuum, they seem aware of it, no matter the phrasing, even though they normally don’t think about the “why”.
It’s more difficult on a wider scale, as (1) most don’t have the interest in wading through statistics, (2) a lot don’t have the ability (but still might be good teachers), (3) it’s a niche interest and (4) bringing it up on a group level could well ruin their lives.
July 11th, 2013 at 4:37 am
I think this is true. Most teachers do frame it in terms of effort and cognitive ability combined, which I disagree with.
July 8th, 2013 at 10:59 pm
[…] What Can We Blame Teacher Unions For? (educationrealist.wordpress.com) […]
July 8th, 2013 at 11:15 pm
I thought this was thoughtful and interesting. I don’t think the teacher pay scale keeps smart people out. When you consider the long term benefits of the pension and healthcare, in the end, how much more money would you actually make in the private sector?
July 11th, 2013 at 4:38 am
Yeah, the bennies are friggin gold standard.
July 31st, 2013 at 3:30 pm
Sarcasm or not?
August 1st, 2013 at 1:05 am
Compared to private sector? They’re stunning. Remember, I’ve worked temp all my life.
July 10th, 2013 at 2:42 am
The best comment anyone has ever told me about the importance of having a strong union is when a fellow coworker told me, “with a school board constantly worried about the rising costs of older teachers, very few teachers would make it past 10-15 years before they were replaced with a younger, cheaper version, talent notwithstanding.”
Individually we (I’d say as a nation) are not very aware of most of the laws passed, but the collective (union) is very aware and enforces it for us because the cost is dispersed.
Thanks for confirming my newer thoughts about unions and unionizing.
July 11th, 2013 at 4:36 am
“very few teachers would make it past 10-15 years before they were replaced with a younger, cheaper version, talent notwithstanding.”
This is absolutely true and would ultimately lead to age discrimination lawsuits.
July 10th, 2013 at 8:49 pm
I agree with every single bit of this article.
Slightly off topic, but echoing your comments on softening towards unions: For quite some time I have considered myself politically libertarian, but I’m baffled by the insistence of many in that movement that open borders for people are always necessarily a good thing. I’m a reasonably smart guy and I’m well-qualified for my job, but my employers could easily find someone somewhere in the world who would be willing to do my job at least as well as me and for less money. I understand that ‘society’ benefits from this, but surely the same could happen with every job in the country. The net result would be a levelling of living standards worldwide, which must sound great if you’re currently living in a third world shithole, but not so great if like me you’ve only had a few years of your life in which you’ve experienced a first world standard of living. Nobody seems to be able to explain to me why I should be happy about this. I’ve had some claim as a likely outcome that the whole world will benefit from this arrangement, which to my mind rather echoes the thinking behind the comprehensive school system in the UK; namely that mixing the best and the brightest with the, er, not the best and the brightest, will lead to ‘a rising tide lifting all boats’. Of course the comprehensive system in the UK has not led to a rise in standards for all (I suspect the opposite, in fact) and I rather think that yet more open borders will similarly fail but with even more serious consequences for the whole of society.
July 11th, 2013 at 4:31 am
In short–Bryan Caplan is bat-shit crazy.
July 14th, 2013 at 11:50 am
If open borders exist for corporations (and corporate workers) they should exist for people from all walks of life (barring those already shown to be a danger to others). That’s my principle.
Maybe that principle needs to be sacrificed for the greater good for the time being, but I hope at some point it becomes possible.
July 14th, 2013 at 10:42 pm
Except I’m pretty sure open borders don’t exist for corporations. Or for corporate workers. Granted, I don’t imagine many corporations (or their workers) get turned away, but still…
Even if it is the case that borders are completely open to corporations and their workers it’s a non sequitur to suggest that borders should be open to people ‘from all walks of life’.
July 12th, 2013 at 5:55 pm
[…] hostile to teachers’ unions, Education Realist now thinks unions are blamed unfairly for many education problems. She starts with teachers’ cognitive […]
July 17th, 2013 at 1:47 am
So teachers unions haven’t ruined everything, OK, I can buy that. But what good are they to anyone except teachers? Do they do anything positive for students, parents or taxpayers? I understand why teachers like them, but why should non-teachers support teachers unions? What’s in it for everyone else?
