President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law has changed the debate on education, writes George Will.

Today the argument is about standards — how to measure and meet them — and how much autonomy schools should have in doing so. That is progress that will not be easily reversed, partly because it is popular with a constituency, the inner-city poor, that Democrats often abuse in order to mollify a rival constituency, the teachers unions.

NCLB is starting to cause a lot of pain and shame. Focusing on the achievement of poor and minority subgroups highlights problems that are very difficult for schools to solve. I think progress could be reversed if a new administration waffles on enforcement.

About Joanne


  1. I think Joanne’s sentence, “Focusing on the achievement of poor and minority groups highlights problems that are very difficult for schools to solve” is right on target.

    There are very real problems that schools and teachers simply cannot solve. For example, I have students who come to school twice a week. Their parents want them to babysit younger siblings, or they simply don’t care. We have called our district attendance review board. We can call police. But we cannot – and there is no way around this – force those parents to send their kids to school.

    There are parents who don’t show up for IEPs.

    There are kids show up on campus empty-handed. We’re talking no backpack, no pencil, nada. Forget assigning homework: they’d fail.

    My point isn’t to excuse shoddy teaching or educational practices. I support high standards and was actually relieved when California assigned them as mandates.

    But – and this is a big one – there are schools where the social problems are so overwhelming, and individual cases that are so frustrating, that punishing schools and teachers based on TEST SCORES ALONE is an enormous mistake. You hear me? An enormous mistake.

    And I don’t believe the punitive measures enacted by NCLB will do much to improve the “lack of progress” it so attempts to deter. If NCLB were truly interested in progress and reform, we’d see far fewer test-prep and paper-pushing meetings, and more practical classroom application.

  2. Richard Heddleson says:

    But – and this is a big one – there are schools where the social problems are so overwhelming, and individual cases that are so frustrating, that punishing schools and teachers based on TEST SCORES ALONE is an enormous mistake. You hear me? An enormous mistake.

    So in a school where test scores are bad and getting worse, we should punish the children with no education but do nothing to the teachers for failing to educate them?

    And I don’t believe the punitive measures enacted by NCLB will do much to improve the “lack of progress” it so attempts to deter.

    And I do and so do the majority of legtislators, so let’s find out. Teachers didn’t think ESL students could be educated without bi-lingual education but lo and behold when the voters forced them to do it performance imporved.

    If NCLB were truly interested in progress and reform, we’d see far fewer test-prep and paper-pushing meetings, and more practical classroom application.

    NCLB does not mandate test-prep and paper-pushing meetings. They are the ineffective response of a formerly unaccountable bureaucracy finally being held accountable. It’s the way the people who pay for the public education system live.

    Joanne’s sentence “NCLB is starting to cause a lot of pain and shame.” hits the bullseye. It needs more time to turn the pain into gain.

  3. Suzie,

    Given the situation you describe, why aren’t you lobbying for things like public assistance reductions for families whose children do not attend school and bonuses for those who do well on tests?

    That might get these parents a bit more involved in their children’s educations…

  4. An East San Jose school district reduced truancy by getting police officers to stop by homes of students with poor attendance to explain to Mexican immigrant moms that it’s illegal to keep kids out of school if they’re not sick. Very few mothers knew about mandatory attendance laws. And, of course, the police visit was intimidating, even though it was informational.

  5. D. Cooper says:

    Rich…”So in a school where test scores are bad and getting worse, we should punish the children with no education but do nothing to the teachers for failing to educate them?” ….isn’t that an assumption ….the teachers failing to educate them … would that be the same teachers failing to figure out how to teach children who come to school twice a week, whose mothers are crackheads, who don’t know who their fathers are or wish they didn’t, who don’t do homework, and have very little interest in getting an education … those teachers? Rich … read my lips … teachers; caring, hard working…. not magicians!!

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    The opposition to NCLB seems to be hung up on whose fault the situation is, and why “punish” a school for not being good enough.
    This is a juvenile line of thinking.
    The real question is what happens when a school is listed as failing.
    When that happens, it becomes easier for parents to move their kids to a better school.
    Your problem with that is…?

  7. D. Cooper says:

    Rich A … Yeah … big problem … all you’re doing is sending the problem elsewhere, and not addressing the real issues of why they’re not learning. Why do you think all these efforts over the years have failed? They don’t confront the real issue … in case you haven’t noticed there’s a ‘culture’ war out there…we’re fighting MTV, the ‘Extreme Dating Show’, and Howard Stern. It’s like cleaning out your garage; you shuffle the ‘stuff’ around and when you’re all done, it’s the same ‘stuff’ but in diffferent places.

    So far your adult way of thinking hasn’t overly impressed me!! I’m a GWB supporter, but not an NCLB fan … smoke and mirrors!!! Put NCLB on the list of other ill-fated and ill-advised federal programs.

  8. Walter Wallis says:

    Move kids away from disrupters or move disrupters away from kids. Otherwise spend the money for bread and circuses.

  9. D. Cooper says:

    Not sure I get the bread and circuses… rye, wheat, or white?…. fewer disrupters, so I’d say move them, might even have money left over for ‘bread and circuses’??

  10. Harvey Chao says:

    “bread and circuses” I suspect is a reference to the declining days of the Roman empire when the emperor “bought off” or diverted the masses from the real problems of the day by providing free bread an entertainment (you know, let a few gladiators chop up each other or some animals eat a few Christians).

    Yeah, educations is in a sorry state, and apparently has been for a few years for some of us who “didn’t ‘get’ it”.

  11. Harvey Chao says:

    In response to the critic about moving one’s children from ineffective schools – In this context, as a parent (birth, foster, guardian, and/or adoptive) one of my primary responsibilities to my children beyond, food, clothing, and shelter, is education. If I throw all my resources into changing the schools, MAYBE I might make some improvement. Probably I’d exhaust all my resources and energies for very little difference – and my kids would have grown to adults before the impact happened. Because of the primacy of my responsibility to their education NOW, the cost effective, and achievalble response for MY kids – is to move them to an effective educational setting FIRST.

  12. Harvey Chao says:

    Anyone else want to try to knock over the “great wall of china” by throwing raw eggs at it?

  13. Forget assigning homework: they’d fail
    Then fail them.

    If your answer is “I can’t do that, because…” then “because” is the problem.

    And if your answer is “If I fail them, they still count as a statistics in the NCLB ‘score’ I personally get rated on,” that is unpleasant for you, but failing the one student will help the others.

  14. D. Cooper says:

    Harvey .. you have every right to take your kids elsewhere to ‘protect’ them from that failing public school. But you are also displaying a rather large ‘me me me’ attitude as well. Our society has a responsibility to educate all of its citizens, not withstanding those who’d prevent others from getting one.

    The vast majority of schools do a very good job of educating their local population and have minimal problems dealing with the malcontents. Where the ‘numbers’ come in that indicate large problems are by in large in the larger metropolitian areas. Urban flight has decimated these inner city schools to the point where their entire population is that of poor disadvantaged children, with problems up the yingyang.

    All schools, private as well are going to have their problems. As far as how your kids will do is more dependent upon other factors than just the school setting. The cream will always rise to the top. Here on LI come June when the newspaper lists the Valedictorians and Salutatorians, the number of Asian-American names seems to pop out at you. Their population is a very small minority here on LI, but ‘poof’ there they are.

