Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”     Alexis de Tocqueville

February 26, 2006

Threat of Teachers Unions

by Brad Warbiany

Neal Boortz made a bold statement on his show the other day. He said “the teachers unions are a greater long-term threat to freedom and prosperity than Islamic terrorists”. I’m guessing he came under some fire for that one, because the very next day, he was talking about it again. He said he’d given it a lot of thought, really examined the implications of his statement, and stood behind what he said.

Now, that’s a pretty strong statement, and one that I agree with. Before you all think I’m crazy, I point out the words “long-term”. In the short term, conflict with Islamic terrorists is a direct threat to our freedom and prosperity, and one that needs to be taken very seriously. On the bright side, however, it is one that we’re taking very seriously. We understand the stakes in the conflict, and we are determined to defeat the terrorists. Furthermore, as the Islamic world begins to liberalize and democratize, the threat will diminish significantly on its own.

But the threat of the teachers unions is considerably different. Only a minority of people consider them to be a threat in the first place. Most people in this country think that the unions have education of students as their primary goal, when it is obvious to anybody paying attention that they act in the interest of teachers, often to the detriment of students.

They fight any implementation of standards or testing, because they wish to resist accountability. They fight every program that will increase educational choice for families, because it will lead to a reduction of their bargaining power. They wish education to be handled at the government level, because the government is much easier to lobby and fight than a distributed network of privately-managed schools.

They push endlessly for two specific goals, higher funding and lower class sizes. Higher funding will directly increase teacher salaries. Lower class sizes create a need for higher and higher numbers of teachers, essentially forcing shortages. Hence: higher teacher salaries. It keeps going. They push for a requirement of a “teaching credential” before they push for a requirement that teachers are experts in their subjects. They want to make sure that bright, knowledgeable folks with teaching talent are not allowed to teach unless they have a teaching “credential”. What does all this amount to? Like any cartel, they seek one thing above all: to remove competition. Lower class sizes and credentialing requirements ensure that existing teachers have a strong bargaining position when the union fights for more benefits.

But the biggest problem eclipses all of the above. Their threat to our freedom is not that of newsworthy attacks on human life, but the incremental destruction of human individualism. Boortz explains it much better than I do, when he points out the fact that the government is the actor in our world that we give a monopoly on the power to initiate force. That is an awesome power, and its application must be feared and curtailed whenever possible. But the people we ask to teach our children feed at the trough of government! You will never teach children to fear the application of government power by sending them to government schools. When the teachers unions are helped by a greater concentration of power– as that gives their lobbying much more effect– they will by design support greater government power. And where government power increases, human individualism recedes.

The teachers unions benefit greatly from a public that believes in the idea of collective action, be it union action, government welfare, or simply the “world community”. They benefit greatly from the idea that kids fit into cookie-cutter molds, and if one dares to exhibit individuality, they should be immediately muted with high doses of ritalin. The teachers who benefit from power in government, from keeping children from growing up to question teachers unions, and who prefer the orderly medicated classroom to one that they must keep orderly by inspiring and motivating students, are doing damage to the very fabric of this country. They are creating a nation of citizens who don’t question authority and who don’t have a love of truth and learning. Even worse, they’re creating a nation of citizens without the tools (i.e. logic) to understand the very forces pulling on the levers of their psyche. A nation filled with that sort of citizen is doomed to rot from within.

What will happen if the current situation is continued to exist? What will happen if teachers unions, who have the public on their side (after all, everyone loves and reveres teachers!) continue to stifle competition and standards? Well, I would argue that we’re already seeing the effect, in the inability of schools in much of the country to turn out graduates with a meaningful diploma. I’ve said before that I moved to Georgia partially for the schools, but that is because I moved to an area of Georgia populated by concerned parents who demand accountability from the local schools. Where I moved is somewhere that I might not be ashamed to send my future children to public schools. But my community is an exception in this state, where the schools lag behind the rest of the dullard states in this nation. The situation is bad here and across the country, and it is getting worse.

The teachers unions are not in the slightest bit interested in fixing the problem, except to the extent that it keeps their necks off the chopping block another year. Much like politicians, the status quo is more than suitable for them as long as they don’t awaken the sleeping giant that is the American public. To beat them, we will need to shine a light not only on the results of their actions– the absolutely atrocious education that children in our schools are receiving– but on the fact that the teachers unions are the root cause behind those results. Unions in this country have long received unjustly favorable media treatment, and everyone loves to be on the side of teachers. But unless we can point out the specific ways that teachers unions are harming our children, we won’t stand a chance of beating them.

I’ll be frank. Terrorists setting off a nuclear device in a major American city are a more pressing concern for me over the next 10 years than the actions of teachers unions. But assuming that we can avoid that nightmare scenario, I worry greatly about the world my children will grow up in if we can’t find a way to fix the problem those unions have caused.

Update: Welcome to readers joining us from Neal’s Nuze. The Liberty Papers is a not for profit news and opinion blog that focuses on topics dealing with individual liberty and freedom. If you enjoyed this article, poke around the site. I’m sure you will find more to interest you.

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58 Comments

  1. Hear hear, Brad! Adding to my concerns also is the fact that the old expression “the hands that rock the cradle are the hands that rule the world” should be updated now to “the mouths that teach the abc’s are the mouths than run the world”. Parents can certainly overcome most of the misconceptions taught in government schools, but it takes a concerted effort and extreme wariness to stay on top of what your kids are being taught – both in words and by example.

    Comment by Kay — February 27, 2006 @ 4:03 am
  2. Great post, Brad! And I’ll second what Kay wrote: parental involvement is key.

