kitchen table math, the sequel: Teachers telling it like it is

Monday, August 31, 2009

Teachers telling it like it is

. . . the UFT is an advocate for teachers . . . The UFT is not there to protect education or to insure excellence in the classroom.

The UFT . . . Their job is to protect us, not the students.

. . . when students start paying dues, that's when the union will start representing them.

These are lifted from teachers’ comments over at a NYC Educator post where they were lamenting what they considered to be a teacher-bashing New Yorker magazine essay about the infamous ”rubber room”. Most readers would probably agree that this piece was not kind in its treatment of NYC teachers.

Although I certainly don’t fault these teachers for their candor, it did surprise me a bit. I rarely see this type of honesty from educators, where they openly admit that the union’s goal is to protect the teachers, not the students. Interestingly, on their website the UFT claims it is “an advocate for public school students”. Now, some would argue that protected teachers = well-educated students, but I would disagree that it works out that way all the time or even most of the time.

On the other hand, there is no doubt in my mind that the overriding goal of parents is to protect their children. Parents want to insure excellence in the classroom for their children. Let’s be clear, although unions and parents are often supportive of each other, in many ways this is an adversarial model at work, with each side protecting its own interests. I would like this to be uppermost in the minds of all involved in education reform efforts, especially whenever the unions agree to participate with disingenuous claims that it’s all “for the children”.

As we at KTM have been saying for years, parents should not be shut out of the education debate. If teacher unions, politicians and education bureaucrats are the only ones allowed a place at the table, how likely is it that our children’s interests will be prioritized as they should be? Parents, specialists in the various disciplines and other interested parties should be included in order for there to be any chance for a fair and productive resolution of our nation’s education crisis.


MiaZagora said...

The article about the "rubber room" might not have been kind, but it certainly was truthful - and brought attention to an outrageous waste of precious dollars. (After all, isn't that what education is about these days...dollars?)

I've heard about these very same words coming from the head some other teacher's union, so it's not surprising to me that they would boldly proclaim that it's not about the students. There was no mass outrage at the other person's statements (the name escapes me) so they'll get bolder and bolder.

I saw a story on the news not long ago where some woman was asked how much money it would take to get the schools in good order. She said as much as we (meaning the taxpayers, I presume) can give. IOW, there is no limit - the more money you give us, the better job we'll do...which is simply not true. Still, they continue to have their jobs and they continue to spew idiotic statements like this.

I'm not sure you could get many parents to join a union when you can't even get them to help their kids with homework or go to PTA meetings.

Allison said...

My favorite part of the story was where teachers in the Rubber Room likened themselves to jihadi-islamist prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

They meant to indicate they'd been deprived of their rights, the way they claim those at Gitmo are. But I took away a different parallel entirely.

Allison said...

I don't mind that they protect their own interests. I just mind that their interests are at odds with mine.

If they had to actually compete for my money, the way my grocery store does, then they would have to meet the interests of me. Or at least, of some big subset of the potential buyers out there.

But they don't. They say "but we need more money!" and as public choice theory points out, it's in the politicians' interests to give it to them regardless of later outcome.

The incentive structures in place are antithetical to the success of our students. How we'd create new ones in the present framework is still a mystery.

Catherine Johnson said...

Great find, Tex!

I love the internet.

I remember reading a transcript in which one of the speakers, a political scientist, said that Americans idealize teachers.

That was always true of me, and didn't change until I'd had a number of bad experiences **and** had read some teacher comments on the web.

The 'unedited' speech on the internet, I think, has given me both a more realistic **and** a more genuinely appreciative view of good teachers. I now see good teachers as superb professionals -- and also as a fairly small subset within the field (perhaps around 15%? I base this on a comment a principal once made to Ed about the number of very good teachers inside any school.)

Parents need to understand that the union does not speak for their children. Period.

These teachers are right: the union speaks for teachers. Sometimes teacher & student interests are aligned; sometimes they are not.

Have yet to read The Rubber Room!

Catherine Johnson said...

I've got some other medical things to post. The more I read, the more I think that the situation with health care reform is analogous to the situation with education reform, and I'm interested to get everyone's take.