    To be sure a better group of kids learning together provides a better atmosphere and to that end, homogenous groupings will ensure that to some extent. A wholesale transfer with vouchers from one setting to another is not a viable solution. And if you wish to move your child into a selective private environment that’s fine, but at your own expense. And don’t forget when you buy a home, ‘location, location, location.

    And, “Anyone else want to try to knock over the “great wall of china” by throwing raw eggs at it?” …. remember ‘Achilles’ heel .. don’t be afraid to call in the ACLU … you know there’s a lawsuit here some place.

  15. Mad Scientist says:

    A few comments:

    Pour encourager les autres. This seems to apply. Once they get the idea there are consequences, many will step into line. If a teacher is unwilling to fail a student who has earned a failure, then they should not be “teaching”.

    Some people are simply uneducatable. They are lazy and refuse to do the work because it is “too hard”, “boring”, or “why do I need this”. Maybe they should go to college — The College of Hard Knocks.

  16. D. Cooper says:

    Never in my 30+ years of teaching did I ever or anyone else I know fear failing a student!!! But, I guess you also have no idea of how many kids could care less if they failed or not. That ‘cars-less’ attitude never stopped me.

    Fear of failure and the lesson learned is a motivation for some but sadly not for enough. I agree, the college of hard knocks!!!

    Mad, missed that French … failed it in high school … no fear of failure here.

  17. I’m not against NCLB per se.

    But I have seen the results of schools labeled “underperforming,” and Richard, the result WAS more meetings, more paperwork, more attention to tests. The result was also a mass transfer of good teachers to other schools, a bad reputation for the school, and low morale for the community as a whole. Hardly an inspiring climate.

    And I think having police visit homes is an excellent way to get parents to bring their kids to school. Fantastic, in fact. Yet our Student Attendance Review Board (SARB) acts slowly and demands oodles of documentation. Our SARB is overwhelmed. By the time action is taken, the school year is over. And I, the teacher, am responsible for not improving that child’s test scores.

    This isn’t, though, primarily an issue of who’s at fault. I’m not interested in blame. Some of you posting here would have us simply fail kids, boot them out of schools, brush them off as uneducable and irrelevant. NCLB clearly states that that’s not an option, and so far I don’t see anyone offering solutions to those “very difficult problems that public schools face.”

    Letting kids fail is exactly what NCLB is designed not to do.

  18. Mad Scientist says:

    That was from Voltaire. It seems that in Candide, an English admiral failed by not killing enough of the enemy to please TPTB (the powers that be).

    So they publically executed him, “to encourage the others” (pour encourager les autres).

    So the MANAGEMENT of the school did the same crap that management of large corporations do when they don’t know what to do. Address the SYMPTOMS and not the root cause.

    Parents need to FIRE the school board, so they can FIRE the incompetent Superintendants, etc.

  19. Richard Heddleson says:


    I have no doubt that the result of a school being labeled “underperforming” may be the things you describe. That is exactly the kind of response I would expect from an underperforming unit and indicates that things may be so bad the unit should be replaced. A different response would indicate a unit that may be able to turn itself around. I recommend watching the performance of the Leper Colony in Twelve O’Clock High.

    I do believe this is an issue of who’s at fault. The public school system, especially in urban areas, is not turning out students who are minimally prepared to be active, productive participants in a post industrial democratic economy. Thus, there is a fault in the system, broadly defined (students, parents, administrators and legislators are all part of the “system” as well as teachers to me). Where does the fault lie? Unfortunately, there is plenty of fault for each party involved. I know that’s judgemental, but I never claimed to be politically correct.

    Does NCLB adequately identify where all the faults lie and provide proper motivation to all parties for their rectification? Probably not. But it is a first step whose effect on student performance should be measured and evaluated before it is changed just because teachers at failing schools have to go to too many meetings.

    Right now the educationists squealing about the effect of NCLB on their workplace instead of focusing on student performance sound like bureaucrats being held accountable for the first time in their lives. As I’ve said before, it’s how the people who pay the salaries of the educationists have to live every working day of their lives.

  20. Harvey Chao says:

    To D. Cooper : Walk a mile in my shoes.

    Of my 7 non-birth children, 6 are special needs. After the public schools destroyed the 2 oldest non birth children through inadequate and inappropriate class settings (e.g. putting a “Bipolar” child who was academically behind into a GATE class and withdrawing “pull out support for her in reading and math), my wife vowed “Never Again”. Our third is fetal hydantoid syndrom and tourretts. The BEST the school would offer for him was to put him in a class for “emotionally disturbed” children. He is not emotionally disturbed, and did not deserve to be put in a class of children where that was the typical behavior model. He and his younger siblings have been enrolled into an alternate model school where they can progress at their own rate and not be “lock steped” into a one size fits all program.

    By your own words: ” Our society has a responsibility to educate all of its citizens, not withstanding those who’d prevent others from getting one.” Damm RIGHT – and it has failed my kids miserably – thererfore I must “do for my own on my own” – and still pay the taxes for the services that failed my kids.

    Walk a mile in my shoes!!!


  21. Harvey Chao says:

    Again for D. Cooper:
    Again, by your own words: “Here on LI come June when the newspaper lists the Valedictorians and Salutatorians, the number of Asian-American names seems to pop out at you. Their population is a very small minority here on LI, but ‘poof’ there they are.” Yes, as an American of Chinese heritage, raised in New Jersey in the 50-60s – I am quite familiar with that of which you speak. We get to where we are because are parents work their butts off to sacrifice for their kids and encourage/push their kids to the max to work and study hard – to be “twice as good” as the other guy just to be SEEN as being “as good as”. I am very well aware of the discrimination in the California UC system for other minorities and against Asians – studies on affirmative action have revealed that if admissions were purely on the basis of merit, there would be a lot more qualified Asian students at UC Berkley and other top UC schools. Something my own two birth/oldest kids had to fight.

    Walk a mile in my shoes!!!

  22. D. Cooper says:

    Harvey … sue!!! BTW … sounds like you’ve taken on too much … sounds mean I know, but how can one family adequately serve the needs of so many needy children. You should be a clinic, not a family. I don’t know whether to pitty you, applaud you or call you crazy. I do not think that a private school is any better equipped to handle such a range of children as you have and I’d say your situation is unique, not at all typical. It would appear to me that you have overwhelmed yourself. What size shoes do you wear?

    Mad, read my lips, the PARENTS are the school board…that’s half the problem in many cases.

    And Rich …NCLB will fail because it does not address the problem. Most failing schools are in poor socio-economic areas … broken homes, dysfunctional homes, single parents (usually a poor working mother), you name they ain’t got it …. the problem is economics and the family. Change that … solve the problem. You can go through as many hoops as you want, and until you solve the root problem, you’ll get nothing. I’ll wager donuts to dollars … pick the amount….. and start saving your money.