    I’ve told my kids, since they’ve been able to comprehend English, that education is primarily their responsibility, with myself and teachers acting as guides and shepherds. Kids, by and large, love to learn new things; but the dumbed-down slow pace of the typical public school is uninspiring at best. Regardless, absentee parents are a large part of the problem, notwithstanding the NEA’s agenda.

    Comment by Robert — February 27, 2006 @ 5:37 am
  3. As a parent of two young children with school looming a few years down the road I have only recently started paying attention to the school debate. I thought it was immediately obvious that teacher’s unions were at the center of everything that is dragging down education in the US. Now I am starting to hear this is the media and I am hopeful that the general public will catch on and turn this situation around.

    I also live in Georgia and I am encouraged to see parents that cannot afford private school starting charter schools in our area. These schools introduce some choice and accountability back into the system and offer these parents some alternative to the status quo. The overwhelming interest that these efforts are receiving in my area gives me hope that public awareness of this problem is growing.

    Comment by Jim Clark — February 27, 2006 @ 6:18 am
  4. Congrats on being a reading assignment on Boortz. Well written & I totally agree with you (former teacher).

    Comment by Greta (Hooah Wife) — February 27, 2006 @ 7:26 am
  5. Great insight! This is why we homeschool! We want to raise people who can think for themselves and question what they see and hear.

    Comment by Dana — February 27, 2006 @ 8:23 am
  6. A note on the credentials thing. A few weeks ago my son’s 5th grade science teacher told her class that kinetic and potential energy were, in part, a function of an object’s size. Last week she told the kids that gravity was also a function of an object’s size. I wrote a letter correcting her and explaining why she was incorrect. I recieved a response of ‘Thank you’, with her CV attached. This included the dates of her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and the fact that she was judged ‘highly qualified’(whatever that means). Evidently they don’t teach basic physics in any of those curricula, and while she may be highly qualified to teach something, physics is certainly not it.

    Kind of scary.

    Comment by Daniel — February 27, 2006 @ 8:53 am
  7. I’ve always felt that teachers should be hired like any other professional. Instead, if they have a credential, they get hired.

    Comment by Eric — February 27, 2006 @ 8:58 am
  8. I agree. I think teachers today are more about pushing an agenda than educating our children. My wife and I home schooled and used private schools. I am think about semi-retiring and becoming a teacher. I teach new employees and found I enjoyed it. I also have an idea. We could never make it happen, but what do you think would happen if ALL teachers were required to have a real world job for a five year minimum before becoming teachers? Some real life experience might do some good. Oh well, just a thought.

    Comment by Cruzin — February 27, 2006 @ 8:58 am
  9. I knew I wasn’t the only person in the world who beleives that the Teachers Union pose a grave threat to our nations “long term” security.

    I’ve lived in the South my whole life and for the life of me I can’t figure out the union mentality. If some company hired you, they should be able to fire you if you don’t preform to the standars they set.

    John Stosell reported this idea a few weeks ago. Instead of giving monies to states or to school districts, why not have the money follow the student. That way, no school will be lacking for funds for the children that attends that school. The people in any community will want to send their children to the best possible instutions and hence, if they don’t perform they don’t get the students and no money. Just a thought.

    Comment by Troy — February 27, 2006 @ 9:08 am
  10. Part of the problem is parents that aren’t aware that the problem exists. After all, they went to those same schools and they turned out OK, didn’t they? (tongue-in-cheek).
    Excellent article.

    Comment by Steve — February 27, 2006 @ 9:23 am
  11. My answer to the teacher dilemma is the market place. Get rid of the union, don’t require credentialing as a mandate, allow principals to hire based on qualifications. The problem is two fold right now. First, school principals, even school districts, are in a non-free market. They are only allowed to hire from a certain pool of employees and they can’t apply normal employee practices to those people. Second, the unions have created artificial scarcity in the teacher employment market (i.e. they are a monopoly).

    Comment by Eric — February 27, 2006 @ 9:32 am
  12. I would like to state a couple of things. I am a teacher. I would like to tell you that there a couple of errors in you article. First off the union cares very little about teachers. The union cares about one thing, the union. The union does not want smaller class sizes in my view to cause a teacher shortage. Their main goal is the more teachers working the more dues being paid. When it comes down to teachers or the union, the union always sides with the union. I could give you numerous examples of this that I have seen.

    Comment by Nathan — February 27, 2006 @ 9:34 am
  13. PS as a follow up comment the union uses fear to motivate the teachers in the union and it is too bad that teachers are not smart enough to see it hapopening to them.

    Comment by Nathan — February 27, 2006 @ 9:35 am
  14. Truly awe-inspiring commentary. Much deeper than I normally will spend the time to write.
    I am truly amazed at the large # of people who genuinely do not care about the damage the school they are sending their kids or their friends/families’ kids to is doing.

    Comment by Wind Ski Song — February 27, 2006 @ 9:40 am
  15. I agree that our public schools generally do not serve the best interests of the students. I have been an educator in government run schools for twelve years, and I am tired of watching my union dues support the NEA (as corrupt an organization as any in the history of this country). I have also grown weary of the attitude exhibited by many of my colleagues that THEY come first. The students in our care should be the number one priority— are they learning what they need to know to become successful, productive members of society? The answer is no. What they are learning is that their value is dependent upon a standardized test score. Without sufficient marks to ensure federal funding, they mean nothing to most local school districts. They are also learning that they do not have to do an honest day’s work in order to collect a paycheck, as long as the union representing them can strong-arm the employers into giving them what they want. Most of the people with whom I work do not even know why they support the union. They pay their dues because they are expected to do so. In thier defense, I must add that in our district we are not given a choice— we must belong to the union in order to continue our employment. So I must involuntarily support an organization that conflicts with my personal belief system and educational values. The answer seems as simple as finding someplace else to teach, but it’s more of the same in other public school systems. I have already decided to send my children (when I have them) to private institutions, regardless of the cost. Isn’t that ironic? I could ramble on forever about this topic, but I feel my blood pressure rising. God bless you for the insight in your post, and for the investigative work of Neal Boortz, John Stossel, and others. Hopefully, this will be the catalyst of change in our education system. Keep the dialogue going!

