Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fordham's Liam Julian Causes Nationwide Teacher Union Revolution

Liam Julian over at Flypaper jumps all over Diane Ravitch, a Fordham Board member who stepped up to defend teachers' unions.

Ravitch wrote:
I find myself getting really annoyed when people rage against the teachers’ unions, because they are the organized voice of most of the people who work in schools. The same people who vilify the teachers’ unions never complain about the influence of businesses or foundations, both of which try to steer the public schools by the power of the purse.
To which Julian responded:
What business mostly wants: results-based education, standards, accountability, innovative management, choice, educational markets. What unions mostly want: more money, more teachers (smaller classes), less testing, less focus on educational outcomes. Oversimplification? Slightly (it is a blog post, after all). But mostly true.
To which I write:

What business mostly expects: lower bottom lines, numbers/scores/indicators of achievement yesterday, market-based solutions for a non-market "industry", business solutions that don't take into account the human factor.

What unions mostly expect: better wages to attract better teachers, better working conditions to keep the teachers we have, smarter testing, flexibility to use our own lessons to focus on educational outcomes instead of reading a script. Oversimplification? Yep, it is a blog post. But mostly true.

And now to ageism...

Julian continues on to the age divide:
On the other hand, the interests of teachers’ unions directly compete in oh-so-many obvious ways with the interests of students. Furthermore, unions may technically be “the organized voices of most of the people who work in schools,” but they hardly represent the interests of all teachers—especially disadvantaged by union policies are young teachers and good teachers.
That's it Liam, play the age card. Nevermind the what EdSector's Waiting To Be Won Over said about the role of teacher unions. Didn't read it? This is from the summary page:
Teachers are more likely today (than they were in 2003) to say unions are essential. The jump among new teachers who say the unions are essential is especially striking.
Great job attempting to alienate the younger teachers from the organization that is responsible for the improvement of their working conditions, wages and fringe benefits, much of which was done prior to their births. It won't work, but let's take a tongue-in-cheek look at what would happen if it did:

Now you've done it Liam, you've planted the seeds of dissension with your post. Looking into the future, your efforts will result in a nationwide teacher union revolt and the eventual breakdown of teacher unions across the country. Tenure is refused by younger teachers-- it becomes as unpopular as past affiliation with the communist party discovered by HUAC. Mature contracts are burned en masse in steely-eyed defiance of the blood, sweat and tears of veteran teachers of years past. With the cohesion brought about by teacher unions now gone, young teachers will now turn against veteran teachers.

Teachers above the age of 30 will begun to be shunned by their younger peers in the teachers lounges across the country. Older teachers begin to refuse to eat lunch with their younger colleagues, prompting the new teachers to begin spreading rumors and create fake Myspace and Facebook pages on the internet with the older colleagues' likenesses.

Eventually, given the increased tension and issues between educators, competing teacher gangs will emerge. Starting in just one or two schools and quickly spreading across the country, they begin openly waging teacher gang warfare in the halls of their schools, leaving flaming paper bags full of dog excrement at the door of each others' classroom, shooting spitballs at one another during passing times and instructing each other's students to simultaneously knock the books off of their desks at the same time of the period.

Chaos reigns supreme!

In all seriousness, just because someone is young and new doesn't make them a great teacher. That's just like a principal or vice-principal walking by a classroom, hearing no disruption and expecting that there's an amazing amount of learning going on in there. I thought I was the bee's knees my first year, as did my students, my administrators and some of my colleagues.

Truth is, I look back now and realize how much further I had to go. I have to go, to continually improve and be a better teacher for my students.

Yes, older teachers can become set in their ways, but so can a teacher that's been in the classroom for five years. Our older (politically correct term = veteran) teachers are just as great, too. Don't count them out.

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