  23. Good schools are often labeled failing because of the way the NCLB language is set up. It isn’t accurate.

    I teach CWC classes (Class Within a Class) as the regular education teacher. I have a broad range of issues to deal with in them: emotionally disturbed, tourettes, brain injury, ADHD, language impairments, giftedness, and then, just for kicks, a few typical kids (29 kids in all). The numbers of children with issues is rising, and I’m not getting any more training or support in my classroom. Every year I manage to pull it off (for the most part), but it’s exhausting and it is not best for the children. The situation isn’t anybody’s fault. We’re all doing our best. But taxpayers can only shell out so much, I can only do so much, the parents and kids can only do so much. Jesus may have risen from the dead, but the miracle people are asking for with the NCLB doesn’t seem to be on His agenda.

  24. D. Cooper says:

    It may come as a suprise to some people here, but teachers are ordinary regular people who work hard and care about what they are doing. There are millions of us, and I’m sure that ‘miracle workers’ appear among us at about the same rate as the rest of society. That would be few and far between… but we try. I did order a ‘magic’ wand though … should arrive by UPS any day now. I’ll let you know how it works.

  25. Mad Scientist says:

    Yeah, regular ordinary UNIONIZED people who, once they get tenure, seem to be perfectly happy to just phone it in.

    Get rid of tenure, and the system will improve.

    Time to teach the teachers that nothing in life is guaranteed, especially a job.

  26. D. Cooper says:

    Here we go again Mad … that attack on teachers … if I didn’t know better it almost sounds like jealousy. That line is tired, untrue and misinformed. Anecdotes here and there about this and that will not cut it. I fail to see where in any way shape or form getting rid of tenure and the NYSUT in NYS will improve education here. NYSUT in NYS has been one of the most pro education organizations in the state and have done nothing but promote the betteremnt of teachers(if that’s ok?) and students. I’m sorry, but you’re nuts on this one. Damn, and just when I was starting to agree with you on some issues.

    And, your insult regarding, phoning it in … I taught for 30+ years and have known many many a teacher. No body phones it in!!! That is a bold face misrepresentation and slap in the face of thousands of teachers who bust their ‘balls’ day in and day out.

  27. D. Cooper says:

    And, Mad… speaking of busting ‘balls’, you seem to enjoy it …. must have been an elective in engineering school. Seems you aced it! Nice job!

  28. Mad Scientist says:


    Not busting on all teachers, just UNIONIZED teachers. You people are SUPPOSED to be professionals, act like it.

    No self respecting professional (engineers, lawyers, chemists, biologists, etc.) would EVER join a union.

    “Pro education” is more than just throwing more money at the same old problem. It’s more than just a slogan.

    Let’s see:

    The kids are not to blame,
    The teachers are not to blame,
    The unions are not to blame,
    The administrators are not to blame,
    The school board is not to blame,
    The parents are not to blame.

    Where does it all stop?

    Oh yeah, NCLB! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

    P.S. I DO enjoy pushing your buttons.

  29. D. Cooper says:

    I’d wish you’d stop boasting about how wonderful you are. That’s tired also.
    NYSUT does NOT throw money at any problem! If they have, please cite. Proeducation does mean more than throwing money … and they (NYSUT) are not the money throwers. Sorry, go blame that on soneone else.

    We’ll need for you to set out the rules for how we are to act professional. In my experience my peers were professional.

    I’m personally not a union fan, but you’ve got a hair across your butt for some reason for unions. And there seems to be an air of ‘elitism’ in your comment about how no self respecting blah blah blah… as if unions were like dirt.

    I am not a fan of NCLB by any means … and your list of who’s NOT to blame is not the same as my list. Your characterization of teachers and unions is nothing short of absurd, misinformed (for all your education), shotsighted and mean spirited. And I’m afraid to push your buttons anymore because you seem rather frail given your earlier exchange with me regarding the ‘giftees’. So I’ll not pick on you lest you have a flash back to those upsetting early childhood days when his ‘smartness’ was cruely picked on by the jocks. I’m starting to see why.

    Unfortunately, a PHD doesn’t guarantee common sense or decency.

  30. D. Cooper says:

    Oh and Mad … one more thing… part of the reason for teacher unions is people like you … if it was up to people like you (elite, know it all professional scientists) to determine our salaries … ouch !! People like you alone justify teacher unions!

  31. Harvey Chao says:

    To D. Cooper:

    >”Sue!!!” –
    nah – an inefficient application everyone’s energy and resources in an effort that is highly improbable to effect the necessary change and certainly not in an effective time frame– there are enough “not my fault – must be XX’s fault lawsuits as it is. It is more effective to direct and focus the finite and limited resources to solve the immediate problem at hand for the children I am personally responsible for first. Would YOU starve YOUR children by using their food to “solve” world hunger?

    >” how can one family adequately serve the needs of so many needy children.”
    – quite well thank you. Our objective is for each of our children to develop to whatever capacity they may have been granted, and to be responsible for their actions and decisions to the extent that they are capable. The developmental and academic achievements that most parents are fortunately able to more or less take for granted when they occur/are achieved as expected take a little longer, come at each individual child’s own schedule or in some cases, are recognized as beyond that child’s personal capabilities according to the “hand” he or she was dealt. When those milestones are achieved, we have learned to savor and really appreciate the accomplishment.

    >”{I don’t know whether to pitty you, applaud you or call you crazy.”
    A little bit of crazy is probably quite accurate and reasonable. Had anyone told me 36 years ago when I was single and recently graduated from college I would be where I am today, doing what I do, and raising the family my wife and I have gradually accrued, I’d have said he must have been smoking some really good stuff! But life has a funny way…. It’s been different, but rewarding, challenging, stimulating, and invigorating (and sometimes frustrating – but viewed as a

    >”I do not think that a private school is any better equipped to handle such a range of children as you have and I’d say your situation is unique…”
    Unique – no, a little larger than typical families today, a few more challenges to overcome, certainly more genetically/racially diverse, but “Unique” would be a bit too strong an adjative to describe us. Actually we have found such a school – but as I deduce you are part of the traditional educational model, I anticipate you immediately branding it as “heresy”. But it works for my kids, that is what counts and I could care less what the denizens of the traditional school model may think or say. For those readers sufficiently open minded to be interested, may I refer you to the web page of the original model of this school: This model allows individual progress at the individual’s own pace and ability, develops individual personal responsibility, is organized, managed, and run on democratic principals, and is free of the horrors of “Zero Tolerance” insanities inflicted by Zero Judgement, Zero Thinking, Zero Common Sense. Sure it costs money, but what better a place to invest it than your children?

    >”It would appear to me that you have overwhelmed yourself.” What size shoes do you wear?”
    Actually while we are busy as a family, everyone in the family “pitches in” helps one another as is consistent with their abilities, and we are managing quite well, thank you. You know, this (the nuclear family) is the one and probably ONLY place where good old Karl M’s maxim actually works – “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. If you insist, my shoe size is quite small, 7D

    To the rest of this community of readers – apologies for the length of the reply.


  32. Richard Heddleson says:


    You need never apologize for any aspect of anything you write. If you ever choose to use a pseudonym, I suggest Gunga Din; for truly, you’re a better man than I am.

  33. Harvey Chao says:

    Just saw the 7 comments above to “Bullies Lie” – and regarding “leaving ‘the system'” – is what my wife and I are doing/have done.

    Richard Heddleson – Evey person in this existance has something that they are particularly good at – each and every one different, but separate and unique. That makes no one of us any better than his “brother or sister” in this life. But thanks for the kind thought.