    Comment by David — February 27, 2006 @ 9:43 am
  16. Nathan, I think the unions do want a teacher shortage because, when you combine it with the nearly mandatory union membership and the credentialing requirements, it means that the market for teachers is a monopoly that they control. If they union controls it, they can drive wages, dues, etc. up or down, at their whim.

    See this entry I wrote on Scarcity for why this benefits the union.

    Comment by Eric — February 27, 2006 @ 9:46 am
  17. [...] Eric: Nathan, I think the unions do want a teacher shortage because, when you combine it with the nearly mandatory… [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers»Blog Archive » Teacher’s Unions: The Enemy Of Education — February 27, 2006 @ 10:18 am
  18. [...] Threat of Teacher’s Unions [...]

    Pingback by Erics Grumbles Before The Grave »Blog Archive » Check Out The Education Discussion — February 27, 2006 @ 10:49 am
  19. Eric I agree that the teachers union loves to drive wages up to help there dues. I should have said that if they had the choice of more money for teachers or more dues money they would take the dues money everytime. Very good point. A great article.

    Comment by Nathan — February 27, 2006 @ 11:12 am
  20. Oh yeah, no doubt in my mind that the union, taken as a whole, only cares about teacher’s salaries to the extent that it helps with membership and dues. They can’t afford a mass teacher revolt either, so they need to keep teacher’s salaries high enough that you feel that “they are working for you”, but not so high that you feel you are adequately compensated. If you feel that way, then you will start to wonder why you need the union.

    Comment by Eric — February 27, 2006 @ 11:26 am
  21. [...] I got linked today by Neal Boortz. Click on this link (scroll down slightly), and my post on Teachers Unions over at The Liberty Papers is Boortz’s first Reading Assignment. Check out the post, as it’s garnered quite a bit of attention. [...]

    Pingback by The Unrepentant Individual » Used up one of my Fifteen Minutes — February 27, 2006 @ 11:32 am
  22. A great many teachers feel that striving for good grades is too “stressful” for many students and that competition requires a “loser”, which results in poor self-esteem. Therefore, many of our graduates have difficulty competing for good jobs they seek in the private sector. When they don’t get those jobs because competition was never required of them, then they REALLY have self-esteem issues. Our society is going down the tubes thanks to teachers’fear of low self-esteem. It will eventually kill our capitalistic economic system and replace it with a nice non-competitive socialistic one.

    Comment by Burl — February 27, 2006 @ 11:45 am
  23. I tend to agree with Burl, but I need to add that there is an impetus behind this. For good or bad, teachers are increasingly expected to ‘let things slide’ in favor of not only the self-esteem of the student, but to keep parents from complaining to the principal. I have personally been ‘encouraged’ to change grades because my standards are too high. I’m not tough on my students because I’m trying to hurt their egos— I am trying to prepare them for life. The lesson they are learning instead is that someone will always be there to bail them out. It is a conditioning that will serve any union or government well. Become dependent on an establishment, and all will be provided. What they aren’t learning is how to take a good look at how well bureaucracy operates. The government does such a wonderful job managing our money, doesn’t it? So I do agree that one way or another, the competitiveness is being bred out of the younger generation. But not all teachers are letting this happen willingly.

    Comment by David — February 27, 2006 @ 12:09 pm
  24. Not all teachers fit this model of course, but think about what sort of person would be attracted by a job that they can get based on having a credential that guarantees them a relatively good job with benefits and little, or no, competition based on performance and ability. Then ask yourself why those people would be so enamoured of teaching that self-esteem is more important than competition and performance.

    Comment by Eric — February 27, 2006 @ 12:42 pm
  25. I’m a public school teacher who contributes over $500 a year in MANDATORY union dues — it’s a closed shop in this state. Knowing that a large chunck of my money goes to fund the campaigns of politicians such as Mssrs. Kennedy, Kerry, and Clinton (both of them) is a hard pill to swallow. Perhaps you should focus some of your blame there — they defend and support the union. After all, it’s a hand that feeds them.

    Comment by George Manfred — February 27, 2006 @ 12:42 pm
  26. George, we definitely agree with you on that as well.

    Comment by Eric — February 27, 2006 @ 12:44 pm
  27. Teacher’s unions and public education just happen to be a monopoly that insure that it is the tenure of a teacher that ensures the continued job and raises rather than actual performance. This area, like all, should be an open market where employment and raises are not affected by involvement with an outside organization. Imagine how this would look if membership and dues for the Republican party were required. Union membership should be optional.

    Teaching – Life can be stressful. This is something that should be encouraged and may be one of the greatest shortfalls of children who have graduated from Homeschool. Their social skills may be more public concerns, but the biggest concern I have seen is that some of them have not been tested stressfully enough in their education. Of course, many are taught to plan well and insured to avoid last-minute implementation that requires such stress.

    I believe that some people are not well suited to continued education. This does not make them less valuable to society, but it will limit their options. I am not over 6 feet tall and I am unable to run a 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds, which limits my options. I suggest that they focus on their strengths rather than continued education.

    Many excellent individuals who go on to make lots of money or contribute in numerous other ways never graduated from college or did well in school. Acurately grading the individual with poor grades may appear to be a failure for teacher, but I suggest that grade inflation does more harm than good to the ability of the student.

