Angels, demons, teachers and auto workers

In response to the discussion in the Blaming teachers post, Greg Forster writes AFT and UAW – More Alike Than You’d Think on Jay P. Greene’s Blog.

I think the real problem is not that school reformers demonize teachers but that defenders of the government school monopoly angelize them. When we reformers insist that teachers should be treated as, you know, human beings, who respond to incentives and all that, rather than as some sort of perfect angelic beings who would never ever allow things like absolute job protection to affect their performance, it drives people like (AFT head Randi) Weingarten and (New York Times columnist Bob) Herbert nuts.

“Teachers’ unions have pushed up costs  dramatically” in the past 40 years, Forster writes.  Public school costs have doubled, after inflation, primarily because unions pushed schools to hire more teachers relative to student enrollment.

It’s true that high salaries aren’t the main issue in schools, although teacher salaries are in fact surprisingly high. The disconnect between teacher pay and teacher performance is much more important. But the UAW has the same problem! Their pay scales don’t reward performance, either.

Incentives matter for skilled blue-collar and white-collar workers, he argues.  The auto industry has been hurt badly by “union work rules – including poor performance due to absolute job protection, pay scales that don’t reward performance, and rigid job descriptions that make process modernization impossible.”

That does sound familiar.

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Comments

  1. The public schools and Detroit domestic auto industry are very similar, especially in how unions have pushed their gains to the point where consumers/students are not getting a superior product. The only reason public schools are not in as much financial trouble as Detroit is that government forces taxpayers to pay (of course the bailouts are starting to change this). Imagine what we would be driving if the government took money from every taxpayer and paid Detroit to give everyone a new car every few years!

    The reason the teacher’s unions attack school choice, charters, and home schooling so hard is that they know that these options threaten their monopoly, and are the equivalent of ‘foreign auto companies’ entering the market. And as the unions battle to delay the inevitable shift away from low value public education, America’s children are paying the price.

  2. Here in California, I’ve been forced to financially support 3 unions for the past 17 years.

    For the past 6 YEARS, I’ve had no increase in my take-home pay whatsoever even as inflation has slowly but surely destroyed our income’s purchasing power.

    And yet these 3 unions have substantially increased the amount that they (forcebly) take from my paycheck each month. (Yes, teachers in our district get paid once per month, just like in the 19th century.)

    Teachers never get a say in the amount that is withheld from our paychecks. (This year, it will amount to over $900.00. Those who have formerly quit all three unions will still be forced to pay over $700.00.)

    The worst part is that teachers have no say at all in who becomes president of either the state union (CTA) or the national union (NEA) and in the one union in which we do get a vote (the local) our election are notorious for their “irregularities” whenever there is a contested election. (The “union-approved” candidate ALWAYS wins in what are touted as “close” elections. There are no ballot boxes or even the most rudimentary safeguards.)

  3. Miller Smith says:

    If we held students and parents responsible for their part and let failures be failures and not blame anyone but the failures themselves, then we can get education costs down to but a fraction of what they are now.

    So long as we want to blame teachers for students who don’t study or work hard, teachers will demand higher wages for the blame we want them to take.

    Want to get education costs down real quickly? Judge teachers only on their presentation of material and fairness in grading. That’s it. Nothing else.

    We would no longer try to get every child to go to college while blaming teachers for not making all of them ready-which cannot be done. We could then reduce the number of students in college prep courses and even high school for that matter. For what I can see in my 20 years of teaching only 15% of the students I have seen actually were worth a college education. The majority that went to college didn’t even finish the first year and had to redirect their efforts to other avenues of employment with a big $$$ monkey on their back that need not have been created.

    A little reality will go a long way to solving this price of teachers problem.

  4. Regarding local union issues, consider the fact that school board elections (which the local union-approved candidates win) are not usually synchronized with other local elections, but stand alone. They also aren’t well-publicized (I keep track of things pretty closely, but have to work to find out their schedule) and the turnout is therefore kept artificially low, for both reasons. That is a deliberate tactic by the educational establishment, it works and it proves that real public input is not desired.

    In my opinion, it is wrong to allow any union dues to be automatically from wages and no one should be required to join one or pay part of the dues for “negotiations” etc. No one should be required to pay a single dime and each person who desires to join a union should have to write that check themselves. I’m certain that union membership would plummet, and where would the money come from for all those cushy union jobs?

  5. Right. Because the increases in costs have had nothing to do with the IDEA and the golden cow of technology.

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t think having a lower teacher::student ratio and a decent salary are the real problems.

    But no, nobody benefits from the teacher-as-altruistic-superhero model. Personally, I like to get paid. But you can’t evaluate me unless you come into my classroom and administrators are loathe to do that (I did once have one come in to evaluate a grammar lesson; a former English teacher, he was quite excited to learn the proper use of who/whom — I wasn’t sure whether to be horrified or happy he’d switched to admin.)

  6. Andy Freeman says:

    > If we held students and parents responsible for their part and let failures be failures and not blame anyone but the failures themselves

    Ah, the old “teachers don’t control their inputs” argument. Sorry, but no one else gets to use that excuse, so why is public education different?

    In every other field, failure means “no money”, no matter whose fault.

    > Want to get education costs down real quickly? Judge teachers only on their presentation of material and fairness in grading. That’s it. Nothing else.

    No deal. We don’t pay for “presentation of material” or “fairness in grading”. (Besides, there’s no reason to believe that judging on that basis will affect costs.) We pay for education.

    If, for whatever reason, public schools don’t provide education, there’s no point in giving them money.

  7. With all due respect to Mr. Forster, what does he expect unions to do but push up costs? It’s their reason for existence. If they weren’t pushing up costs, i.e. getting wage and bennie increases for their membership, why would anyone join? How would they maintain the political clout necessary to hang onto closed-shop state law?

    If Mr. Forster’s looking for a smoking gun he ought to consider that during the same period of time teacher/student ratios have doubled, administrator/student ratios have quintupled. Even that isn’t the underlying cause of the problems of public education but it at least points in the right direction.

  8. Miller Smith says:

    Andy Freeman, if you did your part better I would have written something different. So what I wrote was your fault…right?

    Think about other professions that work with PEOPLE. People are not controllable like a nut and bolt. A doctor is not judged by the results if the patient did not follow directions. If I fail to take my medicine and remain sick do I blame the doctor? Is the doctor responsible for my non-compliance Andy? Of course not! The doctor is judged by their inputs and nothing else. Courts will blame me, not the doctor Andy. You know this Andy. You know better.

    Same with lawyers, Andy. “Don’t drive drunk again, Andy,” your lawyer says. You do it anyway. Does the system put your lawyer in jail? Does the court accept your, “No deal” as proof that your lawyer was the problem? Come on Andy, you know better.

    People will do what they do and you cannot be held responsible for the actions or inactions of those who do not follow you directions.

    Andy, about 66% of my class earn (see that word Andy? EARN) a C with a few B and A and a few D and F. Am I a good or bad teacher, Andy? How would you tell, Andy? Can you come up with a method of evaluation of a teacher that makes sense? How about you try it here and now? I would love to see it.