  34. Mad Scientist says:


    NYSUT does not throw money at the situation, they are just complicit in helping to pass bloated school budgets year after year after year. And, BTW, if you havenet noticed, the world does not stop at the shores of LI or the borders of NYS. teachers unions and the NEA throughout the country ALWAYS look for increased funding. Learn to do more with less. Thats what people in the real world have to do every day.

    Professionals do NOT strike (don’t tell me that in NYS it’s illegal for them to strike, so they don’t. In Buffalo, the teachers went on strike 2 years ago, and the leadership of the union served jail time). They do NOT use “Work to Rule” actions. They do NOT have to rely on tenure to ensure their jobs.

    Typically unions destroy any MERIT based system. Why should one with more “time served” get better classes and pay than someone who does an equally good or better job with fewer years? In a teacher union, there is ONE job description – Teacher (yeah, I know Universities are different and have gradations).

    Where other PROFESSION (not TRADE, but PROFESSION) do you have to pay to be a member of a union just so you can have a job? And what does the union give in return?

    I find is sad and amusing that a PROFESSION that is supposed to give merit based grades is opposed to the same standards when applied to their own preformance. This is a huge disconnect. If you have nver learned that contradictions exist, that would explain a lot.

    So. let’s revise my list:

    The kids are not to blame (after all they are just kids and don’t know what good for them),
    The teachers are not to blame (we just have too much to do, discipline is a problem, and why should we be judged on what we do?),
    The unions are not to blame (nope, they just exist to suck money out of the teacher’s pockets and to discipline the district and administration if they break the work rules),
    The administrators are not to blame (the school board tells us what to do and we do it),
    The school board is not to blame (the parents tell us what to do and we do it),
    The parents are not to blame (we elect the school board, and we expect them to make us happy).

    So what we have is a big pass the buck party, where everyone is finger pointing and NOTHING is getting accomplished.

    Unions are a cancer that kills the productivity of society. When you see why jobs are moving overseas, you will probably find that the outrageous pay and benefits paid to UNIONIZED workers is among the unstated reasons.

    As I have stated, my wife is a teacher, but REFUSES to work in public schools because of the UNION attitudes. Twenty yeas experieince teaching in private schools in the US and Europe, as well as a PhD got her close to nothing in salary negotiations BECAUSE THE UNION WOULD HAVE BEEN UPSET!

    I have seen what she had to deal with in both public and private schools. I one went to a party where a fairly young teacher was asking some more experienced teachers if it was in the contract that he HAD to get grades in on a certain date. This attitude of what is needed to be done and what is contracturally required does NOT fly in the private sector.

    Professionals are held to a higher standard than hourly workers. Deal with it, you dumb jock.

  35. Mad Scientist: I’m a non-unionized public school teacher. Also non-tenured. How do I fit into your blame hierarchy? Just curious.

  36. Mad Scientist says:


    Do you enforce standards and fail students who earn it?

    If so, you do not fall into the blame hierarchy.

    If not, then what are you doing about it?

  37. Whether or not I fail students who fail to meet my standards doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not I’m in a union or have tenure, though. I’m not understanding your hierarchy very well, I’m afraid.

    But yeah, unfortunately I have to issue F’s every semester. I consider that a failure on my part.

  38. D. Cooper says:

    Rita … just thank your lucky stars that Mad doesn’t live in your district … Lord only knows what he’d be paying you. He’s got an obvious issue with teacher salaries guess is that he knows of some teachers making more than some engineers he knows and he having a hissy fit.

    I’m sure Mad’s reference to bloated school budgets is directed at teacher’s salaries in as much as they’re the major part of the equation. And of course the union’s complicity in garnering those salaries. He’s also got this professional deal going on because he’s obviously a professional engineer who’s looking down from his pulpit at those slovenly teachers who… dare to belong to a union. He mentions an instance of some young teacher’s complaint and the extrapolates that unions. His finger must automatically drift to the caps key whenever he goes for a ‘U’. Man he hates unions.

    Then of course ‘dumb jock’. Well, well … aren’t we mean spirited. Probably what he called them under his breath in the elementary school yard years back. Out loud, he probably would have gotten his ass kicked. I guess now he feels safe and he’s fighting back (we’re not gonna take it anymore). I guess a few of his buttons got pushed.

    Teachers work hard and we know it. The union in NYS, NYSUT is there as I’ve said to promote teachers, education, and the children. No amount of belly-aching by malcontents such as Mad is going to matter. His nasty portral of teachers is just that … ‘nasty’.

  39. D. Cooper says:

    Mad .. the first response was for Rita’s benefit .. being that you beat her up as best you could.

    Now, when you get a chance read up on the economy and jobs … you seemed to have failed that course … must have been one of those unimportant non-engineering electives. The recent loss of jobs overseas is not related to overpaid union workers. First, the outsourced jobs are primarily in the tech sector and involve non-unionized labor. Secondly,the manufactoring jobs lost are to countries like China, Indonesia, Central America, etc. where there is an enormous supply of cheap labor … not reasonably paid labor, but cheap. Your blaming of unions for our present job loss problem, and for all the education ills, is just a little dishonest. And remember, engineering jobs can be outsourced, teachers cannot. You better keep your fingers crossed. Your PHD has earned you a very nice job I assume, but it has unfortunately given you some sort of ‘superiority’ complex that is not very becoming. I think you need to temper your pompus attitude a bit … you’re so high up there in your ivory tower you can’t see that well down below here. You’ve earned a PHD, not a right to pontificate!

  40. Thank you for your chivalry, D. Cooper. Mad Scientist doesn’t bother me. Not only am I a public school teacher, but I’ve been using the Internet since before it was called the Internet. (When Men were Men — cuz there were about 20 women — and Flames were Flames.)

    I’m curious about Mad Scientist’s goals, though, and I wonder what he feels he needs to do to improve public education. If he says mean things to me, a person in a position to make some changes in an actual honest-to-goodness public school classroom, he might succeed in making me a) closed to the opinons of others — hey, I’m not *that* masochistic — b) bitter enough to lose some of the joy I find in teaching and thus some of my motivation to give my all every day. While I know he doesn’t have the power to do those things, I also know that he hasn’t really made a positive impact on me, either. And there are posters here who have inspired me to rethink some of my practices.

    FWIW, because of our proximity to Boeing and Monsanto, our district is full of engineers. Our salaries are low compared to other districts, but our property taxes are higher. I’ve never heard my colleagues complain about our salaries. We know our community is doing its best by us.

  41. D. Cooper says:

    Thanks Rita, but chivalry has never been my strong point .. just a ‘dumb jock’. I think it pretty clear how he wants to improve education … get rid of the unions … you not being in one and apparently still having problems, must surely confound him. However I suspect he’ll offer something I’m sure.

    As for your district being full of engineers, it may explain your low salaries and lack of union support. I’d have to ask to what extent have they ‘infiltrated’ your school board and affected local policy to ensure that you lowly teachers are kept in their place. I don’t know how your salaries measure up and hopefully they do, as no one is complaining as you say. If the salaries are fine, then maybe not all engineers are as pompous as Mad. Just as all unions (almost went for the caps key there) are not as evil as Mad would have us believe.