    Comment by Pete — February 27, 2006 @ 12:56 pm
  28. My son Lucas reports that his class-size limites spanish class is without the regular teacher for the remainder of the year, so the substitute teacher gives them a 6 question worksheet to fill out each day. The take 6 minutes to answer 6 questions, then spend the remainder of class sitting – bored to tears and NOT learning any Spanish.

    In his math class, another substitute. Because the substitute is credentialed but knows NOTHING about math, he asked the class “Is there anyone here who is good at math?” The kids all pointed at Lucas. The substitute then said, “Why don’t YOU teach the class then” and turned the class over to my son for instruction.

    The “credentialed” teachers are sitting on their union-protected haunches, collecting full-time government welfare checks at our expense, and leaving the blind to lead the blind, while THEY thumb through magazines.

    Only in America.

    It’s a good thing I teach my kids at home before they head off to this government run asylum. The only reason I don’t keep them home is because of the other challenges that they can find – like competition in sports, debate, science fairs, and ROTC. There are SOME good teachers – there just aren’t enough.

    Comment by Rex — February 27, 2006 @ 1:16 pm
  29. TYPO

    That should be “class-size limited”

    Sorry – government education.

    Comment by Rex — February 27, 2006 @ 1:22 pm
  30. [...] Because, I mentioned it a few days ago, I have to point to an excellent post over at Liberty Papers: Threat of Teachers Unions. Provocative stuff there, Brad.But the biggest problem eclipses all of the above. Their threat to our freedom is not that of newsworthy attacks on human life, but the incremental destruction of human individualism. Boortz explains it much better than I do, when he points out the fact that the government is the actor in our world that we give a monopoly on the power to initiate force. That is an awesome power, and its application must be feared and curtailed whenever possible. But the people we ask to teach our children feed at the trough of government! You will never teach children to fear the application of government power by sending them to government schools. When the teachers unions are helped by a greater concentration of power? as that gives their lobbying much more effect? they will by design support greater government power. And where government power increases, human individualism recedes.Go read the rest. [...]

    Pingback by FreedomSight — February 27, 2006 @ 1:35 pm
  31. Rex,

    What you bring up is exactly my point. If you have a good Spanish teacher, it doesn’t matter if the class size is 8 students or 38 students, you can teach them. But if you artificially limit class sizes to 20 students, and you have 38 who want to take the class, you have 19 of them being taught by a good teacher and the other 19 taught by whoever can come the closest to pronouncing “Hola, como estas” properly…

    Personally, I’ve thought about what I might choose to do if I ever tire of engineering. As an engineer, I had to take enough college math and science classes that I’d love the idea of teaching those subjects in high school. Perhaps even philosophy or poli sci. These are things that I love, and if I could even begin to inspire kids to love those subjects too, I’d feel pretty good about my contribution to the world. I’ve been told by others that I do a good job of explaining complex concepts to people in easy to understand ways, so that might give me an advantage when it comes to teaching subjects like calculus or physics. But without a teaching credential, I’m pretty well SOL, aren’t I?

    David,
    What you bring up is well-discussed over at The New Libertarian’s post on reforming government. Basically, our legislative system is designed in such a way (done so by legislators, of course) to reward them for cooperation in spending our money. It screws the taxpayers, but helps each of them return money to their own districts in pork spending. There are tens of thousands of wonderful teachers across the country. I can name a few that I had (quite the minority in my high school), that were instrumental in furthering my love of physics and engineering. But the system is designed not to reward those teachers, and thus they’re a distinct few. The system is designed (by the teachers unions) to perpetuate the system. It’s not designed to reward excellent teachers, nor is it designed to educate students.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — February 27, 2006 @ 2:42 pm
  32. Me and my husband have adopted a 12-year old son. We are trying very hard to instill some personal responsibility into him

    The schools are making this very difficult. He has been passed from grade to grade without doing any work. In 8th grade, he got straight E’s and the school would not let us hold him back as a consequence (he is very smart and can do the work).

    He has learned that it is not necessary to do any work at school, so he doesn’t.

    Did you know that, to stay in football, a kid only has to pass 3 classes with a D-? He can fail all the rest and continue to play!

    We are trying are best, but he has learned that he doesn’t have to do anything to succeed.

    He is not going to be prepared for life at all once he skates out of school.

    Comment by Darlene — February 27, 2006 @ 2:46 pm
  33. Heh, Darlene, you might be happy to know that your comment was comment #666 for The Liberty Papers! Just thought I would share.

    Comment by Eric — February 27, 2006 @ 3:48 pm
  34. George, Brad, and Pete: you are doing a much better job of articulating the problem than I. Two of my twelve years were spent teaching in a private Catholic school (non-Union). The health benefits were very good, the salary was equitable, and the relationship between parents and teachers was excellent (the parents were paying high tuition to ensure their kids were being educated). It IS possible to get results without a union, and it IS possible for a company to work well with its employers without the intervention of a union. One of the best examples I can think of is Toyota Motor Corporation. They do not allow unionization, and since they are not an American company, they cannot be forced to unionize (ala-WalMart). Their wirkers are expected to produce results, and they are treated well by their parent company for their efforts. I have never reached tenure— my average time in one job has been four years. This is because I keep hoping to find a job that has a philosophy more in line with my own. The closest fit was the private school, but I am determined to find a public school that wants to engage its students, rather than bow to the almighty teacher’s union. Why is it so easy to break up a company like Microsoft or AT & T for alledgely creating a monopoly, but not the NEA? Both of the aforementioned companies do the people in this country a far greater service than the one that ‘protects’ the rights of incompetent teachers.

    Comment by David — February 27, 2006 @ 3:52 pm
  35. Yikes… that’s “workers,” not wirkers. Can you tell I was educated in the public schools? Guess the hands are working faster than the brain tonight.

