Paying teachers not to teach is a long-standing union required tradition

Unlike many people, I was not shocked to learn that the LA Unified School District is paying teachers not to teach, although the $10 million price tag strikes me as just a tad unreasonable.  In the early 1970s, one of my teachers was a scary guy (not to mention a bad teacher).  Because of his union ensured tenure, though, the school repeated overlooked his little slip-ups:  sexually suggestive remarks to girls, antisemitic remarks to Jews, hostile remarks to just about everyone.  The school couldn’t overlook it, though, when he tried to attack a student, and then threw a movie projector out a (closed) window.

Some might call that last one a firing offense — but it wasn’t.  Instead, he was put on fully paid leave.  I left the school about 1.5 years after his leave began and he was still getting paid to stay home.  Nice non-work if you can get it.

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Comments

  1. suek says

    “Nice non-work if you can get it.”

    Usually still cheaper for the school district than going to court to defend your decision to fire the teacher.

    Tenure is a major problem here.

    By the way – you’re talking about a teacher with a specific definite problem here. How about a teacher who has gotten burned out – does just enough to meet the minimal requirements, and really is just not an effective teacher? Just let the district try getting rid of _them_!!

    As a school board member, I seriously considered at one time the possibility of not rehiring _any_ teacher for that third year when they get tenure. Unfortunately, after the completion of the first year if you hire them for a second year, you have to have a reason (a legitimate one, or you end up in court) for not rehiring them. Effectively, they have tenure the moment you rehire them for the second year. Then consider that notices of not rehiring have to be sent out by March 15, which means that the decision has to be made by a board meeting in Feb or the first week in March, and you’re looking at a very short trial time – basically Sept to January. And…note that you _don’t_ rehire them – you have to decline to _not_ rehire them.

  2. says

    And here I thought the “jobs bank” was a creature of the UAW!!

    Trust the NEA to have joined in on this wonderful idea!

    Do you notice the common denominator for the problems we’re all focused on…..?

    Hmmmmmm?

  3. Gringo says

    While there are slackers in the teaching profession- and yes the slackers should be booted out- most teachers tend towards the 60 hour a week burnout stage. Which is why you rarely see any more teachers in their 60s anymore. Which is why half of beginning teachers are out of the profession in five years.

  4. Charles says

    I like what they do in NYC. The article calls them “rubber rooms.” That is the first I have heard that term being applied to the NYC situation.

    A friend whose husband is a NYC public school principal told me several years ago that such teachers have as their assignment to sit in an empty class room with other teachers also “not working.” While they are allowed to read or write; they are forbidden to talk, eat, chew gum, etc.

    He said that the rationale behind this is so that some of them will resign after a couple of years of this treatment or if they don’t follow the rules then they can eventually be fired. How well this actually works I don’t know. But I do like the idea of “bad” teachers being in detention.

  5. Charles Martel says

    I was a school board member for four years in the late 90s at a 1,000-student elementary-middle school district in California.

    The community was affluent and the schools were financially well supported by the parents, so getting a teaching job with us was a plum assignment. Still, even with our ability to attract the so-called best and brightest, I’d have to say that many of the teachers the district hired were personable, dynamic aliterates—the shiny products of “education schools.”

    So the district kept as close a watch as possible on new hires over their first two years because once you hired a teacher after his two-year trial, he had tenure. Most of the time that close scrutiny worked, but every so often we’d get a teacher who would play the game for two years and then turn into a lazy, indifferent creature once he acquired tenure.

    We were told as a board that if we wanted to fire a teacher for incompetence it would take three years of constant observation by the administration, going through an excruciating round of warnings, evaluations, meetings with the union (and lawyers) before we MIGHT make a case for firing.

    The alternative was to move the teacher around (a la some Catholic bishops’ “strategy” for dealing with pedophile priests) or to send a “mentor gang” to work with him to improve his motivation and skills. Fortunately, most of the time that worked. A change of scenery or gaining insights from good teachers did the trick.

    I have no special observations to make other than to say that in many cases teaching in a public school is a good job if you can get it. You don’t have to be all that smart, you don’t have to be educated, and in most cases you walk right into the protective arms of a union that will fight like a junkyard dog on your behalf whether you deserve it or not.

    In short, it’s a perfect job for a Democrat.

  6. says

    and in most cases you walk right into the protective arms of a union that will fight like a junkyard dog on your behalf whether you deserve it or not.