    Hang in Rita, and I’m glad to know that you’re unaffected by his rant. I’m retired now and doing very well (thanks to my UNION) and I’m sure he thinks I’m over paid … I hope he thinks I am … so he can push all the buttons he wishes. It doesn’t bother me nor you as you’ve said. I’ve worked hard and you do as well … criticism such as his will only fall on deaf ears. He’s not a very nice person. Don your flak jackets, he’ll be back.

  42. Laura (southernxyl) says:

    The way tenure is set up around here is really stupid. Elementary through high school teachers are up for tenure after 3 years of teaching. If they don’t get tenure after 3 years, they are automatically fired. If they do, forever after that it is very hard to fire them, short of their being convicted of a felony. Although NCLB may shake that up, but maybe not in a good way.

    So basically, it’s 3 years’ probation, which is really awful. Most folks get 3 months. I started a new job after the first of the year, and they tell me I’m performing really well, but I’ll breathe a sigh of relief when April 5 comes and goes.

    Then, if they had problems that didn’t surface or weren’t caught during the first three years (when maybe excuses were made because they were new) the kids are stuck with them.

    I don’t understand why it has to be that way. I don’t know any other employment field that’s like that. And I don’t know that the teachers want it that way – it’s just how it is.

  43. Mad Scientist says:

    Rita, Rita, Rita.

    If you are afraid to fail students who deserve it because you fear a backlash from the administration or parents, then you are a part of the problem.

    I never said you had to be part of a union to be part of the problem.

    It does help though.

  44. Mad Scientist says:


    First, I sincerely believe that people should be paid what they are worth. So if she lives in my district, she would have nothing to fear, as long as she continues to prove her worth. Oh yeah, and I sertainly make more than any teacher in my local school district.

    Second, as for bloated school budgets, please tell me why, in this era of close to ZERO inflation (and as some would argue, deflation), why school budgets in my neck of the woods are going up by TWICE the inflation rate. I would really like to know. I mean, if the cost of everything is going up by X and the number of students is essentially flat, the cost of running the district should go up by no more than X. THAT is a simple mathematical proof, you dumb jock (remember, YOU started the name calling on this thread).

    Third, as for the role of UNIONS in the demise of the manufacturing sector in this country, I can give you numerous examples.

    For instance, one local company is closing a facility precisely because of the union’s “it’s not my job” syndrome. Someone cannot move materials because it’s outside of his job description; the guy who IS qualified is on break. Orders are late. Customers cancel. The compnay can only survive by outsourcing to a NON-union shop. People at the union shop are laid off, and they wonder why.

    What it comes down to is that management has to allocate money to salaries and capital. When union rules force them to spend more money on salaries, less can go to capital. Capital is what keeps most companies competitive. Unions also do not want money spent on productivity increasing capital because that will ultimately mean fewer jobs. What they fail to recognize is that FEWER jobs is a whole lot better than NO jobs.

    Now as far as your assertion that I do not understand the economy and jobs goes, I would suggest that you learn something before you spew. My MBA courses in economics (macro and micro) covered this in detail, so try to learn something. The recent outsourcing is in the tech sector, true enough. But the kinds of jobs are basically UNSKILLED.

    Tech support centers are basically unskilled positions where the responders are given a folwchart of what questions to ask and how to respond.

    Programmers are marginally skilled (in that they have to know the programming language), but the real skill is developing the algorithms. Once an algorithm is cast in stone, anyone who knows the target language can program it.

    As for the role of unions in the equation, see above.

    Yes, degree opened the door for a very nice job. So nice, that I may be transferred overseas to run a new plant. I do not have to worry. The chemical industry is like that.

  45. Huh? I’ve never said I was afraid to fail a student. I do it regularly. I think it really sucks when I then get threats from the parent, but my administration always takes care of me. Do you actually read my posts?

    So are you saying union membership is correlative or cause and effect?

  46. D. Cooper says:

    Not bad, not bad … very low key … BTW , actually it would be the unions who would support a teacher who has taken flak from a parent, administrator or school board for having failed a student. So, in reality, just the oppposite of what you suggest is the case. What the unions do is support teachers in their efforts so that they’re able to do their job properly without having to worry about some whining parent who didn’t give their little darlin’ an ‘A’ for doing ‘C’ work.

    I guess the ‘Rita, Rita, Rita’ was the best you could do to mollify your previous attack on her, but like I said … not bad… not bad. Although, Rita, he did imply that you could still qualify as part of the problem, and he did get his cheap shot in about the unions. He’s not likely to relent either. You’ll see. Code RED!!

  47. Mad Scientist says:


    You were the one who questioned me as to how you specifically were to blame. I never blamed you specifically.

    Union membership is most probably cause and effect.

  48. School budgets are increasing because a) the IDEA — special education services mandated by the IDEA are extremely expensive. For example, some children qualify for a full-time aide — that’s a fulltime salary plus bennies to take care of ONE child. My CWC classes are double staffed. We have an entire resource department for learning disabled students. I think they have 14 staff members up there (not to mention the administrative overhead). b) technology — computer labs aren’t all that expensive to set up anymore, but they are expensive to keep running. Not to mention the district databases. We have a computer technology department staffed with people making high salaries.

    Those are two major money pits right there. Who is going to argue against special services and technology in the classroom?

    Districts have also set up incentives for teachers to get advanced degrees. Your Masters, +30, +50, and Ph.D. are worth several thousand more a year each. When teachers take advantage of these incentives, payroll expands. Studies show you want experienced, well educated teachers in the classroom, and they cost more than fresh grads with B.A.’s. The teacher across the hall from me, even though she has the same student load, makes twice my salary due to education and experience. Now, teachers don’t get promotions, so raises have to be built into the system somehow, and I don’t have any problem with her making that much more than I do (she works just as hard as I do and gets results from her kids).

    I’d also surmise that professional development costs a lot of money. Again, studies show we do a better job with it — and it is mandated by the state — but it takes money to bring in programs or buy books for us to study, etc.
    Those are just my guesses for starters. Oh, and books aren’t getting any cheaper, either. One of the anthologies I use is $42. Routine classroom supplies like pencils, paper, a pencil sharpener, etc., I buy out of my own pocket.

    I’m sure there’s plenty of wasted money in the system, but there are also a lot of legitimate holes for it to get sucked into.

  49. D. Cooper says:

    Mad, Ill repeat again, as you’ve partially suggested, the outsourcing is in the tech sector with as you say unskilled jobs. The other jobs lost I’d beg to differ are not the result of union practices or union work rules. Can you name an example here and there, sure, but that is not the primary reason and you know it. The thousands of products made in China are not the result of union bad boys here. It’s cheap labor. You seemed to have over paid for your MBA. And, unless you took your MBA courses recently, the labors problems in this country are somewhat unique as of late.(outsourcing, NAFTA, the slow job recovery despite the economic growth, etc.)

    I can’t speak for your school budget, but I suggest that you go to a budget meeting and find out exactly where the money is going. I believe Rita spelled out some and there are more to be sure. Maybe even run for the school board …. yikes.

    Your economic model does not quite apply to education and schools. School budgets are primarily for salaries, and they don’t produce a product in the same sense an automotive plant does. Your complaint about salaries seems to be in conflict with your complaint that your wife was unable to be compensated for her experience and education. Do you want to pay for experience and education or not?

