Public schools dying under the weight of teacher’s unions

Teaching math

I’ve been hostile to teacher’s unions since I was a child.  I saw them from both ends:  as a lifelong public school student and as a child whose father (reluctantly) belonged to the California teacher’s union.

In the classroom, my teachers were decrepit fossils, many of whom hated students, and few of whom could teach.  Here’s a highlight list of some of those teachers:

  • Mr. X, the science teacher who quizzed 13 year old girls about their sex lives, said of a Jewish student “there’s another one Hitler should have gotten,” and who physically attacked a student and then threw a movie projector out the window.  I think it was the damage to school property that finally got him kicked out of the classroom on administrative leave.  He drew a full salary for four years before they terminated him.
  • Mr. Y, the math teacher who would periodically rush out into the noisy hallway outside his classroom, screaming “G-g-get a-w-w-ay from m-m-my c-c-c-classroom, you f-f-future p-p-pimps and wh-wh-whores!”  His teaching was no better than his attitude.
  • Ms Z, famous for telling students that children’s books were riddled with sex.  After her class, students would convene in the halls to spread the word about sexual imagery in The Cat In The Hat or Where The Wild Things Are.  (I hear from reliable sources that high school English teachers today are just as, if not more, sex obsessed than Ms. Z.)
  • Ms A, the chemistry teacher who was one year away from retiring, and had apparently decided to start her retirement early by stopping teaching.  She had us memorize the Periodic Table of Elements, but never actually told us what it was.  She’d give us worksheets with experiment procedures, but forgot to tell us what scientific principle was at stake.  I got a B in her class.  Everyone else I knew got an A, because they’d managed to get their hands on the master sheet for her test.  She didn’t care.  She was leaving anyway.

I had some decent, or merely mediocre, teachers during my years in public school, but I had only three or four really good teachers. With those few exceptions, my teachers were old, bored, hostile, and/or dysfunctional.  Had they been employees in the private sector they would have been fired long before or, fearing firing, they would have gotten their acts together.

What I heard from my Dad about the inner workings of the teacher’s union didn’t make me very happy either.  For one thing, and this is a gripe that no longer has much resonance, the unions did a lousy job of getting teachers decent salaries.  The way it worked was that the union bosses would enter into a negotiation with the school administrators (who were also union members).  The deal would be that the administrators would get a 4% cost of living wage and the teachers a 2% cost of living wage (this was during the inflationary 1970s).  Once this deal was reached, the administrators would then negotiate with the powers that be for this pay package.  And that was it.

My Dad was disgusted that he was forced to pay union dues to an organization that provided him with something that barely qualified as a living wage.  As I said, those days are gone.  The unions have figured out how to make sure that their members get good wages.

What disgusted my Dad even more than lousy salary representation was the way the unions insisted on sticking their noses into curriculum matters.  California unions were advancing Ebonics long before the media caught hold of the notion.  (And when the media caught on, a still sane American public laughed the idea out of the schools.)  They also argued in favor of abandoning phonics (so a generation didn’t learn to read), pushing new math (so a generation, myself included, never learned math), and generally overhauling education in a direction that decreased learning.  In recent decades, they’ve added an overwhelming Leftist tilt to the entire curriculum.

My regularly occurring rant against teacher’s unions came about today because Prager U has a new video out, this one about the damage teacher’s unions to do American public education.

Incidentally, I’m trying out a new approach when it comes to school vouchers.  When I post about vouchers, I say that the school choice movement is the best thing that can happen to public school teachers.  The good ones are always complaining about the curriculum limits placed upon their classrooms and the way these limits interfere with their ability really to teach the children.  School choice, by forcing public schools to compete, would mean that school boards and state education departments would have to listen to these teachers in order to improve the schools’ competitive standing.  This argument puts teachers in a bind, because they can scarcely argue that there’s no room for improvement.  Further, if they reject this argument, they’re conceding that they’re not being truthful when they speak to concerned parents and say that, with regard to a certain teaching approach, their hands are tied.

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  • b.

    Our school district is in turmoil with budget cuts that laid off teachers based on seniority (as negotiated for by the union), and allowed the remaining teachers, based on seniority, to fill openings across the district  (as negotiated for by the union).  Call it: the dance of the old lemons.  
    This was not forced on the poor young teachers by anyone except rich old teachers who used to be poor young teachers.  They eat their own.
    Boy, I’m in a cranky mood today.
    Regarding vouchers, I wonder if you asked a teacher, which does she want:  a government-provided flat-screen TV that costs the government $1000 to make, or a voucher for $1000 to spend on the flat-screen TV of her choice?  
    Whether or not she gets to keep the money she might save by buying a TV with less features, or gets to add a little of her own money to buy a TV with more features.
    I think all the teachers I’ve ever met would want the $1000 voucher.


    Oh dear…I hope your little “bookworms” are not in harm’s way of the public school system. 

  • David Foster

    A considerable amount of the discredit for the public school systems should also go to the university “ed schools.”
    Plenty of blame to go around.

  • Ymarsakar

    When people elect a mad dog as leader, the tree rots from the top down.
    When people think evil will allow them to flourish, they soon come to realize what entropy truly meant.
    They are the enemy. And if people get offended because their loved ones are in a death cult, that’s not really our issue to resolve.

  • Ymarsakar

    Vouchers are only appropriate for those with a future, like Obama’s children or Clinton’s children. They are not for the peons working to death in the factories of God.