    I disagree. The South did not fight to protect their slaves from the tender mercies of the North. The South fought to protect their state sovereignty and their property, which is to say, they fought for themselves.

    The Unions do not fight for their members. Because the Unions own their members as property and you do not “fight for your property”. You fight to maintain possession of your poverty. And that is exactly what the Unions exist to do.

  7. suek says

    Charles…

    Pretty much ditto. One school district here, so moving someone around was not an option. With a willing and capable Superintendent/Principal, the close mentoring and evaluations are pretty effective, as is the hanging threat of being fired. Most problem teachers prefer to move themselves to a different situation _before_ that point is reached. The back channels can make getting a new position difficult if you actually get fired. Still, since the majority of Administrators come up from the ranks, so to speak, it can be tough to find one who is ready willing and able to take on the onerous chore of doing what needs to be done. If you find a good Administrator, your teacher quality will either remain good or improve – as appropriate. Even with a good administrator, though, the routine job demands etc are pretty time consuming. You really need a dedicated – and inspiring – administrator. (inspiring because along with going after inept teachers, the administrator has to not destroy the morale of everybody else)

  8. Gringo says

    Charles Martel
    I have no special observations to make other than to say that in many cases teaching in a public school is a good job if you can get it. You don’t have to be all that smart, you don’t have to be educated, and in most cases you walk right into the protective arms of a union that will fight like a junkyard dog on your behalf whether you deserve it or not. In short, it’s a perfect job for a Democrat.

    Perhaps in an affluent school district a teaching position is nice work if you can get it. If teaching is so easy, I would suggest that you become a teacher and show us all how it is done. I taught math for two years, and lemme tell ya, it ain’t that easy, especially in the decidedly unaffluent schools where I taught.

    Yes, there are teachers who aren’t all that bright, and not as knowledgeable as they should be. The same can be said of many ed school professors, BTW. Of all my professors, the only ones I considered fools , who presented material in the classroom that I could easily refute w a minimum of research, were in the ed school. I am neither ignorant nor dull- most Ivy League graduates would be glad to have my GRE scores. Teaching ain’t that easy, even for someone w my knowledge and intellegence level, lemme tell ya.

    All college-educated relatives of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations were teachers who could be found at all three levels: primary, secondary, college. A cousin’s son taught for several years, and got out. The basic reason for why teaching is more difficult today is the collapse of the family. Check out single-parent and illegitimacy rates today compared to 40-50 years ago. The educational system, and by extension the classroom teacher, is expected to take on more of the parental duties. Such as motivation. These days, the teacher is supposed to provide all of it, at least in unaffluent districts, contrasted with teachers and parents working in tandem years before. While teachers have less power today regarding discipline, students are less well-behaved than before. Not an easy combination, lemme tell ya.

    Yes, incompetent teachers should be fired. But that is not the whole picture.

    I repeat: for those who think teaching is so easy, that any ignorant fool can get and keep a teaching job: try it.

  9. Charles Martel says

    Gringo:

    I apologize for not making myself clearer. Nowhere did I say that teaching was easy, and I certainly agree with you that even as parents have surrendered more and more authority to the state, teachers, who are the frontline representatives of the state, have seen their disciplinary powers diminished.

    I was referring to the teachers in my experience, who for the most part were not very well educated, despite having been education majors. They were not people you could sit down with and have a serious discussion the way you can with the people on this website. Yet the system we’ve allowed to come into existence hands the task of educating our children over to people like them, who are, for the most part, not our best and brightest.

    For the most part.

    I exclude from that description the many good teachers I’ve met along the way, certainly teachers like you who taught science or math and therefore had to have a grounding in something that went beyond the crap courses they offer in ed school.

    I had a memorable dinner table discussion one day with some friends regarding judicial usurpation in Massachusetts of the issue of same-sex marriage. One of our school district’s best teachers was at the table and it was obvious as we discussed the limits of judicial power that she was getting dizzy. Her contribution to the discussion was that she “felt” that people in love should be able to marry whomever they wanted and, besides, who were we to say what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Constitution? Wasn’t it up to the judiciary to try to make sense of a document that, apparently for her, had no perceivable purpose otherwise?

    And while I did not say that “any ignorant fool can get and keep a teaching job,” let’s just say that I would agree that too many ignorant fools now have such jobs and, thanks to tenure, are keeping them for a lifetime.