    Comment by David — February 27, 2006 @ 6:50 pm
  36. Brad, you could teach KJita anytime.

    Rex, I don’t intend to be mean, but if your story is only 75% true, you either need to get your kid in a private school — and don’t give me crap about cost, cancel your cable — or you need to send a local news investigative hidden camera into those classrooms.

    Comment by KJ — February 27, 2006 @ 7:28 pm
  37. Brad… You have acquired the target…David…you are a credit, unfortunately possibly one of the exceptions…Nathan…your heart seems to be in the right place, but you frighten me a bit.

    Comment by Russ — February 27, 2006 @ 7:47 pm
  38. I have a degree in Physics and Math and another in Computer Science. When I left my job as a systems analyst and came to a small community in NC to start a private business with my husband, I felt I could offer something to the local schools as a teacher. Here are my observations for what they are worth. Local school officials were not the least bit interested in hiring me as a teacher, despite what I had to offer, unless I got a “teaching certificate”. I went to the nearest university for a year and took the “education” classes (a joke, for the most part, in my estimation. There were a few good instructors there, but the majority had not been in a high school classroom in years and were totally out of touch with reality.On completion, I did NOT apply for my certificate, as what I saw there assured me that I did NOT want to be a full time teacher in public education or a part of the bureaurocracy that the public school system has become. I do, however, substitute at the local middle and high schools from time to time. I have observed that there ARE some excellant teachers in the system, but they have become so discouraged by the endless testing that takes up their valuable class time and the “teach to the test” mentality that does not allow them time to really teach their subjects, they are looking more and more seriously at other occupations. I find many of the lesser teachers are there because they have a job that doesn’t require much more than showing up on a regular basis and collecting a paycheck. The children are a means to an end, not the reason they are there.They cling to the NEA like leeches as this is their main assurance of keeping their blood sucking jobs. We have English teachers who use double negatives,and history and Social science teachers who are there to fill the time when they are not coaching the football and basketball teams and not because they have any knowledge or talent in either subject.
    I have been on the board of the nearest charter school for nearly ten years and I am amazed at the difference. I will say,in passing, that smaller classes ARE better, mostly because it allows the teacher to give each child more individual attention. We choose to have smaller classes for that reason, even though it stretches our financial resources and we cannot pay teachers as much as the public schools do. However, we do MORE with LESS money than all the public schools combined. We are freer to choose what to teach and how to teach it.Thinking out of the box is encouraged to the max and creativity and innovative ways of teaching are actually REWARDED. The difference between the two systems of education is amazing. Of course, the local “public” school system considers us an anathema.Our biggest drawback in hiring the GOOD teachers from the public school system is the state retirement benefits program.We have a retirement program, but we can’t afford the state one, and we find teachers who have been teaching for several years don’t want to give up the years they have oinvested in this.We also cannot afford sports as most of our resources go into the classroom. We do emphasize that you “are what you eat”, and have a dining commons run by people who are health oriented and who use organic produce as much as possible, bought from LOCAL growers,teachers who try to encourage good eating habits and use gardening as a teaching tool. Small example. The early grades designed their own raised garden beds. MATH: they had to calculate how much material was going to be needed to construct the bed, what geoomtric shape the bed was going to be, how much dirt it would take to fill it, etc.READING: They read about famous people who had used some aspect of gardening to further science or enhance lives, George Washington Carver, Mendell,and so forth. GEOGRAPHY: How climate determines the crops you can grow. YOu get the idea. THey even raised some of the things the dining commons uesd in their meals.The public schools are in a flap over whether they can afford to take the soft drink machines out of the schools because they are paid so much by the soft drink companies to leave them there. But I digress. And you get the picture. None of our teachers belong to the NEA. They are there because they are dedicated to teaching children in ways that encourage critical thinking and innovation, not to ennssure they cannot be fired no matter how badly they perform.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hay — February 28, 2006 @ 5:08 am
  39. KJ,
    That reminds me… I had planned this year to get involved on the local school’s tutor list, but got too busy. I need to do that.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — February 28, 2006 @ 5:24 am
  40. Elizabeth,

    Thanks for all the good work you’re doing. I’m sure the NEA hates your guts, but I think that’s a badge of honor, rather than a downside!

    I do agree that– all things being equal– smaller class sizes are better. What I don’t agree with is the idea that the teachers unions use small class sizes as a panacea, as if that will suddenly make bad teachers into good ones. If I had a choice between 35 students in a class with a good teacher, and splitting that into two classes leaving half those kids with a teacher who doesn’t really understand or care about the subject matter, I’ll take the first option. Obviously if you can find good teachers for both classes, it’s the best of all worlds.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — February 28, 2006 @ 5:27 am
  41. Elizabeth, you touched on so many good points in your post. I have taught in communities where local business people have offered their services as interim teachers (for prolonged illnesses, military calls to service, etc.), and have been turned down because they lack the proper certification… even just to be long-term subs! It is ridiculous. What I infer from this is that some certified teachers feel threatened by the presence of an ‘outsider.’ What if this person is better than a certified instructor? What if he or she discovers something awry with what we are doing in the classroom? But the single greatest mark you hit was with the standardized testing issue. Our kids may be able to achieve a miniumum score to guarantee funding for a school, but cannot balance their checkbooks or implement critical thinking skills. This generation thinks that ‘lol’ and ‘LMAO’ are real words, and use them in assigned research papers (along with atrocious spelling and grammar). I’m not saying these test have no value at all, but the intent is not really to assess student aptitude— it is to get school funding. I believe that some really good teachers have simply had their spirit broken because of this. This is not the reason we went into the profession. Most of us went into it for some other reason than to have three months of vacation time, an unlimited supply of sick days, and reasonable health benefits. But by the time we’ve been through a few years of ‘beating our heads against the wall,’ we simply throw in the towel (either leave the profession or give in to the norm). It’s a really sad state of affairs. Any business that operated the way our public schools do would be facing bankruptcy, Enron-like scandals, and at the very least, public protests from parents and teachers. It’s this monopoly by the union that has somehow kept a tight lid on what’s happening. Competition works in the business world, and it will work here. I don’t understand why so many of my colleagues are against the idea of choice and/or vouchers. If we really care about the education our kids receive, we’ll support choice. Funny, isn’t it, how parents move into other districts so their kids can play on a winning althletic team, but won’t (or can’t) do the same for their child to get a good education.