    Certainly as schools are asked to do more and more by the state and the fed. More money is needed to implement those programs. I’m not the one requiring these programs … just the one left having to implement them. If they’re worthwhile, then they need to be funded. Many of course are not. And even those that are wothwhile will fail if underfunded. As far as schools being failures as businesses, you’ve got a point. We, who have less input than you’d like to admit, have witnessed ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ school districts all over LI. Trust me, teacher unions do not, and have not endorsed this process. I’m afraid that labor unions and the teacher union that I’m familiar with (NYSUT) are different animals.

    BTW, when are you going overseas, I’d like to help you pack!! And as a swimmer, we didn’t wear jocks!! So I’m not a ‘dumb jock’, just dumb. (there I saved you the trouble)

  50. D. Cooper says:

    Mad … a little summary for you..from people smater that I, but probably not you!!

    “The real culprit in this jobless recovery is productivity, not offshoring. Unlike most previous business cycles, productivity has continued to grow at a fast pace right through the downturn and into recovery. One percentage point of productivity growth can eliminate up to 1.3 million jobs a year. With productivity growing at an annual rate of 3% to 3 1/2% rather than the expected 2% to 2 1/2%, the reason for the jobs shortfall becomes clear: Companies are using information technology to cut costs — and that means less labor is needed. Of the 2.7 million jobs lost over the past three years, only 300,000 have been from outsourcing, according to Forrester Research Inc. People rightly fear that jobs in high tech and services will disappear just as manufacturing jobs did. Perhaps so. But odds are it will be productivity rather than outsourcing.”

  51. D. Cooper says:

    I know, the cite, its from their online edition, week of March 22 !! Like I said, smarter that I, but probably not you.

  52. Mad Scientist. I’m sorry — I misunderstood you. Since you said teachers are to blame, and I’m a teacher, I thought you meant you were blaming me.

  53. Been following the discussion here for a few days. Interesting points all around. I have definite beefs w/what the union does and stands for, both politically and socially, but overall I am a member for one overriding reason: Protection against ridiculous administrator “payback” and/or parent harassment.

    Very recent case in point: I’m the head softball coach of my school’s team. Last year we carried one of our principal’s daughters on the team. This year we had numerous new girls come out (7th graders — my school has only 7th and 8th), who are all excellent players. Thus, when we made cuts, the principal’s daughter was not on the regular roster, but 2nd alternate. Incredibly, the principal was OUTRAGED. Not only did he give me a hard time (verbal jabs like “Hey, thanks a LOT” and demanding to see a non-existent “evaluation sheet” as to why his daughter didn’t make the team), he threatened my assistant coach (who is untenured) by stating to her “What, are you biting the hand that feeds you?” We have a pending meeting with the principal and one of our assistant principals, who is also the athletic director — the latter whom I made aware the threatening remark.

    Another instance: This week began our big state test on which the NCLB rankings are based. Teachers and school administrators across the district lobbied heavily for half days on test days as students are physically and mentally “spent” after the morning-long exams. No go, said the central office. So be it. So, school administrators requested that teachers try not to assign much work during test days, and generally try to have a “light” atmosphere in class for the few post-test classes each day.

    My students know I am also certified in social studies, and have a particular interest in history and politics. In one of my classes (after our first state test morning and after dispensing with some various class odds and ends) one of my students — not me — asked a provocative current events debate question: “What is all this deal with gay marriage?” Being that there were only 15 mins. left in class I decided to go with it. My social studies training — which, unfortunately, too often is ignored by s.s. teachers — require that respect for different POVs be enforced, that all POVs be heard, and that the teacher’s personal POV not enter into the discussion. This is exactly what I followed, and what happened.

    After school, one of our asst. principals fielded a phone call from an irate [very conservative] parent whose daughter either falsely stated (or gave the impression) that I had started the discussion, and/or gave the impression that I took a particular POV. Thankfully, this asst. principal calmed the parent down, explained the scenario he was told was unlikely, explained my background as an s.s. teacher, explained about the “light” classroom setting of post-test days, and suggested he talk to me first before making any [possible] complaint to the principal.

    I called the parent that afternoon and he was very cordial. The matter was settled amicably, respectfully and professionally.

    But what if it had not? What if this parent was adamant that I held an “improper” discussion, and advocated a particular POV — and then demanded that action be taken against me? Especially with my principal feeling as he does regarding the softball incident I noted above?

    That’s why a union, despite its various faults, is very much needed, IMO.

  54. D. Cooper says:

    Dave….I would imagine that any teacher on staff for more than 3 months or less could tell similar tales. This kind of idiocy abounds. This is the reason that a lot of untenured teachers have to tow the line so to speak for three years before they can actually do what is right by the students and the parents, despite their objections.

    Protection from overzealous parents and administrators is necessary. How many good teachers have been chased away or discouraged by such instances as you’ve depicted. Mad would have no unions, and leave it to ‘meathead’ administrators and parents to rule the roost. The difference between education and industry is children. When parents (as this administrator was acting as) start to get involved in their children’s education (grades, sports, band, etc.) all hell breaks loose. And, there’s a big difference between support and manipulation.

  55. Richard Heddleson says:

    Mr. Huber writes, “That’s why a union, despite its various faults, is very much needed, IMO.”

    Were this to be true I would expect to see unions in private schools. But we don’t. Why? It is actually difficult to get good teachers. Once an administrator gets them they don’t want to lose them or face the response from the parents who like the teacher.

    While I don’t want to join in Mad Scientist’s rhetorical flourishes, I must agree that unionization does put the lie to teacher’s claims of professionalism.

    Also, all this talk of probation in the private non-union market place is nonsense, at least in California. There is no presumption of a probationary period and even if one is specified in the offer letter, the legal counsel I have received numerous times indicates that the bar and process for termination is no different before or after the “probationary” period.

  56. D. Cooper says:

    Rich … there are no unions in private schools because of the small numbers … and they are in general paid less than their public school counter parts. Private schools for the most part are immune to many of the problems that plague public schools. They can be selective, weed out the malcontents (if they even get in in the first place) and do not have to accomodate the wide variety of students with learning disabilites, emotional problems etc. Obviously a teacher with half a brain (as Mad would suggest they all have) will take a public school position more readily if given the choice if it’s paying 5k more. The illusion of private schools doing better than public schools because of better teachers is just that, an illusion. The primary reason for better results is simple … better students!!! Their parents care, they’re usually from a higher economic group, and they’re also in many cases prequalified through acedemic selection. It’s not rocket science to figure out why they do better. What’s rocket science is getting some people to understand why!

    Very few teachers I knew (good ones at that) would take a private school job because of the salary. Many a new teacher unable to find a job in a public school will take a lower paying private school job until one becomes available. And as for unionization putting the ‘lie’ to the teachers claim of professiionalism is bunk!

    And I would argue vociferously regarding the difference between releasing a teacher before and after the probationary period. I’d question your characterization of it in CA but in NY a probationary teacher has absolutely no recourse if terminated. You may argue for or against that process being acceptable, but that is what it is.

    I would dare say, that if and when private schools grow in numbers, and the need arises, they will form some sort of union to protect themselves from people like Mad.

