The End of General Motors and Ford: Lessons for Teachers from the Auto Workers Debacle


Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that there would be serious discussion about allowing Ford and General Motors to fail … to go bankrupt? Apparently General Motors (GM) stock is virtually worthless (at the 1943 value), GM is “bleeding” two billion dollars a month, and, will run out of money by mid 2009.
For decades the powerful United Auto Workers union negotiated tough contracts with the “Big Three,” Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. Excellent salaries, fringe packages and superb retiree benefits. In spite of environmentalist pleas the auto makers continued to manufacture gas guzzlers, SUVs and trucks, Humvees and larger and larger vehicles, with lower and lower gas mileage.
The foreign competition began to build factories, with non-union labor in the South, and produced cars at significantly lower per unit costs, and, cater to the high gas mileage  crowd.
The feds have already funneled billions into the “Big Three” to fund the construction of factories to build high mileage, environmentally sound vehicles. Is it too late?
Will infusions of federal funds into Ford and GM save them?  How many jobs would be lost if they fail? What will be the impact on retirees? Will the failure drive the recession into a depression? or, is a bailout the economically responsible path?
Teachers have lessons to learn.
The UAW assembly line worker simply did his job, he didn’t design cars or set company policy. His union both negotiated excellent contracts and supported management policies. Teachers toil in their classrooms, as school boards and superintendents roll from “magic bullet to “magic bullet.” Who is  the guru? The management principal as CEO approach espoused by Bill Ouchi or the Broader, Bolder Agenda folk, which think tank or foundation has an “answer?”
Teacher say: why don’t they leave me alone, I just want to teach?
They won’t leave you alone because too many children, in poor communities of color are not succeeding. Civil rights advocates, electeds, what was once the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s has splintered fifty plus years later as schools fail to produce expected results. And, education just might be in fifth place on the Obama agenda. Nicolas Kristof points to a recent study at the Brookings Institute.
There’s still a vigorous debate about how to improve education, but recent empirical research is giving us a much better sense of what works. A study by the Hamilton Project, a public policy group at the Brookings Institution, outlines several steps to boost weak schools: end rigid requirements for teacher certification that impede hiring, make tenure more difficult to get so that ineffective teachers can be weeded out after three years on the job and award hefty bonuses to good teachers willing to teach in low-income areas. If we want outstanding, inspiring teachers in difficult classrooms, we’re going to have to pay much more — and it would be a bargain.
The Obama education team has a wide variety of views: from John Schnur to Linda Darling-Hammond. Will his education team coalesce, or, will there be “winners and “losers”?
Will the Community Schools Agenda point of view take center stage?
This action plan promotes “results-focused” partnerships between public schools and families, community groups and agencies. The goal of the effort is to see that all children acquire the skills, knowledge and opportunities they need to be active citizens and productive adults, and to support that goal through critical services such as school-based health centers, high-quality preschool programs, and learning opportunities that bring students into the communities and community resources into the classroom.
 We are at a crossroads, sorry, they’re not going to “leave you alone.” With an economic crisis staring us in the face some aver that the “answer” is not bailouts, the answer is education, says NY Times Op Eder Kristof

So let’s break for a quiz: Quick, what’s the source of America’s greatness?

Is it a tradition of market-friendly capitalism? The diligence of its people? The cornucopia of natural resources? Great presidents?

No, a fair amount of evidence suggests that the crucial factor is our school system — which, for most of our history, was the best in the world but has foundered over the last few decades. The message for Mr. Obama is that improving schools must be on the front burner.

A “winning” fight to maintain the status quo will doom teachers to the fate of auto workers. Schools, and teacher unions, and teachers must be agile and nimble, they must understand that schools, especially schools serving children of color, must graduate students able to compete.

I don’t know whether the Klein/Ouchi management approach, or, the Broader, Bolder guys or the merit pay, or whomever will emerge. I do know that simply complaining will be a disaster. Teachers must “seize the day” with an agenda that will bring about change, change that will advantage the disadvantaged.


One response to “The End of General Motors and Ford: Lessons for Teachers from the Auto Workers Debacle

  1. Pingback: » The End of General Motors and Ford: Lessons for Teachers from the …

Leave a Reply

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

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

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )


Connecting to %s