  9. Miller, don’t try to reason with Andy. He’s a doctrinaire opponent of public education.

  10. Miller,

    You should talk to some lawyers and doctors. OF COURSE the clients/patients blame their lawyers/doctors for what is their own darned fault. Why should teachers be treated any differently by parents & students? It’s simply human nature, exacerbated in this country by the trend towards social responsibility at the expense of individual responsiblity. (They are a zero sum game; as we depend more on each other, we depend less on ourselves. I view this as the biggest single difference between liberals and conservatives.)

    But back to the original topic-we blame teachers when it is usually the unions who impede progress and accountability. But because the unions are made up of teachers, the teachers get the blame. I have a good friend who is a local superintendent nearby, and she cannot make changes to the system because of the union contracts. Most teachers, in my experience, would rather have total job protection and little real accountability than be judged in the open marketplace of ideas.

    Teachers who have always been teachers complain about their pay, their work hours, their lack of appreciation, etc., while teachers who have had non-governmental jobs before becoming teachers know just how good they have it now. But I’m realistic enough to know that teachers who have known nothing else will never appreciate their jobs as they should.

  11. People don’t blame doctors or lawyers because they know that the most incompetant members of their profession will (eventually) lose their liscense. Incompetant teachers are more likely to be moved into administration than to be removed from education outright.

    As my public school teaching wife says, the hardest part of her job is not the students, the parents, or the material – it’s the incompentant assistant princpal and other teachers who do their job half-donkeyed.

  12. Andy Freeman says:

    > Can you come up with a method of evaluation of a teacher that makes sense? How about you try it here and now? I would love to see it.

    We evaluate based on how much they learned compared to how much they would have learned otherwise. In other words, we grade you on a curve.

    Or, we could let you propose measurable goals for student achievement, decide whether those goals are worth the money that you want, and we reach a deal, we measure at the end and decide whether to do biz again.

    Of course, if you continue to insist that your efforts have no measurable effect, there’s no point in paying for anything more than babysitting.

    >>> Want to get education costs down real quickly? Judge teachers only on their presentation of material and fairness in grading. That’s it. Nothing else.

    That says that we can replace teachers with a video and a scantron.

  13. Andy Freeman says:

    > Miller, don’t try to reason with Andy. He’s a doctrinaire opponent of public education.

    Not at all. I’m a huge fan of public education. I’m just pointing out that we’re not getting education.

  14. Andy Freeman says:

    > Think about other professions that work with PEOPLE.

    Everyone works with people.

    If a car is poorly designed, will you buy it? After all, the people who put it together did a great job with bad inputs.

    Lawyers who work on contingency don’t get paid if the jury screws up, their client lied, and so on.

    You won’t buy rotten food from a grocery store no matter why it’s rotten or how nice the clerk is.

    BTW – Teachers aren’t professionals. Professionals (lawyers, doctors, cpas, registered engineers, etc.) are personally liable for errors and omissions. Teachers, like burger flippers, aren’t.

  15. Oh Miller, don’t over-exert yourself.

    Doctors and lawyers aren’t paid on the basis of worthless academic credentials and the amount of time they’ve spent on the job. They get paid according to the value people place on their services and that varies from lawyer to lawyer and doctor to doctor. Can the same be said of teachers? Of course not.

    The services of teachers, due to the mandatory nature of both funding and attendance of public education, are unrelated to the perceived skill of the teacher. And what implication is there in the fact that teachers *aren’t* paid differentially on the basis of their skill?

    If you’re a really good doctor other doctors are actually willing to pay you to help them become better doctors. Does this occur in public education? Not unless you’re willing to accept the cargo-cult academic product of ed schools as an equivalent.

  16. Miller Smith says:

    Hi Rex.

    My point is that the professions are not judged for the actions or inactions of their clients. The courts do not hold professionals responsible for such client behavior. It should be the same with teachers. Andy’s point seems to be (?) that a patient who does not take their digitalis and then ends up in the ER with CHF should have some cause of action against the doctor. That is the point of view of a child.

    Now ANdy.

    >> Can you come up with a method of evaluation of a teacher that makes sense? How about you try it here and now? I would love to see it.

    >We evaluate based on how much they learned compared to how much they would have learned otherwise. In other words, we grade you on a curve.

    Please Andy, how would you determine “how much they learned?” Same for “would have learned otherwise?”

    Do you know of any metric that measures such things? I don’t, And Andy, tests do not do any of those things.

    Andy, everyone does not work with people. You knew better than that before you wrote those words..so why did you write those words? A car’s quality is 100% controllable by the manufacturer as a child is not. Heck Andy, not a single human on the face of this Earth is 100% controllable including those in jail and prison.

    From your point of view Andy, the police, judges, elected officials all over the world are failures due to the fact that the laws on murder are not followed 100%. We can’t even get 100% compliance with most everything and you expect a teacher to get 100% compliance getting children to learn their times tables!

    Are you serious Andy?

  17. If we held students and parents responsible for their part and let failures be failures and not blame anyone but the failures themselves, then we can get education costs down to but a fraction of what they are now.

    Why do you believe that? Schools already hold students and parents responsible all the time, and yet students still fail. For example, school psychologists were surveyed about what they attributed children’s failure at schools to. It was *always* parents and children, never the school’s curriculae, teaching practices, or school administration and management. (See http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/ALESSI1.html)

    So long as we want to blame teachers for students who don’t study or work hard, teachers will demand higher wages for the blame we want them to take.

    Note that Miller Smith doesn’t actually mention teachers taking any responsibility, just demanding higher wages.

    Also Miller continues to cast this merely as teachers, totally ignoring the role of the school and district administration.

    A doctor is not judged by the results if the patient did not follow directions. If I fail to take my medicine and remain sick do I blame the doctor? Is the doctor responsible for my non-compliance Andy?

    Regardless of who is responsible for your drug taking in a moral sense, the medical system (*not* just individual doctors) can do a variety of things to increase your compliance. For example, pill packets printed with the days of the week. For vital medications, patients are called in to be directly observed taking the medicine (this is used for treatments like tuberculosis where there are risks of infection and drug resistance developing from incomplete treatment).

    The medical system may not be morally responsible for you taking your drugs, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t improve medical outcomes by the medical system taking on some *practical* responsibility.

    Please Andy, how would you determine “how much they learned?” Same for “would have learned otherwise?”

    Do you know of any metric that measures such things? I don’t, And Andy, tests do not do any of those things.

    What you do is that you divide similar children into two or more groups (the more groups the more ideas for improving education you can test). You then apply the education ideas you want to test to one group and not to another (expanding as appropriate when n > 2). At the end you test the knowledge of the children. The education idea that produces the most learning as measured by your test can be regarded as so far the one best supported by the evidence. You can improve your confidence level in the results by things like pre-testing the students, random assignment, testing the students at various lengths of time after the education intervention finished, increasing the number of students, etc.

    This was done in the 1970s in the USA on low-income kids, in an experiment called Project Followthrough, designe to find the best way of teaching low-income kids. One education curriculum turned out to be far more effective – Direct Instruction. See http://www.projectpro.com/ICR/Research/DI/Summary.htm. Direct Instruction moved away from the pointless, overly exploited role of blaming parents and students, and put responsibility on the school (not just the teachers) and the curriculae. Clear and explicit instruction, continual seeking of feedback, divvying students up into small groups based on prior knowledge and learning rates, etc had amazing results. Even if you wish to hold parents and students morally responsibile for failing to learn, as a practical matter it’s not as successful as looking at what schools and teachers can do to improve their teaching.