  57. Catholic schools, which are about 30% of all private schools in this country, have unionized teachers.

    Private schools hold on to their teachers because it is so difficult to find qualified people to teach at those wages. For example, I had my daughter enrolled in a private Lutheran school for two years (it was a disaster — her religious education was fine, but academically she was a mess — couldn’t read). The highest salary in that school was $23,000 for a teacher who had been there for nearly 20 years. The average *starting* salary for a public school teacher around here is around $32,000.

    Dave — major sympathies. I’m going through something similar this year.

  58. Laura (southernxyl) says:

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think the Catholic schoolteachers around here are unionized. They are paid very little, true, and I’ll bet they wouldn’t want to pay union dues out of that. I talked with some of my kid’s teachers one day back in elementary school, about why they were there. The public schools were constantly trying to recuit them, and sometimes a teacher would take that job if she really had to have the money, but if at all possible they stayed at the parochial school. Why? Because the administration backed the teachers. Because the misbehaving kids were expelled. Because the teachers were able to spend their classroom time teaching, not dealing with discipline and other issues. It’s a trade-off, for sure, and these teachers all said they were glad they were financially able to make that choice.

  59. Richard Heddleson says:


    Thank you for informing me of this. Is this in all dioceess or just some?

  60. Richard Heddleson says:

    After all this spelling brouhaha it’s dioceses. That was a coordination problem that appears to be getting progreeively worse as I get progressively older.

  61. Richard Heddleson says:

    D. Cooper,

    Is your doctor a union member? Is your lawyer? Your structural engineer? Probably not. One of the great tragedies of third party medical insurance is that it has reduced the professionalism of doctors by taking decisions relating to how to treat a patient out of a doctors hands. The same thing has happened to teachers.

    I would not argue that teachers at private schools are either better or worse than at public. I suspect that both populations are large enough that they are pretty similar.

    Many of the private school teachers I know take the job in spite of the salary because it allows them greater to teach students who are more interested in learning. They would not work at public schools for any salary. It’s a tradeoff each individual makes. I guess this indicates that those who are in it for the money will be better rewarded in public schools.

    As to the probation period, my post indicated the comment was limited to “the private non-union market place…at least in California” which would exclude unionized teachers. I was attempting to correct an assumption that there is a probationary period for the general work force.

    As private schools grow in numbers, some with incompetent administrations may become unionized. This will lead to rigidity of work rules, high cost structures and increased consumer dissatisfaction, culminating in the dissolution of the school. This is why unions are currently prospering only in economic environments characterized by non-competition, such as government, education and increasingly, health care.

    Employee turnover is too expensive for private enterprises to terminate an employee over a single upset customer. Customers like Mad will be informed at the end of the year that there are many other schools at which his child might be more successful and that he should enroll the child in one of them for the following year.

  62. Mad Scientist says:


    How about NO unions, NO tolerance for meathead administrators, and tell the meathead parents that if they don’t like it, there’s always home schooling or private schools.

    That is not to say there are never any legitimate complaints. That principal should be called on the carpet for harassmant/intimidation, but HE’s probably got a union backing HIM up.

    Where does it all end?

  63. Mad Scientist says:

    Cooper, I guess you have never taught at a private school. They get their share of malcontents (kids sent there to straighten out), and one school in particular (where my wife taught {there’s ONE teacher who’s got a whole brain}) was well known for getting kids with learning disabilities to perform up to standards.

    My wife teaches at a private school because of the spirit of community, rather than the pay. Granted, she wishes she earned more (who doesn’t?) but after one year in the public schools, she will NEVER teach again in the public sector.

  64. Richard, I don’t know the numbers on the Catholic Teacher’s Union. I do know that all the Catholic schools in my area are unionized, and we have a very large number of Catholic schools for the size of our region.

    BTW, I’m not implying that salary is the largest motivator for where a teacher takes a job. But if you have to support a family, $23,000 is going to be a tough go. Personally, I like that my salary makes it possible for me to travel and pursue my hobby (my husband, who works in a technical field, makes way more than I do). In the 20’s, it would be costing us more for me to work than I’d be making, and I’d stay home and write. I did that for awhile. But I also don’t underestimate how I enjoy working with all kinds of students — especially the ones that would get their fannies booted out of a private school (or already have and have landed in my class — I’ve got a bunch of those). These are personal reasons — we all have them.

  65. Tom West says:

    Mr. Scientist, unionization of teachers did not come out of nowhere. It is pretty much the natural outcome of a taxpayer funded system and a profession with low entry cost.

    Without a union, the natural tendency of the system is to ignore the question of quality and keep salaries as low as possible. This produced a profession in which teachers generally could not be the main breadwinner for a family. Teachers were often young and left as soon as they got married or had children. This was not considered a problem as new teachers were often taken straight out of university or in some cases, high school.

    Obviously the idea of essentially amateur teachers who only teach for a few years (or the few unmarrieds who are willing to live a spartan lifestyle because they love teaching) is not adequate to deal with the modern society. Unions were a natural response to the changing social situation in which teaching found itself.

    As with pretty much everything, unionization has its costs. However, the failure to acknowledge the favorable impact of unions on the teaching profession is as short-sighted as the inability to recognize the cost of unionization.

    It is also worth remembering that salaries in non-unionized teaching positions are almost defined by the salaries achieved by teachers unions, since there is some competition for teachers. Without unionization, your wife would be earning far less.

  66. Mad Scientist says:

    Mr. West:

    The whole idea of unions as far as a two income family is way past its prime. For example, in my position (and profession), it is typical for one to move around the country for employment. If the second income is a teacher, there is a huge disadvantage in moving; the profession is NOT portable (I make approximately 3 times what she does, so where my job goes, she goes). The non-portability feature is incompatible with modern society. It effectively turns unionized teachers into indentured servants due to the loss of benefits upon relocation.

    And actually, my wife is earning MORE in her Catholic school position than she was at the local public school. The local district did not give any credit for the 15+ years of solid classroom and administrative experience (including Foreign Language Department Head at three preveious posts), and minimal credit for her Doctorate.

    In addition, she is well regarded and respected in her current situation, whearas she was treated like yesterday’s dead fish by the administration, students, and parents at the public school.

  67. Mad: I’m sure the fact that you’re the primary breadwinner (3x your wife’s salary) plays a role in whether your wife works for less in a private school (although you say she makes more, which has to be an isolated incident!). Trust me, I’ve considered private and parochial schools, but since I’m the primary breadwinner, the higher salary and bennies are a BIG consideration in remaining in public ed.

    Regarding unions: As I noted before, there is much room for improvement in the NEA (of which I’m a member). Focus on common sense education of kids (who’da thunk it?) and protecting good teachers would be a start. Streamline procedures to ditch the dead wood teachers. Get out of political advocacy that has nothing to do w/education.

    But, the fact that they support teachers w/up to $1 million in legal backing if wrongly accused (by parent or administrator) is crucial in today’s litigious society. In such an atmosphere, I gladly pay my dues for that insurance.