July 31st, 2013 at 3:31 pm
I think the point is less that they are a great benefit to education than that you can’t “fix” education by changing or eliminating them. Point your guns at the right target, or be honest about your motives.
August 1st, 2013 at 1:03 am
That’s it exactly.
August 16th, 2013 at 7:16 pm
[…] union website, twitter, or representative. I’m not saying they’re wrong, they’re just not very interesting. If Randi Weingarten has had an original thought, […]
December 1st, 2013 at 12:00 am
[…] there’s vanishingly little evidence that teacher smarts affect educational outcomes, and unions can be blamed for increasing costs, but not for educational outcomes of any sort. Why not believe we can change and improve public […]
June 2nd, 2014 at 3:04 am
[…] What Can We Blame Teacher Unions For […]
July 10th, 2015 at 9:17 pm
What we definitely can blame unions for, that wasn’t even touched upon here, is the impact that teachers who spend more time politicking to rise to the top of the union instead of working on their class content can have on administration selection, which in turn plays a big part in whether actually doing their job is enforced.
Further, bad teachers here shouldn’t be defined on how “smart” the teacher is, but on their ability to 1) adequately convey the information they are required to convey and 2) their ability to not be an awful menace who never should have been allowed near children, neither of which is well tracked by the grades they got in a teaching exam.
July 10th, 2015 at 10:00 pm
(snicker) teachers who spend more time politicking than teaching? Who the hell do you know? All the union positions in my experience are elected unopposed.
As for the rest, yes, there are just sooooo many menacing teachers.
July 11th, 2015 at 12:40 am
I know more teachers who bully their students than ones that don’t, and if you claim that there aren’t any such teachers, then you are willfully blind or a liar.
Granted, this “more” is a bare margin, and only slightly more than half, but the fact that there are any is a problem.
They get away with it because they pick out one or two students at the beginning of the year, claim that those children are problem students, and then any time they feel like it or want to assert their authority, they claim those students have done something wrong and punish them, whether by sending them to the principal’s office, or making them stay for detention, or whatever. Everybody else falls in line because they don’t want to be punished too, and the teacher punishes their target twice as hard if they claim innocence.
If an actually good administrator happens to be in the room when this happens, the teacher gets called out for it. At which point that politicking I mentioned kicks in. The worst teachers, the ones who don’t even want to try keeping order in a vaguely moral way, pre-emptively pursue a position in the union which, sure, they might get unopposed when the good teachers sigh in relief that somebody else will handle it and they can work on their syllabus or maybe have a little free time to decompress after all day doing the exhausting work of dealing with children.
These morally bankrupt monsters then use their position to make sure that there isn’t a good administrator checking the classrooms making sure that teachers are doing their jobs, so that they can bully children into compliance in peace, and go about their business of sending a child out of the room for an imagined slight, handing out homework, instructing the students not to share said homework, and then punishing the child the next day for not doing their homework by sending them out of the room while they hand out homework again.
July 11th, 2015 at 10:27 am
“I know more teachers who bully their students than ones that don’t”
Well, leave Russia. And find some other blog that wants to humor your idiocy.
July 11th, 2015 at 11:58 am
Your assertion that I’m in Russia when I clearly specifically mentioned New York, followed up by your claim that I’m talking about one person when you previously claimed that I must be in Russia if more than half the teachers I know are bad, just shows that you can’t even maintain a coherent excuse.
I’m going to assume that you’re part of the problem on this one, and not simply somebody too close to see the problem. I’m going to go find a blog that wasn’t designed to espouse your idiocy.
July 11th, 2015 at 2:41 pm
Door, ass, etc.
