City Journal Spring 2014

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Marcus A. Winters
Immune to Reform « Back to Story

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I strictly recommend not to wait until you earn enough money to buy all you need! You can get the loans or car loan and feel free
I am glad to see that Professor Moe's work is receiving attention. I hope he is right about the demise of the unions. KIPP and other schools make clear that it is not the kids who are incapable of learning, it is the unions and the teachers who support them.

However, I disagree with the author's (and, by implication, Mr. Moe's) last point about technology replacing teachers. That is a tortuous, and, frankly, gutless way of reducing the power of teacher unions. And it is a route that would lead to worse outcomes for students. Our kids do not need less human interaction, they need more, and that with good teachers. The computer cannot challenge the way a great teacher can. It cannot give just the right smile or wink that says "I'm proud of you for sticking with this." And it cannot give that disappointed look that cuts a teenager to his core when he does less than his best. The computer cannot impart grace, or teach character, or get a little choked up by the Gettysburg Address.

Don't root for getting rid of teachers; fight to get rid of bad and mediocre teachers by changing how we hire them. Skip the education school fairs and recruit subject matter teachers who know what they are talking about. Look for that spark and feed it with some intensive pedagogic training and lots of mentoring. Offer new recruits two options: (1) the union, with all of its rules and dues and protections and LIFO, or (2) twice the pay, a generous 401(k) instead of a pension, and lots of autonomy to decide how to teach. Reduce the union's ranks by offering real professionalism.
One of the scams administrators use on the general public is obtaining an Ed.D. (Doctor of Education). The degree is held by many principals and superintendents since it requires that they be addressed as "Doctor". This worthless degree requires virtually no level of skill attainment or knowledge but keeps a barrier between the "Doctor" and the less educated. I certainly have respect for a dentist,physician, Ph.D. in the hard sciences etc. but this Ed.D. is nothing but a tool of intimidation.
This is a naive perspective.

Government & large corporations do not want an educated populace. The ignorant are more easily controlled. Teacher's Unions are scapegoats.
The posting from Dennis Hickman is depressing. An apparently intelligent man and likely a good teacher. Yet even he has been thoroughly brainwashed by his union.
The posting from Dennis Hickman is depressing. An apparently intelligent man and likely a good teacher. Yet even he has been thoroughly brainwashed by his union.
Anthony Krinsky June 13, 2011 at 2:38 PM
Excellent review of an important book.
Patrick MacKinnon June 13, 2011 at 12:39 PM
I remember many years ago when TV was in infancy I saw a lecturer
from UCLA teaching Shakespeare. I was astounded. He actually made it interesting when I had thought it was dull. So, I say, this is GREAT! Now
all classrooms can have TVs and watch such top notch teachers. It will be a revolution in education. We will have a new Educated citizenry.
How very naive of me. The influence of TV has actually made things
worse in education.
May we yet hold out hope?
Yet another ignorant article about education "reform" and teachers' unions. As is the case with most such articles, we are never told about the writer's background. It would be nice to hear that he has been a teacher in the past and that he had some sort of personal experience as a member of a teachers' union.

I have been teaching for over 40 years, in both private and public schools. No one has ever asked me to give my opinion in a journal such as yours. Let me make a few points that are obvious to people who know anything about education.

1. Teacher's unions became powerful because taxpayers on the whole refused to pay teachers reasonable wages.

2. What is good for teachers is good for students. If the "reformers" could come up with an intelligent way to evaluate teachers such as me (I teach high school English), teachers would support the evaluation process. No sophisticated teacher thinks that the results of a standardized test are adequate measures. Nor is the typical yearly visit by an administrator to may classroom. I accept that there are incompetent teachers. I seriously doubt that there are more of them than there are incompetent lawyers or doctors. Give us a way to prove who the incompetents are and we will get rid of them.

3. Most teachers I know in the USA join unions first of all because they need liability insurance. They worry that some student can accuse them of criminal behavior and bankrupt them in the courts.

4. Many teachers object to the involvement of the NEA (for example) in political causes they don't support. In Arizona, for example, many teachers dislike the union's support of gun-control legislation. But they still want the union people to bargain for them and they still need the insurance.

5. Intelligent writers who write about education never lump lower and upper grade teachers together. Virtually all of the talk that reformers engage in seems to be about 4th grade reading and math scores. This is Mickey Mouse. Education is not just about B.F. Skinner. Put a student in a Skinner box and watch his scores go up! The issues tend to be different for different grade levels. And the important issues have to do with learning on a much more sophisticated level than most reformers seem to want to talk about.