  10. says

    I have to ditto what Charles said, Gringo. My father was a teacher, a marvelous teacher, and the union hampered, rather than helped, him. He hated the union because it was, already in the 1970s, driving the curriculum in a politically correct way that was very harmful to students and teachers alike. Although most people think of ebonics as a 1990s kind of thing, it was already coming into being in the 1970s. That was also the era of forced bilingual education, which the union supported, which really meant teaching Hispanic kids only in Spanish, so they never could become mainstreamed into American culture.

    My father also hated the way unions created a cushion for the bad teachers, degrading the entire institution. If you can hold your job and get paid even if you’re doing a bad job, why work? As I always says, humans are rational, and there was little incentive in his lousy school district for teachers with tenure even to try. They didn’t get burned out. They just gave up and kept collecting the pay check.

    Lastly, he hated the union, because the union really wasn’t about the teachers. It was about the union and about back scratching. Every year, unions would cut deals with public school management, whereby the teachers would get a barely cost of living raise, while the union management and the school administrators would give themselves a greater than cost of living wage.

    I think having to deal with the unions, and seeing how they harmed, rather than helped the good teachers (and all the students), was one of the reasons my Communist father pulled rightward politically.

    Bottom line: I’m not hostile to teachers. I’m hostile to unions, which I feel are political entities that help, not teachers, not students, but only the unions themselves. That certain teachers, such as the ones in LA receiving $10 mil so as not to teach, receive benefits from union contracts is merely an unintended benefit, rather than a direct goal.

  11. says

    Teaching ain’t that easy, even for someone w my knowledge and intellegence level, lemme tell ya.

    I think the general point that people can be satisfied with is that the Unions aren’t making it any better, and a whole heck load worse at that.

    I repeat: for those who think teaching is so easy, that any ignorant fool can get and keep a teaching job: try it.

    Without an internal dynamic to keep things balanced, even the best of people will inevitably backslide. It is not enough for individuals to want to excel, the system must have appropriate rewards and just punishments for transgressions. Most of humanity, whatever their particular wants, still mostly follow the behavioral cues of the system. They do what they are rewarded to do and avoid what they are punished for.

    So long as teachers are not fired or even faced with the threat of being fired, there is no disincentive for bad behavior or non-professional conduct. This does make it easier for bad teachers or lazy people or simply good people who have acquired bad habits from the education system, to slide on through and have it easy, if you define easy as non-professional conduct and piss poor performance. However, excellence, whether a good job in education or other fields, requires hard work. Because the system provides no rewards for the hard workers and equal punishment, or lack of it, for the truly self-motivated, hard work is not rewarded. And the less people in education work to reform the education system, help the students, or help their own standards improve, the more difficult it becomes for everyone else, teachers, students, parents, etc.

    I taught math for two years, and lemme tell ya, it ain’t that easy, especially in the decidedly unaffluent schools where I taught.

    I think it is a truth that can be accepted, for certainly the costs of denying it may be too high to pay, that the Unions and the current socio-economic system brought about by greedy political operatives or power mad Leftist ideologies has corrupted the behaviors and motivations of educators to the detriment of us all, irrespective of who we are or where we come or even what field of work we engage in.

    It is not impossible to reform bad habits brought about by external stimuli, such as smoking or lack of exercise or work/family habits. Not impossible, but still not all that common either.

  12. says

    I’m hostile to unions, which I feel are political entities that help, not teachers, not students, but only the unions themselves. That certain teachers, such as the ones in LA receiving $10 mil so as not to teach, receive benefits from union contracts is merely an unintended benefit, rather than a direct goal.

    Btw, did you come about this conclusion through listening to Rush Limbaugh or were you already well on your way before ever leaving the Gigantic Leftist Mold?

  13. suek says

    In fact, teachers who get burned out seem to gravitate to the union jobs. At one point, negotiations were unexpectedly at loggerheads for reasons we didn’t understand. It turned out that the union leader for our area had retired due to ill health, and there was a new leader – one whose previous position had been with the LAUSD union. The move was a promotion, and the word was that he was out to make a name for himself so he could move up the ladder even further. One of the things he wanted to do was to organize our non-teaching employees as a separate union. At that point, we were what was called a “me too” district – the teachers had a union, and whatever contract they negotiated, the non-classified staff got the same deal. There were some meetings with the non-classified staff, and for a while, we thought we were going to have to negotiate with each separately, but when the non-classified group found out how much they were going to have to pay in dues, the whole thing fell apart. As I recall, if the teachers could just cut out the dues they were paying the union, it would give them an automatic 1-2 percent pay raise. The non-classifieds seemed to be better at math than the classified.