    I don’t know why you say that tests do not do any of these things. How do you know which of your student earned a C, or a B, or an A, or a D, or an F? Do you just randomly assign grades? While we’re on the topic, do you advocate getting rid of drivers licence tests?

  18. Andy Freeman says:

    > Andy’s point seems to be (?) that a patient who does not take their digitalis and then ends up in the ER with CHF should have some cause of action against the doctor.

    No, it isn’t.

    > Please Andy, how would you determine “how much they learned?” Same for “would have learned otherwise?”

    > Do you know of any metric that measures such things? I don’t, And Andy, tests do not do any of those things.

    I note that the ed schools justify their existence by claiming to find more effective techniques. They can’t make that argument without evaluating changes in student performance and comparing differences. Are they lying?

    I note that Smith’s evil twin seems to think that student performance can be evaluated.

    >>Andy, about 66% of my class earn (see that word Andy? EARN) a C with a few B and A and a few D and F.

    Hmm. How did they “earn” those grades. What? ET Smith evaluated their performance? Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that their performance changed during the time that Smith was teaching them. Did what Smith did have anything to do with that? If it did, I think that Smith should be paid for a positive difference attributable to Smith’s efforts.

    If, however, there was no positive change or Smith had nothing to do with it, I don’t think that Smith should be paid more than babysitter’s wages. If Smith wants more money, I’ll ask (again) – why?

    However, suppose that we believe that Smith’s performance can’t be measured. Why should we pay more than a babysitter’s wages? After all, the babysitter is providing the same value.

    > A car’s quality is 100% controllable by the manufacturer as a child is not.

    Actually, it isn’t. However, the manufacturer (and the dealer) take the hit if the quality isn’t good enough. No one cares why.

    > From your point of view Andy, the police, judges, elected officials all over the world are failures due to the fact that the laws on murder are not followed 100%.

    No, that’s not my point of view and there’s nothing that I’ve written that suggests that it is.

    I note that all of those folks try very hard to prove that they’re making a difference. They think that their performance can be measured. Why is teaching different?

  19. As a practical matter, the teachers within a school know who the good teachers, mediocre teachers, and poor teachers are. And the parents soon figure it out, mainly by asking other parents and teachers and secretaries, and by observing the effects on their own children. When my wife was in teaching, we soon learned who the teachers were that we wanted for our children.

    And guess what? The administrators can figure it out, too, if they take the time and effort to do so. Sometimes there are weak administrators who get bogged down in the administrative details and forget that they are supposed to be the instructional leaders for their school. The good administrators know this and act accordingly. And according to my friend the superintendent, Central Office knows who the weak administrators are.

    A lot of planning and guidance goes into bringing weak administrators up to snuff–but just as the building principals are hampered by the unions in dealing with the substandard teachers, so is Central Office hampered by the administrators’ union in dealing with the substandard principals.

    This all presupposes that the superintendent is the sort of leader you would want in your district who is more interested in doing right by kids than protecting the incompetents out there, and although the majority of superintendents are that way, there is still a significant number who are not.

  20. Ponderosa says:

    There are SO many factors in Detroit’s decline that are more important than the unions. Yet right-wingers fixate on the unions out of intellectual laziness, ignorance or just a cynical attempt to bash unions when they think they can get away with it.

    It’s the same with education. Sure, there are situations in which unions block genuinely beneficial changes (e.g. ousting a bad teacher). But there are SO many other, more critical factors in America’s educational malaise. Imagine there were no teacher unions and you get to fire all the “bad” teachers. If their replacement follow the same progressive ed claptrap, use the same watered-down curricula and crappy commercial textbooks, and are led by the same confused administrators and state ed leaders, there will be little improvement. And don’t forget the very real anti-academic cultural climate that prevails in so much of white/Hispanic/black America. There are brilliant, maniacally hard-working teachers at my school whose students are so rude, inattentive and blase that they learn little to nothing, despite the heroic efforts of the teacher.

    Think about it: Ivy League colleges and high-performing European school systems all have teacher unions and tenure. Unions are not always helpful, but they’re not the critical variable. They’re just an easy scapegoat for people who don’t really understand the situation.

  21. No, there are other factors important in the decline of Detroit but the effect of unions is right up there near the top since they create a political constituency that creates political pressure in favor of the sorts of factors that shield the car companies from competition. Similarly, while teacher’s unions while not the underlying cause of the decline of American education are right up there on the culpability rankings and for exactly the same reason – they help create political forces resulting in the decline.

    The ultimate reason for the decline’s the same though: monopoly.

    The car companies had a de facto monopoly on the American car market and the public education system has a de facto monopoly on the education of America’s kids. Monopolies always lead to the abuse of the customer because the customer’s powerless to resist the abuse with the only weapon at the disposal of the customer, our patronage. Unions lucky enough to be in the right position are happy to participate in that abuse and so contribute materially too it.

    But don’t worry Ponderosa, the unions are safe. At least they’re safe from direct action of any type.

    They won’t be broken up or outlawed. The union leadership won’t be hunted down by torch-bearing mobs or federal prosecutors. But like the car companies, the public education system has created the forces that are driving it towards destruction. Like the car companies, the public education system will, ironically, predictably, look to the power of government to protect it from the results of its own excesses. Won’t work though and that’s predictable as well.

  22. Mrs. Davis says:

    Unions are a sign of rot in an industry. They are neither necessary nor, in and of themselves, sufficient. But where they appear, an industry ultimately withers. That end might already have been cast, but the appearance of unions assures it. That is why the number of unionized workers in the non-governmental economy has been steadily declining for decades.

    Unions have little to do with their members, as EdWonk clearly demonstrated. There are good teachers and bad teachers. Good teachers become bad teachers and occasionally bad teachers improve. But it has little to do with the union. The union is just a protection racket that takes advantage of a difficult economic situation to enforce an order. Ultimately this power is misused to the detriment of all. So it has been with education. So it will be with all government unions.

  23. Andy Freeman says:

    > There are brilliant, maniacally hard-working teachers at my school whose students are so rude, inattentive and blase that they learn little to nothing, despite the heroic efforts of the teacher.

    You miss the point.

    If those students are going to fail no matter what we do, that “brilliant, maniacally hard-working teacher” is wasted on them. That teacher should be teaching folks who would benefit.

    I believe that we shouldn’t put teachers in no-win situations. This is an important part of what leads status quo defenders to call me “a doctrinaire opponent of public education.”

  24. Margo/Mom says:

    Andy:

    And yet–there will doubtless be elements who would show up at the door asking for the same funding to teach those students that have been determined to be unteachable. There have certainly been charters founded on such “niche” markets. I can’t in good conscience join in with a lot of the union-bashing that has gone on here–mostly it’s just scapegoating for problems we acknowledge but don’t want to deal with. But the union response to charters (legislate them out of existence) overlooks the fact that some have shown success with the very populations that have frequently been labelled unteachable.