July 11th, 2015 at 12:49 am
Maybe your disingenuous dismissal is in fact fully justified, maybe this kind of behavior only happens in the three towns I have had experience with teachers in, and every other place in the United States is bright and happy and doesn’t have this kind of problem. Maybe the assertion by the administration of Mahopac school district in Putnam County New York that “this is just how teachers have to keep order and nothing else works, this is even what they’re teaching in normal schools now” was entirely a fabrication, and their assurance that they would speak with the teachers the next year up and make certain that a different child was picked to not unduly damage the academic career of any specific student doesn’t speak to a systematic and codified issue.
Or maybe there’s a serious problem with the way teachers are selected and taught, and protecting the teachers who pull this behavior just makes the ones who are actually doing their jobs and teaching well look worse.
July 11th, 2015 at 10:25 am
Sure. There are 3.7. million teachers in America and you know of one really meeeeeeean one. The only explanation must be that ed school has the market on sadistic brutes.
July 11th, 2015 at 12:07 pm
Just want to make sure: You don’t teach geography, right? Thinking New York is in Russia should disqualify you from that. You also don’t teach any form of math, right? Fractional teachers are absurd, and that is what it would take for “one” to be “more than half.” To say nothing of the premise that any person might only have experience with two, or slightly less than two teachers.
July 11th, 2015 at 4:51 pm
You pretty much just came in here declaiming ‘all teachers are assholes, that means you’re an asshole too’.
How did you expect someone to respond to that? The well was poisoned from the start.
July 11th, 2015 at 6:05 pm
Well. Many would agree that I’m an asshole, but it’s an attribute I appear to have been born with.
I just can’t take seriously anyone who would argue that all teachers are abusive assholes. Surely, with 3.7 million teachers, someone would have reported on it long before now. I’m fine with unsupported assertions, but they have to pass the smell test.
July 11th, 2015 at 6:21 pm
Pick which assertion I’m making. One person, or all teachers. I have been very clear. More than half the teachers I know. This implicitly suggests that I know teachers who are NOT assholes. In fact I have several friends who are or were teachers. And the ones who have just retired have generally done so because of the increasingly toxic environment, and the ones who have just started agree that their professors have told them of this technique but are vehement that they would never use it. And it doesn’t get reported because when the teacher picks one student to throw under the bus, they claim they’re only disciplining a problem student, and any parent who complains about their kid being singled out is never believed because the teacher is asserting that that kid is just trouble. Further, these teachers can then afford to act nice to all the other students, because the kids are cowed and don’t need any further discipline, so they’re often considered the nice or popular teachers.
Furthermore, I came in here talking about a specific problem which wasn’t addressed, which, looking back over the language I used, could easily have been pointing at only five percent or less as the troublemakers who are getting teachers a tarred reputation. I was instantly met with derision at the very idea that it was POSSIBLE for a teacher to bully their students. The further this conversation went, the less convinced I was talking to someone who wanted the system fixed, and the more certain I was talking to someone who was part of the problem.
July 11th, 2015 at 6:31 pm
First, you made it very clear you’d never read this blog before, because if you had, you’d know I don’t define “good teacher” as “smart teacher”. So right off the bat, you struck me as an idiot who confuses his or her own experience as somehow relevant.
Second, you talked about teachers jockeying for union roles, which is the stupidest damn thing I’ve ever heard of, and something no one who is familiar with schools would claim as an endemic problem. It might be locally, if everyone in your community is like you, but what are the odds?
Third, teachers are regularly in the top five respected occupations, so the idea that we’re all getting tarred with some random jackass–again, stupid.
It’s pretty clear I’m saying the system isn’t broken. People who think it is, like you, don’t understand reality. Even though I’m not enthusiastic about being in a union.
I’m definitely not part of the problem. But in terms of ed policy discourse, you definitely are.
July 26th, 2016 at 8:06 am
[…] year after the election, I wrote about unions and asked, again, why the GOP was so intent on attacking teacher protections when cops and other […]
July 1st, 2018 at 6:02 pm
[…] not a big fan of unions,although teachers unions come in for a lot of undeserved criticism. But my dislike of unions is professional–totally unrelated to the bizarro conservative […]