  14. suek says

    Forgot to mention…

    When we found out about the union leader thing, we made an effort to find out how much they were paid. I don’t know if the union members knew or could find out, but we couldn’t. That info was top secret…!

  15. Mike Devx says

    Book and all,

    As long as we’re on the topic of teachers’ unions protecting bad teachers, and not policing their own, thus in effect harming the students… do you think there is any truth to the idea that the ABA protects bad lawyers rather than policing them (thus harming clients), or the AMA protecting bad doctors rather than policing them (thus harming patients)?

  16. Gringo says

    I am in agreement that the deadwood should be discharged.

    I get the impression that a number of the posters here have the impression that if we got rid of or seriously weakened the teacher unions, that affairs in education would greatly improve. Perhaps they would.

    The difference in perspective is that I taught in a state with weak teacher unions, where principals were given much autonomy in dealing with teachers. IMHO: even if you get rid of the teacher unions, which is essentially the state of affairs where I taught, there are many problems facing American education and the teaching profession. Anyone who believes that teacher unions are the main problem facing American education and the teaching profession is hopelessly naïve. Let me repeat:hopelessly naïve. Here is an incomplete, stream-of-consciousness laundry list.

    1) Continually changing testing and curriculum requirements. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. At the same time, standards are necessary. Nonetheless, given the haphazard manner in which such requirements are handed down from on high, it is definitely a stressor. While Ed schools are an easy and deserving target of scorn regarding the educational fad of the year, the legislatures and government bureaucracies definitely add fuel to the fire.
    2) There is neither enough support nor incentive given for teachers to teach in difficult schools, though there have been various moves in that direction. The result is that all things being equal, competent teachers tend to gravitate towards more affluent schools. If you are going to be paid the same, why put up with the added stress etc. of teaching in a difficult school? Fifty hours a week in an easy school sure beats 60-70 hours in a difficult school, lemma tell ya.
    3) There is not sufficient support given for beginning teachers. Example: in the two years I taught, each year I was informed I would have a mentor teacher. First year: not at all, though there was an informal process going on of sorts. Second year: my mentor quit in October to take a job at a computer company.
    4) Overworked and underappreciated. The reason my mentor quit: the gung-ho Superintendent, who kept hopping Obama-like to a larger district every two years or so, informed staff in a “pep talk” that any of them could be let go. While that may have been the case, and in that state that essentially was the case, my mentor was a hard-working accomplished award-winning teacher and didn’t appreciate being talked down to that way. So she left. When the Superintendent asked her for her reason for resigning, she informed him.
    5) Deterioration of the American family and consequence for education: already discussed. Ditto discipline.
    6) Given the demands put on teachers, most decide that it isn’t worth a career and leave for another profession. Consider time: where 60 hour weeks are often the norm. See above. While Y sees the union etc. resulting in lack of incentive for older teachers to keep their noses to the grindstone, to improve etc., the reality is rather that older teachers leave the profession early because they are tired of putting up with the S#$%. Most of the teachers I had as a child were 40-year teachers. The 40-year man/woman has become a relic in the teaching profession. IMHO, the problem is not getting rid of deadwood older teachers, but of providing greater incentives for teachers to remain. Recall that half of beginning teachers leave the profession in five years.

    A number of female teachers with children informed me that the time demands on teaching – recall 60 hours- made it very difficult to combine a family with teaching.

    7) Etc.

    For those who complain about the dull ignoramuses that populate the schools that teach their children, I have three suggestions. First, make sure your town doesn’t hire such people. Second, don’t keep them employed in your district. Third, raise the level by going into the teaching profession. Or if you are retired, substitute. Otherwise, your complaints are but empty sneers.

  17. Mike Devx says

    I would place the problem in two slightly different locations, related, based on my experience growing up, and on the seven years I taught in high school back in the late 80′s.

    Growing up, I attended public school for three years, then private Catholic school for three years, then private Catholic again for three, then public schools again for four. The quality of the teachers and the curriculum may have been better in the Catholic schools, but I don’t remember that being the case.

    What I do remember being different between Catholic and public school is the quality of the environment, particular as it related to discipline. There was simply no way, no way AT ALL, that disruptions would have been allowed in the Catholic schools’ classrooms. Classes were orderly, halls and lockers were orderly, even lunch was orderly. Bad behavior of any sort within the school was simply not tolerated. And there were some tough bad apples in those junior high classrooms! But they “acted out” only before school and on the playground.