    Comment by David — February 28, 2006 @ 5:42 am
  42. Brad,
    Sorry about that. I have a case of happy fingers this morning. Thank you for the kind words, but the credit goes to the two co-directors who are very bonne femmes indeed.I believe you are correct about the small classes. Better a large class with a good teacher than a small one with a bad one. But why does this have to be the choice? I think if the money followed the students, there would be more demand for the good schools and this would allow teachers who care a greater degree of latitude and choice in where they teach. Being financially independant, I can tell them to fire me if they don’t like what I have to say. But a teacher with a family to support and no alternative in the area, cannot do that so easily.

    Comment by Elizabeth Hay — February 28, 2006 @ 6:25 am
  43. Our education system is completely socialized and we have gotten the result that socialist systems always generate.

    Comment by Eric — February 28, 2006 @ 7:47 am
  44. Let me just start out saying that I am not a teacher, nor do I belong to a union

    There are glaring contradictions in your essay. Let me point out a few:

    You make statements like:

    “They benefit greatly from the idea that kids fit into cookie-cutter molds, and if one dares to exhibit individuality, they should be immediately muted with high doses of ritalin.”

    “Their threat to our freedom is not that of newsworthy attacks on human life, but the incremental destruction of human individualism.”

    Then you say:

    They fight any implementation of standards or testing, because they wish to resist accountability.

    You cannot have your argument both ways. You either believe in individualism or you believe in standards.

    In regards to vouchers, school vouchers seem to be some type of code for fundamentalist christian home schooling. That type of education has more in common with the taliban than most people realize.

    You also seem to be promoting some type of standardized educational system that only you are capable of outlining, but of course, without unions.

    The problem the south has comes from a lack of investment in children, not the teacher’s union. When I say lack of investment, think of the investment that Alabama offered Mercedes and why Alabama (or Georgia) is unwilling to do the same for their children. Just like the farmer failing to water and tend his crops, the harvest has not going to be fruitful. Instead of investing in education of children, the south prefers to spend their public funds on the more expensive jailing of adults.

    Your essay is not worthy of a high school civics assignment.

    Comment by Tom — March 1, 2006 @ 12:01 pm
  45. “You cannot have your argument both ways. You either believe in individualism or you believe in standards.”

    It is, however, quite possible to believe in neither, which is what the unions do. A belief in individualism would lead them away from positions like continual support for social promotion, which is nothing more than a declaration that age trumps individiual intellect and maturity. As for their positions on standards, they oppose them NOT because they believe kids are individuals, but because they believe the teachers they claim to represent would be hurt by having to actually make sure kids learn little things like reading and math.

    “Your essay is not worthy of a high school civics assignment.”

    You know, Tom, you’re right on this one. High school civics, at least when I took it, focused entirely on the goodness of collective action and government. So Brad should really thank you for the complement.

    Comment by Quincy — March 1, 2006 @ 12:22 pm
  46. Tom, the problem in American schools, no matter what part of the country (and why do I suspect you are a neighbor of Quincy and I, rather than Brad), is not “investment in children”. It has been demonstrated a multitude of times, that more money is not solving the issues in our government education system.

    By the way, you can actually believe in a certain that every one has to meet and still believe in individualism. It’s pretty silly to argue otherwise. Setting standards doesn’t mean that every person is forced into a round hole, regardless of whether they are a round peg, or not. In any case, the issue is not whether we have standards for education, or not (and I would argue that should be determined by the parents and teachers of the students, not bureaucrats). The issue is that when standards have been suggested as a means of improving education quality and performance, the unions have steadfastly resisted it.

    Comment by Eric — March 1, 2006 @ 12:33 pm
  47. And, Tom, as a homeschooling parent in a state that had vouchers for a while but did not offer them to homeschoolers, I truly take issue with your comment that . . . school vouchers seem to be some type of code for fundamentalist christian home schooling. That type of education has more in common with the taliban than most people realize.

    School vouchers in our state were used by parents whose children were going to schools who did not meet standards . . . and my own teaching in our homeschool is not to indoctrinate – but to teach my daughters to reason and think for themselves rather than to take everything that is spoon fed to them by some governmentally sponsored peons. I know there are remarkably talented, courageous, and exceptional teachers in the profession, but I also realize that they ARE the EXCEPTION and not the rule – and it has been that way for at least the last 30 years – at least in Florida. Just yesterday there was another story that hit our local news about teachers who fail time and again to meet their own standards, but who are allowed to continue teaching despite their dismal failures.

    Comment by Kay — March 1, 2006 @ 5:35 pm
  48. With loaded language like that he wants to tackle anyone else for inconsistency and logical fallacy? Pretty funny.