  25. This is an interesting philosophical discussion, but it side-steps the most important issue — the relationship between strong teacher unions and the academic success of our children. Does anyone know if this has been studied, and if so, if there is any correlation?

  26. Ponderosa says:

    Allen,

    I simply do not understand your certainty that monopolies are invariably bad. Standard Oil: bad. The postal service: not so bad. The government’s monopoly on violence (through police and military): I’d rather have that than Somalia’s chaos.
    It seems to me your fundamentalist faith in this doctrine is blinding you to empirical facts. There are very good MONOPOLISTIC public ed systems in other countries.

    Mrs. Davis,
    Unions helped create the middle class. Without unions (or other non-market interventions), Ricardo’s Iron Law of Wages applies: wages will sink to the subsistence level. We’ll be back in Dickens’ England where there’s a handful of plutocrats, a handful of middle class folks (the Scrooges –small business owners), and a vast mass of miserable workers. The fact that some heavily-unionized industries have declined has a whole lot to do with opening up trade with low-wage countries and bad management. UAW workers are extremely productive (and not paid nearly as much as Rush Limbaugh lets on); it’s management AND the global economic collapse that has driven those companies to the brink.

    And the main reason union membership has been declining is decades of Republican and quasi-Republican (DLC, Clinton) rule, wherein government has helped Big Business (e.g. Walmart) stifle organizing and create trade policy (e.g. NAFTA) that puts unionized industries in peril. The anti-union campaign is very sophisticated and well-funded. Corporate SWAT teams fly in on corporate jets when there’s the slightest whiff of an organizing movement starting.

  27. The postal service: not so bad.

    UPS, FedEx, and DHL: Better.

    Ricardo’s Iron Law of Wages applies: wages will sink to the subsistence level.

    Please look at, well, most sectors of the economy where workers do just fine looking out of themselves. How about those Toyota employees making subsistence wages while the *evil corporation* pulls in big profits? Oh, wait, that doesn’t exist. Toyota employees are still well-paid, but are treated like professionals instead of children with stultifying work rules.

    Most people today see what unions are and want no part of them. It’s freedom of choice. But, since you can’t accept that people would choose differently than you think they should, it suddenly becomes the big, bad Republicans who are to blame.

    Truth is, labor laws give an advantage to unions who want to organize, but they kept getting smacked down in fair, secret elections. You wouldn’t happen to be in favor of eliminating those in favor of open card checks, would you?

  28. Miller Smith says:

    How about giving teachers the legal rights and responsibilities of other professionals? A parent should be allowed to sue us and we defend ourselves in courts of law so that the facts of the case can be heard and a determination of responsibility made. This would clear up lots of problems.

    A teacher who sat on their ass would be dead meat in court. A parent with a kid who didn’t do their homework would be dead meat as well. Let damages go both ways with the loser paying all costs.

    Teachers would be like other professionals with the right to determine if a child is allowed to be in their class and the right to fire students. Parents would have to apply for entry into classes for their children. Teachers would have to provide a list of services, rights and responsibilities.

    Making teacher true professionals in EVERY sense would clear up the quality problem very quickly. No need for a union. In fact, a union would be pointless.

    The present school system would voucher the full price of each child and the teache would get all of the money form which they would pay the cost of the room and utilities and all supplies and then their salary. No need for a principal or admin-just security. A teacher could deny entrance and could throw a student out with a pro-rated refund to the parent. Any problems the parent takesthe teache to court for a review of the facts.

    Andy, this is how a profession works. Presently we have no public school professionals at all. We do not control the conditions of our employment.

    The school system put children in my Honors Chemistry classes this year who can’t add without a calculator-I kid you not. Those kids are all failing with 12% to 30% averages. Who’s fault is that Andy?

  29. Miller Smith –

    Making teacher true professionals in EVERY sense would clear up the quality problem very quickly.

    Yes.

  30. How about giving teachers the legal rights and responsibilities of other professionals? A parent should be allowed to sue us and we defend ourselves in courts of law so that the facts of the case can be heard and a determination of responsibility made. This would clear up lots of problems.

    Particularly if the parent was allowed to introduce evidence about the state of the art in education research, which is that schools (not just individual teachers) can improve their results drastically by changing how they teach kids, even without changing the kids’ parents or personality.

    A teacher who sat on their ass would be dead meat in court.

    As would a teacher who ignored the best evidence on teaching methods. What do you think of the evidence in the link I supplied about Project Followthrough and Direct Instruction?

    The school system put children in my Honors Chemistry classes this year who can’t add without a calculator-I kid you not. Those kids are all failing with 12% to 30% averages. Who’s fault is that Andy?

    What are you arguing here, Miller? The problem here seems to be the school system that let students get through multiple years of schooling unable to even master addition. It seems rather odd and unscientific to assume in that case that the problem must be with the students. (I assume that your Honors Chemistry class is not aimed at first graders).

    Also, Miller, you haven’t answered my question from earlier. Given your skepticism about tests, how do you assign grades in your classes?

  31. Tracy: I imagine he grades like the rest of us: over the course of an entire semester based on multiple types of assessments — not one test. Can you be such an expert on Direct Instruction and know so very little about formative and summative assessment?

  32. Large numbers of nurses are employed by hospitals or large clinic systems, but accountability is built into the profession. The science-heavy curriculum weeds out unprepared/lazy students within the first two years and the next two years of clinical material/practice weeds out another chunk. Then there’s the licensing exam, which actually means something (unlike the typical teachers’ exam).

    In many areas, nurses are expected to have further certification (content-based exams), such as critical care, emergency and advanced practice in any field. Some jobs require such certification and some require a Master’s degree, but a nurse with a Master’s or certification does not get paid for having it unless she/he is in a job that requires it (again, unlike teaching – think a kindergarten teacher being paid as if she had a doctorate because she has x credits above a Master’s – a total waste of money).

    Even after licensure, nurses must meet standards of practice or they risk losing not just their job, but their license. I know those who have done both. ALSO, their hours are worse than teachers’ (nights,weekends,holidays/12 months a year etc)and they routinely deal with difficult/uncooperative/unmotivated patients/difficult families etc.

  33. Margo/Mom says:

    “Please Andy, how would you determine ‘how much they learned?’ Same for ‘would have learned otherwise?’

    Do you know of any metric that measures such things? I don’t, And Andy, tests do not do any of those things.”

    A pre-test/post-test design with a control group would generally be considered an adequate way of measuring such things. Granted, this would be a cumbersome way to evaluate teachers. It ought to help teaching professionals select teaching methods with a likelihood of success.

    And, as Lightly Seasoned suggests, we don’t have to rely on single assessments to give an indication of teacher effectiveness. A teacher for whom a preponderance of students fail to perform, particularly if this pattern repeats over multiple years, should be flagged for more in-depth examination (just as a hospital or health insurance company would do for a doctor whose patients were dying in excess of expectations), and possible assistance. The same should be true for schools in which poor student performance is rampant as indicated by assessments over time.

    An automobile plant that was repeatedly turning out lemons (and it happens–remember the data that advised to try to get a car manufactured in the middle of the week rather than Monday or Friday?) would certainly launch an audit of what workers were doing and attempt reform or replacement–whichever was most feasible.