    I do not recall any dramatic difference among the quality of the teachers’ instruction, however. Perhaps there were small differences in the day by day accumulation that – as with compound interest – in the end raised the quality tremendously. When I returned to public school for the last time for 9th Grade, I seemed far ahead of most of my classmates. Why?

    I choose two reasons.

    1. Self-selection. Parents at the Catholic school were paying a lot of money for their kids to be educated. Parents shelling out money simply on the average cared more. I grew up in a lower-middle class suburb, so this cost was significant to the parents. The entire school, from top to bottom, was focused on a stable learning environment. A disciplined and ordered “culture” existed that was utterly self-reinforcing; that was not the case at the public schools.

    2. Free public education inevitably devolves to a culture of warehousing and bureaucracy. This is related to #1, in that the focus on the purpose of the schools just was different. Everyone simply cared less, and the focus and stability were lacking. Based on my years teaching in high school, and my interaction with those parents, the quality of most of the teachers was good enough. The parents would have welcomed enthusiastically a strongly disciplined environment, too! But I would say there was a huge decline in institutional reinforcement of order and discipline. We – as teachers – knew that support from the Principals, especially the Assistants, would be lacking, if we attempted to institute procedures enforcing discipline and order to a degree lacking throughout the rest of the school. No focus and no support for a quality environment.

    You can blame the nature of free education itself, I think. You get what you pay for. That attitude settled into the entire bureaucracy, and certainly the primary immediate blame for bad culture goes to those in charge: The Unions and the Principals, neither of whom seemed to have any interest in a quality environment for the education of the children. The devolved culture permeated everything, and therefore I think, everyone.

  18. Gringo says

    Good points, Mike. We are like the blind men describing the elephant.

    One point regarding lack of institutional support from Principals and Assistant principals regarding discipline. To a degree they are responding to outside pressure.

    One cultural change in the last half-century is that many parents are less likely to support schools disciplining their children. I can provide anecdotes to show that this transcends race and class. You can be as likely to see this in white affluent parents as in poor minority parents. Many parents now see their role as defenders of their children versus the schools. Previously, if the school informed parents that their children were misbehaving, there would be a draconian response from parents. “You’re doing WHAT? You are grounded for a month. Start scrubbing those floors.” Or stronger.

    Principals and Assistant Principals are under marching orders to provide more “inclusion” in classes. IOW, Special Ed students are mainstreamed, instead of in separate classes. But as these Special Ed students require more attention from teachers regarding instruction and/or discipline, this makes it more difficult in the classroom.

    For those who would state that schools should be brought to task for such disciplinary insanities as strip searching a 13 year old girl for aspirin,a legal case recently in the news, etc, my reply is : you have a point. I would similarly respond to those who would point out that there is a tendency to over label children as Special Ed, so in that sense those so mislabeled should be included in the classroom. No simple answers.

  19. says

    Mike got there before me, because I would have written pretty much what he wrote.

    As for the problems schools face with constantly shifting dictates from the States, I agree with that too. Local school boards, which actually deal with the principal and teachers, and can hear first hand how proposed changes will affect them, ought to have much more power than the states. The states function in a perfect vacuum, bowing to each political wind, and maintaining a state of perpetual chaos. As a member of a school committee to which the teachers report, I see how frustrated they are by the ever changing demands from on high, many of which have little to do with class quality and everything to do with politics.

    I think vouchers are one of the answers, since it brings the parents much closer to the educational decisions the schools make. As it is, teachers committed to teaching want to teach in private schools. There may be no unions, but there are also so many fewer of the structural problems Gringo describes. If the public schools could expand, not only students, but also teachers would have a larger marketplace from which to choose.

  20. suek says

    In education, there is a basic triangle, and each side of that triangle needs to hold up it’s part of the bargain. You have the student, the teacher and the parent. If any one of the three falls down on it’s responsibility, the result is failure or at least less than satisfactory results.