  68. Mad Scientist says:

    Dave, two comments:

    First, unions shoud get out of political advocacy PERIOD. Not every teacher agrees with their agenda, and I found it funny when my wife, while teaching public school, would get political literature from the union. In addition, I guess the union sells their member lists to the local Democratic party, because she got tons of stuff from them asking for donations and the like. There is NOTHING as satisfying than sending back a postage paid envelope EMPTY.

    Second, look into personal professional liability insurance. Probably less expensive than union dues.

  69. Mad Scientist says:

    Oh, and Dave, she chooses where to work. She taught in private boarding schools long before she met me. She prefers the private school atmosphere.

  70. D. Cooper says:

    Well Mad, I’ve been away awhile, and I see you’ve been busy. I applaud your wife’s contentment with her position. And I’m sure many private schools have their share of malcontents, but I would suggest that not nearly as many as we in public education do. The fact that you mentioned that some kids are sent there to be straightened out speaks volumes about that parent’s willingness to share the responsibility. Public schools don’t always have that luxury. Relating the anecedote about the teacher getiing someone with a learning disability to learn is nice, proves nada, and I know personally of scores of those instances. Sorry, but that impresses me not.

    To say that students at private schools are more motivated and hence more ‘teachable’ is a no brainer. And I’d dare say teaching in that environment is certainly easier that having to deal with all the sh– that goes on in public schools. Anyone can teach ‘smart’, motivated kids. Hell, even I did it. They behaved, did their homework, enjoyed being challenged, had ‘nice’ parents. Was that rewarding, … yes, but so too was the challenge of the ‘difficult’ child who was gotten through to. The one who you saw 5 years later in a store and he/she makes some comment that makes you feel like it was all worth while. There’s a communal spirit among public school teachers as well. In 35 years, we laughed together, cried together, helped each other, faught over stuff, made up, socialized, went to weddings, played golf, played poker, met our wives … you get the idea.

    Your gripe with the teacher unions is misplaced and I have a suspicion that it is tainted by your wife’s problem. I don’t where that happened, whether or not it was in NY, but if it was, then NYSUT was probably the union. The union does not set that policy for the salary placement of newly hired teachers. That policy is normally set by the school board and is probably a negotiable item. The salary step and years of experience granted will place her on a particular step in the salary scale which is of course part of a contract. Even here on LI with the all powerful NYSUT, school districts do not routinely give much credit for prior service. I’d dare say thyat she’d be offered even less if their were NO unions.

    And the comment …’she likes the private school atmosphere’ … me too Mad … sounds like a cake walk to me. Private boarding schools indeed, can you get any more elitist than that. Not unlike taking candy from a baby …. real tough.

    You’re starting to make me appreciate my union even more. Because pompus eliitists such as you those new teachers need to be protected from.

  71. Mad Scientist says:


    Check out Mercersburg Academy. They have sepcial programs for the learning disabled (I’m NOT talking developmentally disabled). So expand your horizons.

    I have always hated the concept of a union, Could be that my parents worked for IBM – notoriously anti-union. We had a comforatable life on the salary of a lab technician and a secretary.

    At one time in prehistory, unions played an important role. But now with OSHA and other government agencies, they are way past their prime.

  72. D. Cooper says:

    Mad… I’m aware of Mercersburg Academy … this is an example, not an overall characteristic of private schools. And I suppose the $32,750 boarding/tuition will put it in reach of so, so many people. Add to that, other related fees and travel and this school is in the $35k to $40k range. Just for a comparison, Dartmouth is about in that same range, $37,800 for tuition, room and board. Are you actually serious about this elitist school and your comments. Also, I happen to know many a ‘jock’ who has gone to Mercersburg (you know, jocks who are smart too … what a combo). The school would not be to your liking, they have a very competitive and nationally known sports program. This school is on a par with Andover and Deerfield, not your run of the mill private school. Who the hell do you think you are, having the unmitigated gall to use this school as an example. You need to expand your horizons. But, not your ego, that would probably fit through very few standard doorways.

    And whoopie doo … your parents worked for IBM and didn’t belong to a union .. and my mom worked for Kodak back in the day, and no unions. And??? We’re starting to see your bias now. Like you said … some unions are past their prime, but alas others are not. Until people like you are muffled, we’ll need unions. As a matter of fact, you and your ilk sir, are the primary reason we need them. The more you pontificate the more I’m convinced.

  73. D. Cooper says:

    And Mad, just for a reference … because you mentioned increasing costs of public education against the inflation rate … the costs at Dartmouth College (a private institution) have increased by an average of over 4% every year for the last 4 years…from $31.9K to $37.8k … 18.5%. I’ve read many articles over the last several years that would indicate that this is not an unusual circumstance, and that rate of increase is fairly representative.

  74. Mad Scientist says:

    Last I checked, Dartmouth was not part of a public school district.

    Anyway, it’s all the fault of the unions.

  75. D. Cooper says:

    Correct you are Capt. Smart-ass, but neither is Mercersburg … Dartmouth is just a little ivy league college whose costs are similar to Mercersburg .. you know the lame example you tried to put over here.

    And BTW … it is the unions fault … blame them for great teacher salaries here in the great state of NY and my wonderful pension that in some way or another you’ve contributed to. So I thank you… you’re the best. What NYSUT has made possilble is for making malcontents like you pay for my retirement. Gotta love ’em for that!!

  76. Mad Scientist says:

    Well, what do you know, the prices HAVE gone up since my wife left teaching there. What you fail to mention, is that 44% of the students are on some sort of financial aid.

    And who started calling who names? I guess if I retaliate by saying “Smartass and DAMN Proud of it!”, then I am just asking for trouble.

    Just the union mindset: just sucking productivity out of society.

  77. D. Cooper says:

    Gone up where … Dartmouth or Mercersburg? … because if you’re referring to Dartmouth you’ve just made Mercersburg more expensive. If it’s Mercersburg, I hope you’re not trying to make the case that it’s not one of the elite private prep schools in the East. And, rather expensive in any case. And at this point who started first calling names is irrelevant. And you don’t have to admit to being a smart-ass, you’ve made that abundantly clear.

    Your union barbs are tired, so I’ll not respond any more to those. So feel free to blast away at them, I’ve made my case and as O”Rielly says, we’ll let the people decide.

  78. D. Cooper says:

    Just a small footnote …more than 50% of Dartmouth students according to their website, recieve financial aid from either the college directly or outside sources. So, anyway you look at it cost wise, these two schools are about on a par with each other.

    You know Mad … maybe I’ll see if I can get one of those ‘giftee’ t-shits …. you can wear it to work just in case someone there doesn’t know just how smart you really are. Something tells me that most probably do though.

  79. Mad Scientist says:

    Well, it takes one to know one.

  80. D. Cooper says:

    Gee Mad, you sound exasperated. Hope that wasn’t one of those bombs you weasel you….

    And, I’ve always wondered why you felt it so necessary to to promote yourself the way you do. PHD this and my MBA and taking this engineering course, the boss at work that everyone loves (choke) and my wife this and my wife that, and private school here and on and on. Seems to be a little insecurity going on here and a need to prop that up. You I know have probably fought very hard at never losing an argument, therefore, so as not to disappoint, I’m going to officially declare you the winner. Even though, I know you’ve already taken care of that.

  81. D. Cooper says:

    How did you know ‘levitra’, you sneaky devil you. This is an example of a ‘hard’ sell.