  34. Mrs. Davis says:

    Funny how you find bad management in industries with unions. Note I never said that unions were the only or even primary reason for the destruction of an industry. Only that they were the common denominator. What is a wonder is how any employee at Microsoft can eek out a living suffering under Ricardo’s Iron Law in the absence of a union.

    The real trick, Ponderosa, would be to name an industry that has thrived in a free market with unions.

  35. Lightly Seasoned, I may know very little about formative and summative assessment, but you have underestimated what I do know. It is not safe to note that someone has not mentioned something in a blog comment, and therefore deduce that they don’t know anything about it. After all, you yourself did not mention in your comment anything about arithmetic, it would however be wrong for me to conclude that you don’t know what 2+2 equals.

    In the context of what I was responding to, I didn’t notice Miller making any distinction between formative and summative assessments, which is why I didn’t bother mentioning it in my comment. To quote Miller again:

    Please Andy, how would you determine “how much they learned?” Same for “would have learned otherwise?”
    Do you know of any metric that measures such things? I don’t, And Andy, tests do not do any of those things.

    I read Miller here as saying that tests don’t measure how much students learned. If Miller is right, and tests does not measure how much students learned, then how could multiple types of assessments tell us anything?

    It occurs to me that you and/or Miller might believe that the word “tests” only refers to pencil-and-paper multi-choice tests. I read the word “tests” as refering to something like “A series of questions, problems, or physical responses designed to determine knowledge, intelligence or ability”. (definition 2 from http://www.answers.com/test). However, I do doubt that Miller merely meant to refer to pencil-and-paper multi-choice tests, given that Miller states that no metric measures those things, not merely no multi-choice test.

    One thing that formative and summative assessments share is that they do seek to measure a students’ knowledge or ability. What differs between them is the use that is made of that assessment – formative assessments are used to adapt teaching to meet the learners’ needs, “summative assessment” merely assesses how much was learned. In both cases, a metric is needed.

    Unless of course by multiple type of assessments you mean marking students not on the basis of demonstrated knowledge or ability, but on the basis of how you feel about the student, or rolling a dice to determine the grade. If that’s true, then I think we can safely blame the student’s grades on the teacher.

    And I will just state explicitly that in making this comment, I have not attempted to cover every single thing I know about testing. For example, I have not discussed the role of cultural bias in intelligence testing or methods for determining the validity of a test, or the relability of a test. Indeed, my mere failure to list a topic related to testing should not be taking as proof of a lack of knowledge, it may be only due to a subconscious assessment of declining marginal returns to typing out all the things I know about. Equally I have not attempted to cover every single thing I know about things other than testing.

  36. Margo/Mom says:

    Ms. Davis:

    I think that in order to subtract the influence of unions, one would have to look for an entirely non-unionized workforce and marketplace. I have personally never belonged to a union, however I receive many benefits at the hands of union activity. In several instances my salary was set based on the union negotiated wage of others doing similar work within my organization–or to be in proportion to others doing dissimilar work under union contract.

    The eight hour day and five day week were not arrived at through the beneficence and wisdom of managers and owners, but through the action of organized workers.

  37. I have a very good salary and excellent benefits due to the teacher’s union. I am very thankful for what they have done for me.

  38. Miller Smith says:

    Tests. What do they prove? They prove only performance at a moment in time. Anyone here who has taught knows exactly what I mean.

    I observed a new teacher giving a chemistry lesson on making formulas from ions. The lesson was wonderful. She then gave the kids an exit quiz that they all-every single one-made 100% on. The kids were proud and the teacher was proud. As they left the teacher said,” It’s wonderful to see kids learning.” I said, “Sorry hon, but only a few have learned this lesson.” “Huh? But they did so well on the quiz!” “I’ll show you next class,” I said.

    The next class (two days later with our wonderful A Day B day schedule) I started the class with a quiz on the same content in the same format. With the exception of little Jeni, not a score was above 50%. Lots of blinking on the part of both kids and the teacher.

    “What happened?” she said, very upset. The kids were very upset as well. I asked the kids, “Why didn’t you study?” In unison they exclaimed, “But we already learned it!” I held up the test strips, “No you didn’t.”

    Now just who is responsible for the lack of learning here? It sure as Hades isn’t the teacher for danged sure and every one of you know it. This little example highlights the point that teachers are howling about being held professionally liable for student scores on tests. I can tell you that that new teacher did her job very well yet several of you here would still hang her for the lower scores. Thus the unfair nature of the attacks on teachers.

    Every year past my 5th year teaching I do stuff like the above with all classes at every objective point just to have ammo with parents and admin when they want a meeting about little Jane failing my class or even failing the quarter benchmark tests. I get very radical at these meetings (very rare now due to my rep) and put those scores right under the complainant’s nose and say very clearly and with a hint of anger, “I did my job. Your child is not doing their job. I deeply resent that you would try and make this my fault and you will stop trying to make it my fault right now. Period.”

    With teacher accountability and high stakes testing you will get that kind of confrontation. I welcome them. If a teacher is not doing their job as determined by observations then throw their butts out. But when you see-as is so often the case especially in urban areas-good teacher doing a good job and the students fail the graduation tests, the teachers are the ones who catch hell. Well I’m here to tell you that you’re going to knock it off.

    Make us full professionals with parents having the right to sue for educational malpractice. That will shut mouths in all directions. A teacher showing up in court with a record of no homework by the kid, poor benchmark performance, and a record of end of objective understanding documented, the court will thrown that parent out on their butts. And all without the need of a union.

    But for some reason some of you here not only want no union, you want no professionals as well. You want us to have no protection and no professional powers as well. Those of you like that are very bad people down to the very core of your being. You won’t let us fire students. You won’t let us set the entrance requirements to our classes. You make us take whatever we are handed and demand perfection for each student as an output. Such an attitude borders of evil and at the very least dishonest.

    We are now sitting on the fence. If you want keep teachers professionally powerless, then we will have a union that bucks you every breath you take. If you want the union gone, then we get professional powers. One or the other. Make up your mind.

  39. Miller –

    Just want to let you know someone does agree with you. I started out in college all gung-ho to be a teacher, until I saw it from the inside. After that, I decided I’d rather be in a profession, any profession, where I had some control over my own fate. One unfinished BA and several jobs later, I’m working in software development where I am treated like a professional and get the chance to be accountable for, and credited with, results.

    I’d still love to go into teaching because I love doing it, and still occasionally give private music lessons. However, I wouldn’t go back unless I was treated with the same professional courtesy I’ve become accustomed to. Give me a job to do, the flexibility and trust to do it right, and then pay me according to the value I brought to the job. Until that day comes, it ain’t happening.

  40. Mrs. Davis says:

    dkzody:

    Do you describe your shop steward as the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life?

    Margot,

    The eight hour day and five day week were not arrived at through the beneficence and wisdom of managers and owners…

    I remain as impressed as ever at your ability to utterly demolish straw men, however poorly constructed. I don’t recall reading about the beneficence of managers and owners in any of the comments. I believe, however, most commenters understand that managers and owners should be motivated by something called the profit motive. You might want to read Adam Smith’s An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations to familiarize yourself with this concept.