    My Mom was a teacher for 40 years, and she believed that the ED Departments are the big problem in education. The ED Degree has become very easy to obtain, so the students that have spent the first two years at college slacking and partying, when suddenly confronted with having to select a major, decide that an ED Degree will allow them to continue to slack off, yet wind up with a good paying jobs afterwards. The infusion of ED grads then insures that the teacher’s unions will always have full membership, as the union will keep the incompetent employed.

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  • Ymarsakar

    One of the problems I see a lot with looking at things in a personal perspective that it takes personal behavior into account too much, while over looking external factors such as evil, corruption, and profiting organizations.
    A lot of people do not or refuse to believe the Leftist alliance is evil or is composed of evil people with evil goals, merely because they say that all the bad stuff comes from irresponsible or non disciplined people. That if we deal, individually, with those problems, as a society, things will get better.
    Things will not get better, however, for evil’s entropy prevents any such “solution”.
    The individuals who fall into this pit most often are the engineers and the problem fixers, those who aren’t interested in politics but just want to get the job done. Eventually, under a regime of evil, they end up working to fix the problems of the tyrants. At times, they may defect like German atomic bomb physicists in WWII. Then they proceed to solve problems for other people, who are responsible for worrying about how to actually stop and kill humans.
    In the end, creators, producers, are either on the side of good or on the side of evil. That eternal truth will never disappear.

  • lee

    My earlier comment under “Pro Second Amendment” is also applicable here (My comment regarding the “conspiracy” of schools to “leftify” our children.)

    I am about the same age as Bookworm. I grew up in the rural Midwest. While my parents were not farmers, we did live in a farming community. A very conservative farming community.

    It was a very small school district. There was a union, but you wouldn’t know it. I know there had to be because something had to connect them with the State Teachers Association. Because that meant retirement benefits and “professional development.”

    We were lucky kids. While there were a lot of not very good teachers (and they lasted mostly because they were hometowners who came back to teach), there were very few actively BAD teachers. Most actively bad ones did not last more than one school year. There were a couple close to retirement, and I think they were tolerated more because of a respect for the elderly, and their years of service. I think we were lucky because the farmers would not tolerate actively BAD teachers. (The also did not tolerate their own children behaving badly and being disrespectful.)

    And while for the most part my teachers didn’t do so much “brainwashing” (As I wrote about earlier), there still was some.

    I do recall being taught, or at least led to believe, that the Republican party and the Democratic party had “switched” views from one hundred years earlier. I know we did do something for the first Earth Day. (I made a cute little thing out of felt.) And My Weekly Reader gave my dad conniptions. (I do not remember what about.) When I went off to college, I was pretty conservative–I did vote for Reagan.

    College, on the other hand, had me turning a sharp left…

    (Thank goodness I was too lazy to do much voting during my left-leaning years. I don’t have to feel quite as guilty about electing Bill, since I didn’t actually vote for him either time. I didn’t really start voting again until my re-rightward turn…)

  • lee

    One more thing about growing up where I did, and when I did is that most of the teachers were people who actually went to school because they WANTED to TEACH. They didn’t just fall into a major. I think that makes a HUGE difference as to the caliber of teacher.

    I think that was more true in general when those people went to college anyhow–the fifties and early sixties. Partying was far less prevalent on campuses. There were curfews, no “overnight guests.”

    But I do think Scott the Badger’s mom is right about many students coming out of ED schools now… Add to that the fact that ED schools are crazy bastions of progressivism… Oy! Our schools are a MESS!

  • Beth

    lee–you mention Weekly Reader which brought to mind one of the many, many gripes we had with ‘box school’ prior to homeschooling our children and that is SCHOLASTIC, Inc.  The environmental and political bologna that we are currently dealing with are dished out to students on a daily basis in almost every subject.  These slick little brochure-type publications have great pictures, plenty of one-liners and then a nice little quiz at the end to make sure the student understand completely what they are supposed to think and say.  Any number of animals and their habitats are featured each week and how we bad humans are destroying them–let’s talk about ways to save them!  Or how about the interview with the 12 year old girl from Mexico who abhorred the thought of moving to America because the gun violence was so terrible!  She would be afraid of getting killed! (This issue was about five years ago.)
    And where does this tie into the teachers?  Well, Scholastic is the teacher’s best friend!  They have these glossy hand-outs for all grades pre-K-8 and so that takes at least one class period a week.  AND THEN the kids can order books from various Scholastic Book magazines and the teacher can get free books for their classrooms.  
    Add to the Scholastic time all the safety drills, the anti-bullying assemblies, the community action bs and such, the students don’t have to endure much schooling at all.  Doesn’t take much more than a degree in herd management to lead in the classroom these days.
    As an end note, one of which I am loathe to add but I think it’s fair….our kids were in a Catholic school. 

  • edge of the sandbox

    My kindergartener was recently lectured during the recess about the righteousness of the plastic bag ban.  I don’t know where that came from — the union, the PTA or whatever.  We told our daughter that she’s in school to learn reading, writing and math, and everything else is just someone’s opinion.
    We have a few very good Asian “tiger” teachers in our school district.  Unfortunately, this being the East Bay I can’t place too much hope on school choice.  Parents here are not very interested in academics.  They prefer that their children were taught gardening.  I guess I just have to partially homeschool.

  • Bookworm

    I never, never, never stop talking to my kids about my values.  In some ways, I view them as a necessary counterweight to the teachers’ propaganda.  My kids are the ones who will politely challenge the teachers in class, or will leave the class advising their peers that there are other ways to think.