A reader writes:
If I may make a suggestion, all of the politicians, bureaucrats, intellectuals, philanthropists, think-tanks, bloggers, and pundits weighing in on teachers' unions and their relative worth to our system of public education should consider asking teachers what they think.
First, I've taught in four school districts, and not a single one has been forced to keep a bad teacher. Every one of my prior labor contracts had a specified system by which ineffective teachers could remediate deficits in their teaching or be removed. And in each district that language was utilized for that purpose at one time or another. The fact is, administrators and school boards want teachers' unions broken for labor reasons, like any other business. They're looking for increased revenue and/or lower expenses just like everyone else.I ask you to look further, deeper, at the fundamentals of this system, and you'll find a snowball effect: Governmental mandates are pushing complex curriculum downward, onto younger and less-developed brains each year. And regardless of whether or not the students are developmentally and neurologically capable of performing these increasingly complex tasks, the standards rise and so we must teach. When the public learns that these curricular requirements are not being mastered, no one asks why, they just raise the standards and further increase the pressure on teachers. A politician steps up to champion the cause of our youth, sets the problem on the backs of those who must be careless incompetents in front of their classrooms, writes mandates in some legislation, calls it a win for kids and himself and our nation, ad nauseam. Yes, when kids fail in school, we all do. But politics driving curriculum, not neuroscience, developmental research, is a recipe for students' and teachers' perpetual failure.
When government standards are aligned with scientifically-researched and developmentally-appropriate curriculum, and utilizing funding sources which are as malleable and expansive as the needs schools have, educational progress, teacher salaries, and retention of quality teachers can be addressed, and not before. Parroting that unions of the professionals in this system are somehow to blame for its relative quality while ignoring the archaic mechanism by which our schools are run is little more than a naive and politically expedient shell game.