    Workers for hundreds of years have been obtaining eight hour days from their employers without the help of Wagner Act Unions. And in spite of the Fair Labor Standards Act there are still people right here in these United States working ten hour days, six days a week and not getting overtime. They are called illegal immigrants. What people can negotiate is a function of their economic strength. If the demand for labor were higher the working conditions would improve. When the demand for labor falls, the working conditions deteriorate.

    We are about to see the deterioration part. It’s called a recession. Laws may be passed by politicians, but they don’t change the economic reality that demand for labor, like demand for everything else, has fallen. And if the price of labor doesn’t fall directly, it will fall indirectly. That’s why employer matches for 401(k)s are falling like a rock. Likewise, when demand for labor rises, even if the wage is controlled, it will rise indirectly. And that’s why your health insurance comes from your employer. Stupid laws to fool stupid people.

  41. The problem for the most part is not teachers. (Yes there are bad teachers, we all know of some, but there aren’t as many as most people think) The problem really is with the students and parents. I’m not trying to use this as an excuse, I will defend my teaching on its merits any day.

    Learning/knowledge is just not important to these kids and ignorance is perfectly acceptable. There are a myriad of causes. Pop culture celebrates ignorance and the thug culture. Parents who don’t care, or are too busy to monitor. A complete lack of consequences for failure. (my school has not met it’s AYP goals in four years and yet has not retained a single student in that time…go figure). Their elementary curriculum. (My kids who have come staight from elementary school have never seen a Social Studies book, and the ones who were with us in sixth grade saw it last year for the first time.) Ten students have been pulled out of school so far for extended vacations in Mexico and missed anywhere from one to three weeks. (Three weeks is 15 school days out of a school year that is only 180 days long)

    Two of my classes are AVID classes. These are kids who have self selected themselves as wanting to go to college and made a commitment to prepare to do so. I get less than half the homework turned in in these classes.

    The only class in which most of the work is completed, most of the students are learning, and frankly is any fun to teach, is the gifted class. These kids aren’t really any smarter. The difference is that these kids’ parents are involved. They check on their kids. They call me and the school. They monitor the learning and the teaching. They enforce consequences for failure and lack of effort.

  42. It seems to me there are other jobs where the person providing a service is not held accountable for all the results. At the moment I’m thinking of personal trainers, as its that time of year. If a client doesn’t show up for appointments or doesn’t follow through on diet and any additional exercise required, most people would have no problem saying which party was at fault. Given my experience with the school system, it doesn’t bother me much when I hear teachers shifting some of the responsibility for some number of failures to parents and students.

    The core complaint seems to be that an individual can’t decide to stop using or paying for public education, for whatever reason. It sure would be ironic if given the choice, people treated education like gym memberships. Paying for education long after they stopped showing up to school. This is partly why I’m not convinced vouchers that have to be used on education would change much. And since I still support making funding available for people to attend school I’d like to see vouchers that aren’t targeted at education alone (this is meant as a general idea as I’m not fixed on a given implementation ).

  43. Tests. What do they prove? They prove only performance at a moment in time.

    And antibiotics only work against bacterial infections. That’s hardly a reason to throw out antibiotics. Yes, tests only prove performance at a moment in time. However, that’s better than never proving performance. And, if you test kids on the same skill at a variety of moments in time, and they perform about as well each time, that’s a reasonable basis for assuming that they know the material in a long-lasting way. Miller, again, I ask you, how do you assess grades in your classroom, given that you don’t like tests?

    As for forgetting material, the Direct Instruction curriculum I linked to includes regular revision of the material taught. Here is an example of a Direct Instruction lesson in maths: http://www.specialconnections.ku.edu/~specconn/page/instruction/di/pdf/math_sample_lesson_a.pdf
    The lesson starts by practice in adding and subtracting 10, material that was learnt in a past lesson. It then moves on to introducing new material, in this case units of weight. The lesson then, in exercise 3, moves back to practising writing out column problems (lining up numbers for mathematics).

    Kids may be morally responsible for studying the material. But often, despite this moral responsibilty, they don’t. Schools (not just teachers) can improve memorisation by including revision of past-taught material in their lessons. So in the case you give, the teacher could teach in one lesson making formulaes from ions, and then for the next few subsequent lessons include quick revisions of making formulaes from ions. Now, schools may not be morally responsible for doing this, but still schools that do take on this responsibility have better results, as far as I can tell, than schools who just place all the blame on students.

    (And note this is an issue far wider than just teachers. Schools need to set up lessons so that teachers have frequent contact with their students, enough to allow for this memorisation process to take place. Politicans have to refrain from writing curriculae that cover more material in a year than anyone knows how to teach.)

    A teacher showing up in court with a record of no homework by the kid, poor benchmark performance, and a record of end of objective understanding documented, the court will thrown that parent out on their butts.

    Or they’ll be asking the school some bloody hard questions about their teaching practices. Some schools teach kids effectively even though the kids don’t do homework. I expect every other school to study those schools. Just because you’re not to blame for something doesn’t mean you can’t play a role in fixing it.

  44. Ponderosa,

    Standard Oil bad? Why Standard Oil substantially cut the price, simultaneously improving the quality, of various important, consumer products. How could you possibly consider it bad? Standard Oil materially raised the standard of living of Americans by producing better products at lower cost then it’s competitors.

    You do understand that Standard Oil enjoyed commercial success not because John D. Rockefeller sold his soul to the devil but because he sold better products at lower prices then his competitors, right? He would’ve gone right on selling better products at lower costs then his competitors if they’d been fast enough and smart enough to survive the changes Rockefeller brought about in the petroleum industry.

    Once Rockefeller’s competitors were gone though what reason did Rockefeller have to continue produce good products at good prices? Not that that was the reason for the anti-trust laws that were enacted but absent the products of competitors what reason would Rockefeller have had to maintain low prices and high quality? Nobility of spirit? Generosity? That’s a function of the individual and some folks just don’t have a lot of the milk of human kindness flowing through their veins and a lot of folks are capable of producing rationalizations for grabbing all they can from those helpless to resist.

    That’s the problem with monopolies; definitionally, they put a premium on some of the worst aspects of human behaviour while removing impediments to the expression of those characteristics.

    As for your “good” monopolies, you ought to take a closer look.

    The postal service has always been hemmed in by competitors anxious to take a piece out of their business yet that hasn’t kept the postal service from engaging in abusive pricing practices. Is 42 cents a fair price to haul an ounce of paper from the East Coast to the West Coast? How about from the east side of town to the west side of town?

    Similarly, AT&T’s “good” monopoly wasn’t anywhere near the bargain it appeared to be to its retail customers because the abusive prices they charged their business customers didn’t show up the phone bills of those retail customers. The abusive business, and especially business long-distance, pricing showed up in every other bill the customer paid but the illusion of a bargain allowed AT&T to continue its predatory business practices for decades.

    Still feeling good about “good” monopolies?

    With regard to government’s monopoly on violence, unsurprisingly, you’ve got it wrong again.

