I did not get through whatever drool was spewing from the mouth of the Gray Lady who at this point deserves to face the death panels. I merely opened the new Week in Review Lite section when these words from the middle of Thomas Friedman’s column jumped out:
“In some cities, teachers’ unions really are holding up education reform.”
If you consider “school reform” stealing resources from public community schools to put them into corporate charters for a “lucky” few, then yes, teacher’s unions are standing in the way. If you want those charters to hire new grads eager to pad their resumes before going on to something else because who needs experienced teachers, then yup, the unions will try to block that as well, and sure if you then decide to close the public schools that you gutted to give the charters space and materials, then I’m sure the unions will not be pleased.
Greedy bastards, those teachers. Unlike men who marry heiresses, teachers are all in it for the money.
Friedman goes on:
“But we need to stop blaming teachers alone. We also have a parent problem: parents who do not take an interest in their children’s schooling or set high standards.”
Do such parents actually exist? Yes, they do. But most parents do take an interest, and they certainly want the best for their kids. They may need to work a couple of jobs making talking to the teachers difficult. They might not be proficient in English, and the only available translator might be their kid, but not taking an interest is generally not an issue.
Then he goes on to blame the students.
Finally, he blames the President for failing to create a national campaign to “challenge parents and create a culture of respect and excitement for learning.”
The President is not completely blameless here. His education secretary, Arne Duncan, has put too much faith in charters, but his administration has done more than any previous one to try to build 21st century skills into the curriculum, and to push for excellence, and anyone who popped into a public school during or after the election of 2008 would have seen how much the election of an African American President who extolled education, changed everything.
Instead of blaming teachers, parents and students, why not just try to make schools better? It’s not that hard to look at those schools that work best in poor areas, middle-class and wealthy ones to figure out what the best practices should be. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that poverty sets up numerous blocks to educational success, and that income inequality in this country is a growing problem. Is there a need for some tough talk with unions about getting rid of bad teachers? Sure. But it might be easier to address that if you weren’t vilifying teacher unions all the time.
Meantime, any family that can scrape together the funds to send their kids elsewhere will do so, and as the poor compete for spaces in new and shiny resource-rich charters, public schools will more and more evolve into holding cells for the unlucky, who will age out to menial labor or prison. As income inequality increases and the shrinking middle-class retreats into ever more gated communities, America will continue its slide from being a country with upward mobility through education to one that resembles a feudal backwater.
(Marion taught New York City public schools, as well as community colleges in New York and Vermont. She’s also worked as an administrator in public school collaborative programs. These days, however, she’s devoted more time to her fiction writing, which you can check out here.)