    There are – obviously – complicating factors which influence each of the three legs and which serve to either support or reduce the effectiveness of that leg. I agree with Gringo that parents are frequently the problem. I agree with Mike that discipline in the school is most often at the heart of the problem, and that parents are a definite factor in that problem. I agree that changing demands can be a problem, and that problem is one of complications set by either the State or Federal government. I would also add that any one of the three can cause a problem by getting lawyers involved. Our very small school had an annual budget of some $12,000 or so just for legal advice – no actual problems. Goal was to avoid problems so that legal expenses wouldn’t be higher. We had some disabled children who had to attend other school districts because we didn’t have the staff to supply the required conditions – that usually ran about $50,000 per year. We received about $5000 per child from the State per year. Parents of disabled children – either physical or emotional – are usually very assertive about getting their special needs addressed. In a small school, that can seriously impact the budget.

    We need to remember that the public school system in America developed on a local basis. Parents joined together to hire teachers for their children. The involvement of the State is relatively recent, and of the Federal Government, even more so. I question whether the Feds should have _any_ function in schools whatsoever. If it devolves on the local parents to maintain control, then they would either accept the responsibility or their children wouldn’t be well educated. Personally, I’m in favor of complete local control, although the availability of national tests against which parents and administration can measure results is a good thing. It’s the job of the parents to educate their child, not that of the State. The unions are a problem, but they’re not the whole problem. On that, we agree, but they make it more difficult to address the entire problem. And boards – the parent’s union, theoretically – can become a problem as well. They are often the first stepping stone for the politically ambitious – but the populace can get rid of them if they’re not doing their job. Once things get to the State level, or heaven help us – the Federal level – the local populace is just about powerless.

  21. suek says

    Mike…

    Re: your question about the doctor’s and lawyer’s associations….

    Yes.

    If a doctor commits medical malpractice at the level of his patient being awarded a multi-million dollar award, maybe s/he shouldn’t be practicing medicine. On the other hand, personally, I’d be in favor of all medical malpractice suits being heard by a jury or board made up of doctors. I’m not sure most jurors are qualified to evaluate medical situations. Actually, I am sure. They’re not.

    Agreed also on lawyers. Not sure how to work that one – but while I know there are ethics boards, I suspect politics is a major factor in determining who has violated the ethics standards. There is no way to check up on either judges or lawyers on how they rate, the cases they’ve tried – or heard – at least, as far as I know.

    Without getting to all the details, my son married a woman with three children. He wanted to adopt them. They had no idea how to select a lawyer, so took a family lawyer that advertised locally. The lawyer agreed to handle all three adoptions for $5000 (made up number). Father had not been involved the girls lives for some time, although he had sent occasional gifts and money. By the particular State’s requirements, the lawyer should have simply petitioned for adoption and everything would have been smooth as silk. Cost would have been the agree upon amount. Lawyer, however, contacted the father and requested a signature that would have meant that he gave up his rights as a father. He objected. The notification was questionable – that is, one portion of the law could be read that it was required, one portion indicated that it was not. However, by notifying the father, the lawyer assured that there would be a court case – meaning another $10,000 or so in expenses. Needless to say, we’re now almost at the end of year 2, the girls are still not adopted, and the expenses are well into the $20k level. They switched lawyers and immediately saw a difference in the quality of work and – perhaps more importantly – the level of contact and information supplied to them about what was going on.

    Should they sue the first lawyer for the additional cost of the original error? was the first lawyer incompetent? Personally, I doubt they’ll sue, but I think someone should consider the competence factor. Valid or not? I don’t know. But I’d feel a whole lot better if I knew that _someone_ who _did_ know could investigate complaints and remove licensing from incompetent or unethical lawyers.

    And that there wasn’t a political factor involved – though I suspect I’ll have to wait till the afterlife for that particular requirement.

  22. says

    I get the impression that a number of the posters here have the impression that if we got rid of or seriously weakened the teacher unions, that affairs in education would greatly improve. Perhaps they would.

    First you have to adequately explore the nature of unions, teachers included, in order to accurately witness what the problem truly is and why certain solutions are proposed.

    Until then, your perspective is inconsistent when you juxtapose teacher unions, which you did not give focus on, to administration and teacher working environments, which you have given focus on. Almost inevitably, the juxtaposition of two different hemispheres, one which was given an imbalanced criteria or priority over the other, cannot provide true or accurate sense of the whole sphere.

    It does not inherently provide benefit to the situational awareness of the whole, the whole problem as well as the whole solution, by de-focusing attention on one part and giving it to another. This does not actually reinforce the truth of one thing over another, nor does it in actuality make some things less important than others. This is an artificial imbalance, because it doesn’t happen naturally. People make it happen. It is so both because people do not inherently and automatically see the whole and it is artificial because it is through the actions of people’s desires, and not certain coincidences or happenstances.