    The government in which you repose such confidence was obviously not viewed that way by the people who founded it. If you look past your complacency and rationalizations you’ll see that the people who designed our form of government bound it to the will of the people and did so with a fine eye for detail. They understood, far better then you quite clearly, that the worst monopoly was the monopoly on violence and that, stripped of all pomp and circumstance, is all that government really is.

    Somalia’s problems spring not from a lack of government, there being no end of Somalis willing I’m quite sure to be the first of their dynastic line, but from competition among its erstwhile rulers to establish a monopoly on violence, a surfeit of government. Democracies, including the United States, do exactly the same thing but we’ve managed the trick without resort to quite as much violence. We call our competitions for power “elections”.

    Oh, and my “fundamentalist faith” in competition doesn’t blind me to anything.

    There’s nothing in my view of monopolies that precludes a good king, a kindly John D. Rockefeller or an excellent public school filled with excellent teachers. That’s just not the way the smart money bets.

  45. Mrs. Davis says:

    Outstanding, Allen. The only thing I would add is that one of the fine details the founders included was the second amendment. With it, there is no government monopoly on violence, as Jefferson explicitly stated.

  46. Margo/Mom says:

    Ms. Davis said: “I remain as impressed as ever at your ability to utterly demolish straw men, however poorly constructed. I don’t recall reading about the beneficence of managers and owners in any of the comments.”

    I am not sure what straw man you thought I was aiming at. I was responding to your statement implying a causal relationship between bad management and industries with unions–as follows:

    “Funny how you find bad management in industries with unions. Note I never said that unions were the only or even primary reason for the destruction of an industry. Only that they were the common denominator. What is a wonder is how any employee at Microsoft can eek out a living suffering under Ricardo’s Iron Law in the absence of a union.”

    Your additional comment about the impact (or not) of Ricardo’s law on employees at Microsoft indicates that each industry, in your mind, operates in isolation from all other industries within the same marketplace. I would argue (and I cannot imagine that even Adam Smith would disagree) that within the marketplace there is far more interdependence. A non-union industry must compete for workers with those industries where unions are prevalent. If workers have the option of working a forty hour week at ten dollars an hour, or a fifty hour week at eight dollars an hour, which industry is going to have the easier time picking off the best workers?

    BTW–I have never before encountered anyone who argued that the eight hour day was unrelated to labor organizing. Many countries celebrate May 1 and the Haymarket demonstration for this reason.

    Ms. Davis–it is clear that you and I have many disagreements, however, I am not certain that our disagreements must lead in the direction of incivility. Several of your recent comments have seemed to me to go beyond those regarding facts, logic and even philosophy or belief and over into personal suggestions of intellectual inadequacy. I sincerely hope that you do not read any of my comments in that way.

  47. I would argue (and I cannot imagine that even Adam Smith would disagree) that within the marketplace there is far more interdependence. A non-union industry must compete for workers with those industries where unions are prevalent.

    The odd thing with teachers unions is that even as they drive up costs they’re really not all that effective in securing good pay for teachers relative to other industries. What other industry has the kind of deal public school teachers do? One’s pay depends on seniority and number of academic degrees, is completely decoupled from performance, is automatically if you decide to switch employers, and is not competitive with similarly skilled professions. Geez, with friends like the unions, teachers really don’t need enemies.

  48. …is automatically CUT if one decides to switch…

    (I will preview next time, I promise!)

  49. Mrs. Lopez says:

    Miller Smith, your posts were music to my ears.

  50. Ponderosa says:

    On the issue of unions, here’s where I think the right-wingers get it wrong: competition can motivate workers to do good work, but it’s not the ONLY thing that can motivate workers to do good work. Personally, as a tenured teacher, I’m not worried about losing my job because I perform worse than my next-door teacher, or because our school is threatened with competition from other schools. Nevertheless I work pretty darn hard. In fact, it’s hard to imagine I’d work much harder if I were in a more competitive situation. What motivates me to work hard is personal pride, the expectant eyes of my students and their parents, the expectations of my colleagues and principals, etc. Right-wingers fetishize competition and assume that wherever it’s absent, incompetence and inefficiency will prevail. The picture is more complicated than that. I doubt the workers at a non-union Honda plant work much harder or better than the workers at a GM plant. And from my 12 years’ experience in education, I’ve seen little evidence that teachers at private schools work much harder or better than teachers at public schools. Perhaps the unionized teachers a little less anxious –but is that such a horrible thing?

  51. Personally, as a tenured teacher, I’m not worried about losing my job because I perform worse than my next-door teacher, or because our school is threatened with competition from other schools. Nevertheless I work pretty darn hard. In fact, it’s hard to imagine I’d work much harder if I were in a more competitive situation. What motivates me to work hard is personal pride, the expectant eyes of my students and their parents, the expectations of my colleagues and principals, etc.

    Why assume what motivates you motivates everyone else? Perhaps people are different, and perhaps some or most of them do work less hard when they’re complacent. People are diverse, or so the left keeps telling us.

    Also, where’s this great deal the teacher’s unions have secured for their members? In private industry, any employer who offered a pay system as poor as that secured by teacher’s unions for their members would go under because they’d fail to attract qualified workers. If any professional was moving from one company to another in the same field with decades of experience but was only offered fresh-out-of-college pay, he’d laugh at the offer. Yet teachers have to put up with that all the time thanks to their unions.

    I doubt the workers at a non-union Honda plant work much harder or better than the workers at a GM plant.

    GM plant workers aren’t given the chance to work as hard as their non-union counterparts at Toyota and Honda. In the UAW shops, workers are categorized by the specific task they perform, and due to work rules fought for by the union cannot perform any other task. At the Toyota plant, all line workers have the same job description and are trained in many aspects of assembling a car.
    Given the choice, I’d take the Toyota plant any day of the week.

  52. Ponderosa, I can easily believe that you work very hard. What I am doubtful about is whether everyone in the education sector works effectively. Teachers themselves tell many stories of education sector ineffectiveness. From this thread alone, Lightly Seasoned mentions an administrator, an ex English teacher, who didn’t know the proper use of who/whom. You yourself mentioned schools that follow “ed claptrap, use the same watered-down curricula and crappy commercial textbooks, and are led by the same confused administrators and state ed leaders”, Miller Smith mentioned a school system that puts children in Honors Chemistry who can’t add without a calculator (and I assume Miller’s not teaching Honors Chemistry to first graders), and also a new teacher who apparently was never taught in teachers’ training that kids forget things if they don’t revise.

    This list is merely from this thread, and ignoring second-hand reports about what some poster’s wife has experienced (I didn’t mention them because there was plenty of material already). There are numerous reports over the edu-blogsphere of bad practices by school administrations. Now people always make mistakes, but if Miller Smith is regularly getting students in Honors Chemistry that can’t add without a calculator that indicates a systematic problem.

    Furthermore, much of the education sector is apparently totally happy to ignore the results of large scale studies into what works, like Project Followthrough – for example Miller Smith has totally ignored my references to material that indicates that kids can learn even without not doing homework. This is the sign of an industry that isn’t working effectively and isn’t interested in working effectively. Individual teachers may be working extremely hard, but there’s very few systems to support them. I mean, you get a new teacher who doesn’t know that kids forget stuff?! What on earth was she taught at ed school? This is like churning out new doctors who don’t know that wounds sometimes get infected!