    Comment by Eric — March 1, 2006 @ 5:52 pm
  49. Kay, I find it interesting that you mentioned teachers’ inability to meet standards— I am certified in three states (Indiana, Illinois, and Texas). Each time I took an exam for licensure, I waited in lines with people who were retaking the tests; many had failed at several attempts. I never understood why it was so difficult, especially for younger prospective educators. After all, they are part of this generation that is being so rigorously tested. As a public school teacher, it pains me to say that this is a shining example of how poorly these kids are being prepared for the workplace. If teachers can’t pass general skills tests (let alone content mastery tests), how can they be expected to teach effectively? I believe that some teachers strive to do the job well, but their efforts are overshadowed by stories of inappropriate student/teacher relationships, incompetent teachers who miraculously attained tenure status, and the ‘shady’ union that claims to represent teachers for the good of the students. You know, come to think of it, I have never heard a union steward or representative mention the welfare of students. Isn’t that interesting? Personally, I’d just like to have more options as a teacher. If we had some alternative organizations in our district, I’d feel better. But I’m not really sure I need to belong to a union at all. If I feel as if I have no leverage with my contract, or cannot fulfill my obligations to my students, I pack up and move to another district. Admittedly, this is getting old, however.

    Comment by David — March 1, 2006 @ 8:11 pm
  50. [...] the liberty papers, I offer another question… Who does your kids’ school work for? | PermaLink | E-Mail theAuthor [...]

    Pingback by News, the Universe, and Everything » Who does your doctor work for? — March 2, 2006 @ 1:29 am
  51. David – all I can say is bless you for keeping on keeping on! I can tell you first hand that this is not a job that I’d take on for someone elses childrens sake – and certainly not in the world of today. I attempted to teach a vacation bible school several years ago and learned from that brief experience that I’m simply not equipped to deal with the smart-mouthed, loud-mouthed, out-of-control kids that were dropped off by their parents. My kiddos aren’t perfect, but they’re mine and they KNOW when they’ve talked back too much and when they’d better knuckle down and get back to business. In addition, my oldest daughter would almost assuredly be labeled as learning disabled as she has difficulties sitting still and focusing – but in our home situation we can address it without it being a disruption – and I actually can try to teach her how to control her inclinations without resorting to drugs. Which brings up that dreaded topic of ADHD – I tend more toward the Neal Boortz position on that – but since I deal with a child first hand who has those tendancies, I can surely understand how difficult it is for teachers in a classroom setting to deal with this personality type without a bit of help! At any rate, sounds to me as though you’re definitely one of the exceptions to which I was referring!

    Comment by Kay — March 2, 2006 @ 8:18 am
  52. Thanks Kay. I do this for someone else’s child’s sake. Most of the students I have are wonderful. I look forward to work only because of them. What I dread about my job has little to do with even the worst behaved kids. It usually has something to do with the adminstrators, the ‘troublesome’ parents, or the union threatening to strike if bargaining does not go well.

    Adminstrators were once master teachers, who served as a support base for faculty. Now they are more like supervisors in a warehouse, at odds with the line laborers, and hoping there are no injuries or lawsuits (but doing little to prevent anything because they are paid well to just keep the minimum quota thing happening). I don’t think all administrators are bad, but I have seen many who have been so terribly brow-beaten that they either hide in their offices and hope no one disturbs them, or take out their frustration on the non-tenured teachers (because they are the only ones who can really get into any trouble these days).

    About the parents: please don’t misunderstand my comment above as passing the blame on to someone else. But I have more trouble dealing with parents than with students, on average. If I reprimand or correct a student in any way, I can expect to be called in for a conference the next day. When I was in school, I wouldn’t dare complain to my parents about a teacher scolding me, giving me detention, or failing me for not doing the work. My parents would have ‘let me have it’ if I had even tried to make the teacher out to be the bad guy. It’s ironic how overprotective many people in my generation have become toward their kids (as parents). I’m sure the bad reputation our profession has acquired has something to do with this, but there has also been a breakdown in the ethics, courtesy, and accountability in members of our society that is most evident in how parents involve themselves in fighting everyday battles of their children. The lesson often learned here is that the students control the tone of the class and the quality of their work, or mom will be in the principal’s office stat to ‘fix’ the problem with the teacher. Kids are smart. They know they have a lot of leverage in this regard.

    Our unions do not help much in the above scenario. In fact, if they opine at all about it, it is usually a very liberal mantra that ‘we must take into account the feelings of the child.’ I’m sorry, but I believe that to spare the rod really does spoil the child. I was ‘pre-diagnosis’ (because I’m a 70′s/80′s child) for a lot of the attention disorders, inclusion, and accomodation policies, but know I could have been labled ADD or ADHD when I was in my pre and (early teen) years. But my ‘medicine’ or ‘accomodation’ was that my parents had very high expectations of me. It was tough love. It worked. I stayed off the streets, stayed out of jail, finished school, went to college, and got a degree. I struggled— a lot. But I made it. This is harder now because of the ‘No Child Left Behind’ policy and other such nonsensical mumbo-jumbo. Whatever happened to survival of the fittest? Everyone deserves a chance, true, but the only way to keep EVERYONE from falling behind is to set more attainable goals for all (thus lowering the bar for kids who deserve to be challenged). Few people seem to be at all upset by this. It’s more about the self-esteem of growing young people than about setting up a system where one feels a sense of accomplishment for learning something new and advancing to the next level. A values system is being put into place by our public schools that awards mediocrity, and allows for every answer to be right. I’d like to believe that values that are instilled in a child by his parents and/or community are what produce the best results (sometimes in spite of lousy schools). But if children become dependent on their parents, then their employer, then the government… freedom ultimately gives way to socialism. Our unions support this evolution of dependency. It’s always about sticking it to ‘the man’ lest ye get stuck. Education in America (the big picture) has removed itself so far from the task of educating children, and has instead endeared itself with the business of politics. Follow the dollar signs and you will eventually find absolute power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. People in such positions of power do, or will eventually try to keep power by dumbing down and disarming their subordinates. What greater way to ensure absolute power than to steer the education of citizens down a path of ignorance and disinformation. The NEA has not convinced me that it cares about the education of our young people. It has, however, convinced me that it is on a diligent quest for absolute power. If we want our descendants to be slaves to a government or organized labor syndicate, we’re certainly on the right path. I’m all for disbanding teacher’s unions, and getting back to the three R’s: readin’ ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmentic. Heck, I’d settle for responsibilty, respect, and resourcefulness. Sorry for the long post.