    1) Continually changing testing and curriculum requirements.

    The teachers unions have made their complaints about such things as No Child Left Behind. Of course, the consequences of that is not that politicians, like Kennedy, will now start listening more to teachers. The consequences are that politicians and legislaturalists will listen more to unions, which speak for the teachers as their more or less de facto political representatives.

    Anyone who believes that teacher unions are the main problem facing American education and the teaching profession is hopelessly naïve. Let me repeat:hopelessly naïve.

    You have not addressed why teacher unions are even a problem, let alone the main problem: such has not been decided nor even discussed. I see no analysis of the connections so far on your part, except in so far as a reaction to the connections made by others. Thus, as a consequence, I do not see the point in being needlessly aggressive and zealous in advocating for one incomplete and small sample of the American education system at the disadvantage of other views. The stipulation that this is a mutually exclusive logic chain, is one I do not find persuasive on the provided material, Gringo. Additionally, such a sample size cannot provide an accurate view of the whole. However, even though a small sample does not cover the whole population, it may have its own particular merits. Again, I am not convinced on the merits of your argument, Gringo, that there is a mutually exclusive, either-or, proposition at work on these subjects.

    To a degree they are responding to outside pressure.

    But you cannot even see, let alone discuss, what these outside pressures are without analyzing the connections between unions, teachers, politicians, and federal vs state educational requirements. Not to mention social side-effects. The fact that you proceed to take an extreme position regarding unions does not, in retrospect, create any true moderate preparation for such discussions.

    While Y sees the union etc. resulting in lack of incentive for older teachers to keep their noses to the grindstone, to improve etc., the reality is rather that older teachers leave the profession early because they are tired of putting up with the S#$%. Most of the teachers I had as a child were 40-year teachers. The 40-year man/woman has become a relic in the teaching profession. IMHO, the problem is not getting rid of deadwood older teachers, but of providing greater incentives for teachers to remain.

    I already addressed the union impact on incentives for teachers in the education system. This does not bear repeating in my view.

    The problem, in so far as the education system has a problem and not simply a fundamental need to be destroyed and replaced by something new, is the entire slew of behavioral modifying factors which lead to destructive and self-destructive behavior rather than institutionalized productivity or reforms or self-improvement or flexibility in the Western sense of professional flexibility and self-improvement (quality assurance).

    In so far as administraters and principals come from the common human resource stock that is the beginner educator, what decides who becomes administraters, principals, or union bosses tends to be, again, the political institution, which is contributed in part by unions. This is a self-reinforcing circle, and you cannot describe the entire circle by minimizing the impact of any disparate part in the circle.

    In so far as education board members, politicians, union bosses, and teachers are important to education, they are important only in so far as they relate to each other in the system and how that system is processed, manipulated, and reformed with respective to its intended goal of teaching children what they need to learn.

    IMHO, the problem is not getting rid of deadwood older teachers, but of providing greater incentives for teachers to remain.

    Categorically speaking, the incentives for bad teachers to be shuffled around and to then be promoted to administrater (in which they will then have more power, if less direct influence on the students) or union bosses (in which they will then have more power and more influence) already exist. In so far as incentives for teachers do not exist, this only applies to professional teachers and the good ones at that. So in conclusion, incentives exist as a general broad category, that is not the problem. What type of behavior is promoted, however, that is a singularly different aspect than the one addressed in the bolded quote subject.

    Many parents now see their role as defenders of their children versus the schools.

    This does not surprise me in a culture which rewards political corruption and political identity philosophies which allows a select group to exploit those with less power or advantages.

    This inevitably creates a balkanization of identity and professional circles, in so far as people who will not pull together will pull against each other, simply for self-survival if nothing else.

    Given that the schools are funded by federal dollars, teachers become, in effect, federal employees. However, most parents do not have direct power or influence over the federal government. At best, individuals can have indirect influences, but those are not like the influence we have over our light switch. We cannot turn it on or off as we please, even if we factor in the power company’s in providing power to the lights. Even with that stipulation, the control over one’s lights still manifestly greatly outmasses the influence an individual has on the federal level. Thus, in the vacuum of not being able to directly influence the federal level, the natural target becomes teachers or administrators or school board members.

    However, that is not the whole story. The chain of causality does not start there nor does it end there. There are many other disparate parts to it.

    For those who would state that schools should be brought to task for such disciplinary insanities as strip searching a 13 year old girl for aspirin,a legal case recently in the news, etc, my reply is : you have a point.