  53. Ponderosa says:

    Tracy,

    I agree that public education is dysfunctional is many ways. My only point was that I don’t see how unions are the major cause of that dysfunction.

  54. Sorry Ponderosa for misreading you. I thought you were making a more general argument that competition in education was unnecessary because you were already working hard.

  55. Charles R. Williams says:

    Teacher unions drive up costs and shift the balance of power away from administrators, many of whom are incompetent and arbitrary. It is hard to say how this affects the quality of education one way or another. My wife is a phenomenal teacher. She has little use for teacher unions but she knows what administrators are capable of doing to innocent teachers. Unions protect the innocent. Unfortunately, they also protect the guilty and the mediocre.

    As long as the public school monopoly exists, teacher unions are a necessary evil.

    Empowering the parents who care about the quality of their children’s education is the only way to keep both teachers and administrators accountable.

  56. Andy Freeman says:

    > The eight hour day and five day week were not arrived at through the beneficence and wisdom of managers and owners, but through the action of organized workers.

    In the US at least, they became federal law during the 30s because FDR was trying to reduce production. They were upheld in cases involving “big bread” trying to shut down small bakers.

    I’ve no objection to whatever working conditions a given biz chooses. However, I see no reason why one biz’ decisions should be binding on another.

  57. Andy Freeman says:

    > I doubt the workers at a non-union Honda plant work much harder or better than the workers at a GM plant.

    “harder or better” misses the point. As a car buyer, I don’t care about “harder or better” wrt the workers. I care about car quality and price.

    It’s also false.

    Here’s what the UAW defends (http://www.regularfolksunited.com/index.php?tab=article_view&article_id=561)

    “For instance, I had an employee who punched in his time card and then disappeared. The rules were such that I had to spend hours documenting that this man was not in his three foot by three foot work area. I needed witnesses, timed reports, calls over the intercom and a plant wide search all documented in detail. After this absurdity I decided to go my own route; I called the corner bar and paged him and he came to the phone. I gave him a 30 day unpaid disciplinary lay off because he was a “repeat offender”. When he returned he thanked me for the PAID vacation. I scoffed, until he explained: (1) He had tried to get the lay off because it was fishing season; (2) The UAW negotiated with GM Labor Relations Department to give him the time WITH PAY.”

    I supervised a loading dock and 21 UAW workers who worked approximately five hours per day for eight hours pay. They could easily load one third more rail cars and still maintain their union negotiated break times, but when I tried to make them increase production ever so slightly they sabotaged my ability to make even the current production levels by hiding stock, calling in sick, feigning equipment problems, and even once, as a show of force, used a fork lift truck and pallets and racks to create a car part prison where they trapped me while I was conducting inventory. The reaction of upper management to my request to boost production was that I should “not be naïve”.

    One afternoon I was helping oversee the plant while upper management was off site. The workers brought an RV into the loading yard with a female “entertainer” who danced for them and then “entertained” them in the RV. With no other management around, I went to Labor Relations for assistance. As a twenty five year old woman, I was not about to try to break up a crowd of fifty rowdy men. The Labor Relations Rep pulled out the work rules and asked me which of the rules the men were breaking. I read through the rules and none applied directly of course. Who wrote work rules to cover prostitutes at lunch? The only “legal” cause I had was an unauthorized vehicle and person and that blame did not fall on the union workers who were being “entertained” but on the security guards at the gate. Not one person suffered any consequence.

    Another employee in the plant urinated on the feet of his supervisor as a protest to discipline. He was, of course, fired…that is until the union negotiated and got his job back.”

    It’s easy to find stories like this about union workers.

  58. Andy Freeman says:

    I applaud Miller Smith’s demand for teacher professionalism with two caveats.

    (1) It isn’t the public who has set up the current system, it is teachers, via political advocacy. The public has gone along for the ride.

    (2) As Smith points out, some kids can’t be educated by even the best teachers. Smith seems to think that we should nonethless pay to try. I disagree.

  59. Andy Freeman says:

    > BTW–I have never before encountered anyone who argued that the eight hour day was unrelated to labor organizing. Many countries celebrate May 1 and the Haymarket demonstration for this reason.

    Huh? http://www.kentlaw.edu/ilhs/haymarket.htm says “When police ordered the protest meeting to disperse (peaceful though it was), a bomb was thrown toward the police by an unknown person. The police responded by firing at the crowd. This became known as the “Haymarket Riot,” now more properly named the Haymarket Tragedy. The 8-Hour Day Movement was destroyed in the nation-wide hysteria which followed.”

    The existence of “labor day” holidays doesn’t prove anything about what unions did. Claiming credit is standard PR for every kind of organization. (Roosters claim credit for the dawn.)

    BTW – What countries celebrate the Haymarket incident? (And, who got to May 1 first, the trade unions or the communists? They’re not always the same, even though the latter often try to co-opt the former.)

  60. Margo/Mom says:

    Andy:

    The following is excerpted from InfoPlease:

    Labor Day
    In many countries, May Day is also Labor Day. This originates with the United States labor movement in the late 19th Century. On May 1, 1886, unions across the country went on strike, demanding that the standard workday be shortened to eight hours. The organizers of these strikes included socialists, anarchists, and others in organized labor movements. Rioting in Chicago’s Haymarket Square on May 4th including a bomb thrown by an anarchist led to the deaths of a dozen people (including several police officers) and the injury of over 100 more.

    The protests were not immediately successful, but they proved effective down the line, as eight-hour work days eventually did become the norm. Labor leaders, socialists, and anarchists around the world took the American strikes and their fallout as a rallying point, choosing May Day as a day for demonstrations, parades, and speeches. It was a major state holiday in the Soviet Union and other communist countries.

    Labor Day is still celebrated on May 1 in countries around the world, and it is still often a day for protests and rallies. In recent years, these have often been targeted against globalization.

  61. Andy Freeman says:

    http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h750.html

    “The Haymarket Riot was a signal event in the early history of American labor. It was largely responsible for DELAYING acceptance of the eight-hour day, as workers deserted the K.O.L. and moved toward the more moderate American Federation of Labor. For many years the police at Haymarket Square were regarded as martyrs and the workers as violent anarchists; that view moderated to a large extent in later times.”

    emphasis added

  62. Margo/Mom says:

    Andy–the point was that it was the work of organized labor, not that it was achieved by the Haymarket riot. That day is nonetheless memorialized as labor day in many countries. Unless I am mistake the American Federation of Labor is another instance of organized labor.

  63. Andy Freeman says:

    > Andy–the point was that it was the work of organized labor, not that it was achieved by the Haymarket riot.

    Actually, several claims have been made.

    One was that the Haymarket Riot was a labor success. It pretty clearly wasn’t. (The AFL was a huge pull-back from the Knights of Labor.)

    Another was that the 8 hour day came about only because of organized labor. The statutes may be due to organized labor, but lots of folks got an 8 hour day before then.

    A third claim was that unions made things better for an industry. We’re still waiting for an example. Does anyone want to argue that the auto and steel industries were helped by unions?