    Comment by David — March 2, 2006 @ 6:28 pm
  53. No problem – that was wonderful – I can see that we’re on the same page here completely! My brother-in-law is a school psychologist and he says pretty much the same thing you have about parents and the “self-worth” issue. We were raised by parents who instilled self-confidence (which is a totally different animal from self-worth). You can have self-confidence and still have a bit of modesty and humility – not so with an inflated sense of self worth.

    My hubby came home yesterday and told me he “went off” on one of his co-workers who has an 18 year old daughter. Co-worker is a single father who was terribly upset a couple weeks ago because his daughter told him she was going to join the marines. He wanted to shelter her from it and we advised him that she’s old enough to make her own decisions, and he needs to let her go. Now, she wants a new car, and he’s ready to co-sign on it for her. My hubby told him he shouldn’t even consider it – again, it’s tough love, but it’s the way we were brought up. She has a car – it’s just not “cool” enough.

    I think as much as anything, this illustrates what you’re talking about – parents give too much and try to shelter their children from the real world to the point that they have no concept of how to live on their own.

    By the time I was 15, I was working part time throughout the summer, at 16 I worked part time through school, and at 17 I was working full time. My dad did buy an old classic car for me which he fixed up, but he would NEVER co-sign a loan for me. And, frankly, I’m very glad. He taught me to stand on my own two feet – and I hope to be able to impart that to my daughters.

    One thing that I’d like to see done in our educational system (and I’d like to hear your thoughts on this) is rather than having standards lowered, is to steer kids towards vocational or technical schools if that is where their aptitude lies rather than trying to make each fit into an institute of “higher learning”. Of course, parents today would probably have a problem with that as well – in my own high school years, my parents were the “steering committee”, LOL.

    Comment by Kay — March 3, 2006 @ 4:17 am
  54. Are Teacher?s Unions a Greater Threat to Liberty t

    Imagine the threat to liberty when generations of school children are taught a collectivist world view for thirteen or so years! Look no further than our current generation of leadership of both parties… While terrorists try to acquire weapons of m…

    Trackback by Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds — March 3, 2006 @ 5:24 am
  55. Collectivist world view? Maybe. But I don’t impose my political viewpoint on my students. I teach content only in my classroom. That’s why I stated that it’s best for parents and community members to instill values in their kids. But I see your point if the post refers to education in general. We need a society of free thinkers, Fearless… you are right on target. I doubt most people know or care that they are being ‘conditioned’ NOT to think. It defies human nature. But why worry about it when the government checks keep rolling in and American Idol is still on television? I’m in no way an anarchist, but I do think collectivism is the root of evil. We should have a government ‘for the people and by the people,’ not a bunch of fat cats looking for more power, influence, and money. If it were up to me, I’d vote out every representative in Washington, disband every union, and scrap everything bare all the way down to the Constitution and start over. Wouldn’t it be nice to have people in office (and in the classroom) who genuinely cared about the future of this country? It’s a nice thought to have people who play the game because they love it rather than to expect multi-million dollar contracts. Maybe that’s a bad analogy, I don’t know. We, as Americans, need to wake up before it’s even to late to think of starting a revolution. I don’t condone radicalism, but we’re on a fast track to the end of the republic, and controlling the minds of student citizens is its Genesis.

    Comment by David — March 3, 2006 @ 9:22 am
  56. Kay, you must be reading my mind! Budget cuts hit most vocational programs hard a few years back. Students do not seem to have the opportunities many of us had to enter vocational tracks within their school systems. At best, most schools allow their students to be bussed to another town or county for a portion of the day or week to take trades classes, but these kids are still expected to meet the same academic requirements for graduation. I’m not saying that’s bad necessarily, but many of the kids I work with will not become engineers, doctors, or Pulitzer Prize winning novelists (and they have no aspirations to be). Those who may head that direction need the advanced math, science, and English. Those who have other interests can become discouraged by the emphasis on these requirements for graduation. A well-rounded education is essential for success, but I don’t think our kids get that kind of education. I would love to see a way to educate emerge that combined techniques that encompass life skills… sort of like requiring a general education similar to one required by a liberal arts college, plus a track selected by the student that helps them develop in a specialty area that interests them. I guess that’s what many charter or magnet schools offer, in a nutshell. Is it possible to do that on a larger scale for our public schools? I don’t have the answer to that. Funding issues, staff numbers, realistic tracks selected by students, and who sets the standards for general ed are all concerns for a system like this. Practical application education is also effective, in my opinion. It’s interesting for me to see how old friends and students of mine who were so weak in math and science have become nuclear and communications techincians through military training. I’d be interested to know from anyone with military training, how math, science, and sommunication skills are taught in basic training and beyond. Whatever it is they are doing seems to work well. Reform is definitely necessary in our public schools, but change is a frightening concept to many. My question is, if we know it’s not working now, why keep doing things the same way? It’s such an ignorant approach, especially when you’re talking about growth and development of the mind.

    Comment by David — March 3, 2006 @ 1:57 pm
  57. Sorry… that’s ‘communication’ skils, not sommunication. I guess I need to work on mine.

    Comment by David — March 3, 2006 @ 2:24 pm
  58. Sorry… that’s ‘communication’ skills, not sommunication. I guess I need to work on mine.

    Comment by David — March 3, 2006 @ 2:24 pm

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