    But what is this point, Gringo? One should not generalize in terms of agreement at the sacrifice of precision and clarity. For example, the fundamental aspects of the situation, if not discussed, can be agreed with in what fashion?

    Who shall bring these schools to task? And to what effect and to what degree should teacher’s unions protect teachers who reported the student? And to what effect and to what degree should political Educational board members be immune from prosecution or law suits and to what effect and to what degree should adminstrators be affected in this regard?

    It is not enough, in the end, to say there is a problem and the solution is to apply a general philosophy irrespective of the specifics of the situation. And yet, the only way to find out the specifics of the situation is to explore the various possibilities and avenues. However, this exploration cannot take place if people close their minds to alternative views, simply on the justification that they think the alternatives do not spell out the whole picture and then start to describe explorers as “naive” simply because the alternative or additional views does not cover the entire picture or does not cover the particular part of the picture a person thinks most important.

  23. suek says

    Re: the strip search.

    Look at the deeper cause. The problem here is that if the school does not assure that the student is not bringing in _any_ medication, the school then is subject to lawsuit if the student with the medication gives it and thereby causes harm to any other student. Or even if the student does him/herself harm. Now why should that be? The student and/or the student’s parents should be the party held liable, if harm is done. But in fact, we know that the “deeper pocket” factor comes into play. If there is _any_ way of possibly shuffling off responsibility from the student to the abrogation of responsibility by the school, that is what will be done. The school will be held responsible, and the payment will be made to the harmed individual by the public even though it was by an individual action. That’s insane, but that’s what we’ve come to. The school, by doing the strip search, is merely protecting itself. Do I think it’s wrong? Yes – but we’ve allowed the legal profession to abuse common sense by permitting huge settlements on individuals who simply are unwilling to accept responsibility for their own actions.

    How can that be changed?

  24. says

    Book, when the federal government started funding schools, the same result with healthcare and businesses inevitably resulted. The federal government in DC is too far away, too big, too inflexible, and too beholden to the special interests within this entire United States, to adequately address the needs and problems of any specific geographic locale.

    It is impossible for human beings to conduct useful policies so far away from the problem centers. This was as true in war as it was true in government. However, the power, stability, prosperity, and generally welfare of the US has deluded people, and I speak of not politicians exclusively, that they can generate the Right Path for people and regions hundreds of miles away from their center of operations.

    As Colin Powell, Americans want government benefits. Not because they need government benefits, but because they have been taught that this is the only Right Path to success. For someone far away to tell you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. They learned this from corporate practices. They learned this in schools, gangs, and the hierarchies of political Leftism and Democrat party politics. They learned this from studying WWII, the fake history version of it from Democrats, and how FDR did such a great job through “unifying” the nation in war time via nationalization and what not.

    The only time they ever didn’t learn or rather learned something that was potentially contradictory to this mishmash of brainwashing was when they learned about Hitler and the American Revolution. Both were examples of what people shouldn’t do just because the majority were doing it. The American Revolution because most Americans were British Loyalists. The Nazis because most Germans just went along with Hitler cause he promised a better tomorrow, free of debt and full of glory.

    But, these lessons have been somewhat de-emphasized and countered by the “Dead White Male” school of thought and the “Hitler was a right wing Republican” school of thought. So far, people now, more or less, believe that Obama cannot be wrong, because statist and national extremes are only a problem for Right Wing people. This is the result of denial, displacement, and projection. The three unholy trinities of Leftism in terms of how they deal with problems in the real world.

  25. Gringo says

    Ymarsakar:

    I was attempting to provide some perspective on what education is like without powerful teacher unions. As an example of the impotence of teacher unions in the state where I taught: I know of a teacher with 25+ years’s experience whose contract was not renewed, i.e., fired, when his performance diminished. Basically because he was absent too much to take care of his off-hours business, though he was still competent inside the classroom. His accumulated sick time paid for his absences, but the school still got rid of him.

    In this state, principals have the power to get rid of low-performing but experienced teachers, and they do. As they should. Unfortunately, excellent teachers with experience are also quitting like flies, with a net loss to the education system, because they are tired of putting up with the BS.

    I am not denying that powerful teacher unions tend to create more problems than they solve. From my first posting: “Yes, incompetent teachers should be fired.” My point is that even without powerful teacher unions, education in America is still beset with problems. Big time.

    Go and write 500 words to refute me. Be my guest.

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