Adam Smith, Plutocrats and Teacher Unions: Keeping Silent Because You Are Not a Trade Unionist Can be Fatal

 

When the Nazis arrested the Communists,
I said nothing; after all, I was not a Communist.
When they locked up the Social Democrats,
I said nothing; after all, I was not a Social Democrat.
When they arrested the trade unionists,
I said nothing; after all, I was not a trade unionist.
When they arrested me, there was no longer anyone who could protest.
Martin Niemoller
 
Why aren’t schools doing better? What are the obstacles to school improvement? Is it the lack of funding to schools with the most disadvantaged kids? Is it the burden of poverty? the lack of adequate housing? healthcare? single parent households? crime ridden neighborhoods? new and/or poorly trained teachers? or, is it the “rigid work rules imposed by teacher unions”?
 
Jonathan Alter, a Newsweek columnist avers that the source of school failure is the “paleolithic teachers unions, ready to pounce on any challenge to the failed system they dominate.”
 
 
 “Pay-for-performance leads us to the second key to closing the achievement gap: accountability….Based on the data we’re collecting, there are now rewards for success in our schools – and consequences for failure. If a school continuously fails its students, we will shut it down. And if a teacher continuously fails his or her students, we will work to give principals the tools to remove that teacher from the classroom.

“Unfortunately, this hasn’t been very easy to do in New York – or in many other cities – because of inflexible union work rules. and let me suggest one promising idea: Congress can use the power of the purse to withhold funds from districts that fail to take meaningful steps towards reform.

What inflexible union work rules?

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), compiled a searchable database of the teacher contracts in the fifty largest cities in 2006. They have just released a new report entitled Invisible Ink in Collective Bargaining, lo and behold, teacher contracts throughout the country are largely silent on those odious, but invisible work rules. Those so-called union-favorable work rules, says the Report, are imbedded in State laws across the country, not in teacher contracts.

Teachers as individuals are powerless, teachers as members of democratic labor unions have power. The power to vote, the power to advocate for policies, the power to change, the power to create legislation.

The ideologues of the marketplace and their billionaire friends have the dollars to lobby, to fund “think tanks,” the power to influence, they abhor the power of the ballot box.

Bloomberg is appalled that teachers, that third grade teacher in the  Morrisiana, that kindergarten teacher in East New York, that high school teacher in Ozone Park, can, through their union, thwart the power of one of the wealthiest men in the nation. For Mike, the carrot is the answer to poverty.

The assault on teacher unions masks the source of educational stagnation. The gap in achievement reflects the gap in income … children of the poor are, in all too many instances, lacking early interventions, are condemned at birth.

 David Brooks, in his column in the NY Times points to current research,

 ….  high school graduation rates peaked in the U.S. in the late 1960s, at about 80 percent. Since then they have declined.

In “Schools, Skills and Synapses,” Heckman probes the sources of that decline. It’s not falling school quality, he argues. Nor is it primarily a shortage of funding or rising college tuition costs. Instead, Heckman directs attention at family environments, which have deteriorated over the past 40 years.

Heckman points out that big gaps in educational attainment are present at age 5. Some children are bathed in an atmosphere that promotes human capital development and, increasingly, more are not. By 5, it is possible to predict, with depressing accuracy, who will complete high school and college and who won’t.

The Obama education program emphasizes early childhood education, and rejects the imposition of market based solutions, i.e., imposed merit pay.

The invisible hand of Adam Smith, the cold, cruel world of the marketplace, with economic determinism as guiding force is the “answer” for the today’s neo-robber barons.

Journalists who blithely blame teacher unions for the ills of schools are hiding their heads in the sands of time. There will come a time when those same journalists will be the subject of the arrows of the economic plutocrats. 

Advertisements

3 responses to “Adam Smith, Plutocrats and Teacher Unions: Keeping Silent Because You Are Not a Trade Unionist Can be Fatal

  1. perchance2dream

    Accurate piece of insight. Lovely piece of writing.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Adam Smith, Plutocrats and Teacher Unions: Keeping Silent Because You Are Not a Trade Unionist Can be Fatal | Edwize

  3. Phyllis C. Murray

    Re.”Adam Smith, Plutocrats and Teacher Unions: Keeping Silent Because You Are Not a Trade Unionist Can be Fatal”
    Filed under: Education by Peter Goodman @ 5:09 pm

    As trade unionist we are able to affect change. And Peter Goodman is correct when he wrote the following: “Teachers as individuals are powerless, teachers as members of democratic labor unions have power. The power to vote, the power to advocate for policies, the power to change, the power to create legislation.”

    We need to see a reinvestment of economic capital in education. Then, we will see a revitalization of structured environments in school communities. We will see new programs which provide the skills and develop the competencies needed so that all of our students will become productive members of society.

    An investment of economic capital would assure the development of new schools, state of the art libraries, supervised playgrounds and after school programs. New capital investments would seed programs of prevention and intervention for our at – risk students and increase guidance and counseling services to end a child’s cycle of failure and frustration. Failure and frustration unabated, far too often, translate into assaults, disruptions in classrooms and heightening violent incident statistics.

    If we are to continue to be a pluralistic society, we must make sure that the road to becoming a productive citizen : the road to being the best that we can be, is not impeded by unfair testing which leads to unfair tracking, and unfair labeling. Every child must be given an equal opportunity to achieve and succeed.

    It is obvious that all parents want their children to succeed. However, if parents have not traveled along the pathway which leads to success,they do not know which road to take. They will need a guide for their children. Without a guide, success may become a dream deferred from one generation to another.

    Therefore, it is incumbent upon educators/guidancecounselors/ mentors to continue to invest in these human souls along with their parents. This is the “strategic partnership” which is sorely needed as the child is programmed from PreK to Grade 12. And certainly, if our elected officials are not a part of the solution, perhaps they are part of the problem.
    Phyllis C. Murray

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s