6. The main problem with American schools is the students. Too many of them think the concept that "school is boring" excuses them from doing any work. I have taught in good schools and bad schools and the main difference is the students. This is not rocket science. And duh! the teachers are not the main problem.


The comma after "who write about schools," is not needed.
Also, you may wish to indicated that a commenter's email address will not appear online. It is not clear if this is so.
I believe that several of the conservative leaning State Govt's. recent Legislative initiatives to abolish tenure, represent the beginning of an era of reform. If not our educational system is doomed.
Ayn Marie Samuelson June 11, 2011 at 1:10 PM
Are teachers’ unions the only special interest group found in public education? Definitely not. Any organized group, whether teachers, administrators, school boards (yes they have state and national boards & training), elite reformers and politicians (political parties) work for their own interests. Who are those left without authentic organization or backing? Clearly they are the students - those who are supposed to benefit from education and the parents/communities who are mandated to pay for education, even in its current, outdated bureaucratic condition.
The book - Exposing the Public Education System - explains the system and has a prescription to transform it from the grassroots up within individual communities. Fundamental change will not come for students and taxpayers from groups that benefit so much from the current political-bureaucratic system.
"Any bureaucratization encourages the apparatus to protect its own interests and to forget about the citizens’ interests." Alexander Nata, Italian Communist Party
Now wait a minute. The problem is teachers one of which I am, unions or both. If we wait long enough the solution will just pop up somewhere.
The money won't.
Right on, but just tip of iceberg. I think unions are vulnerable. Charge!
only 37% of teachers are in unions. Every other professional group has organizations but teachers should not? Unions do not make policy, school boards do and its a myth that unions control school boards. Why would they not want members on their side? Most school are doing well the problem is with minority students. Attacking teachers will not solve the problem. It is very difficult to teacher children who are not prepared for school and have parents who mouth interest but do not take the time to read to their kids or bring books etc into the home. Reform is a myth, look at affluent communities their schools are great, look at poverty areas, their schools are not great. Do you think if you took all the teachers from affluent "successful" schools and put them in the inner city it would make a difference?
Teachers are not the enemy. Teachers don't make policy. They follow what is forced upon them like any "business" does- whether it is unionized or not. If you Mr. Winters had a shred of real world experience maybe you would apprise your conscience of this rather than just stammer out second hand conclusions and make claims that "we should hope technology replaces teachers". The problem is systemic, political, budgetary, and philosophical- and that all rests in the hands of administrations and politicians. If these outfits would give schools back to teachers, they would turn education around and pare away the bad teachers. But we all know that won't happen- then what would brilliant people like you do for work?
Marcus Winters seems to be genuinely scandalized by the fact that teachers' unions actually pursue their interests. One cannot help but wonder about the planet Mr. Winters inhabits. How, in Heaven's name, is this behavior different from that of any other American union or lobbying group, or in fact of virtually any collective body in the world?
AK, Poughkeepsie, NY
Happily, we live in a world that now has multimedia software for instruction in mathematics. It is customized to each student's needs with pre-testing routines, delivers what the student needs, presents instruction in discreet units, quizzes the student until mastery is attained, and constantly reviews what has been mastered. The teacher has a new role as tutor, with no tests or homework to grade, and no onerous classroom management to do. Schools using the software report dramatic results. It is now also offered to parents who can help their children master math at home no matter how poor the instruction they receive in a classroom. You can review the software and the results at http://ilearn.com.
I'm a teacher. The only reason I back tenure is because administrators arbirarily layoff teachers that aren't in their inner circlr. There is zero quality control over teacher performance. It's a buddy game and teachers are left out.
You want to pin this on a bad guy....it's administration.
I have no confidence that they are out for a good educational outcome.
Two critical issues are omitted from this article; read the Landmark Legal Foundation's MULTIPLE lawsuits against the NEA and their questionable status with the IRS, et al, second, read a comprehensive list(www.commieblaster.com) of Communist/Marxist connections w/NEA and Socialist government cadres which have supported the endless march to the Left at the expense of an entire generation of children.
I'm the only school board member in my district to ever be elected against teacher union endorsement. I've done it three times and been thrown off once.
Everything in this article is utterly true.
The unions are currently trying to evict me from the board again, because I refuse to approve tenure.