Et tu, Antonio?

Via, we discover that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — a Progressive’s Progressive if ever Southern California had one — has finally caved:

Antonio Villaraigosa, once a labor organizer in Los Angeles and beloved by his union supporters who backed him in his elections to the State Assembly and his current mayoral office, is one of a growing number of Democratic mayors who have switched positions regarding unions in education. The Los Angeles Mayor describes the teachers union as an ‘unwavering roadblock’ to the improvement of public education in the city.

My personal suspicion is that these Democrat mayors know that the unions are essentially ideological hostages: they have nowhere else to go.  What are they going to do with their political warchests, throw in behind a conservative?  That’s the cost of putting yourself out on the political extreme in a two-party system: you sometimes just have to take it and like it.

It’s interesting (if that’s not too vague a word) to see the prise de fere going on in the political rhetoric, too:

The unions, already feeling under assault from Republican strongholds pushing through reform legislation and neutering tenure wherever possible, are unhappy at what they see as the betrayal of Democrat’s supporting the reformists in their battle, but the reformers will claim that they’re not fighting against the unions per se, but are fighting for the children being failed by the current system.

It’s always for the children, isn’t it?


  1. Ponderosa says:

    Unions (and the teachers they protect) are not what ails LA schools. Deep dysfunction in LA’s black and latino communities is what ails LA schools. Behind every “failing school” there is a failing community It does not surprise me that Villaraigosa has chosen not to come to this conclusion. Bashing unions allows him to show that he’s doing SOMETHING while remaining politically correct. Alas, it will hurt innocent teachers and do little if anything to help LA’s ailing communities. Bad leadership.

    • You think that’s bad, some parent activists in Detroit are proposing to jail teachers and administrators if scores don’t improve.

      The problem is that those kids are unruly, defiant, cultured to view academic achievement as “acting white”, or just plain retarded.  There is no way to drill holes in their skulls, insert a funnel and pour learning in.  Learning is an act on the side of the student, and those who are able are still conditioned to refuse to do it.

      • Ponderosa says:

        Well said.

        • You two are both exactly right. And Engineer-Poet, that link is really, really scary… Why would anyone want to teach K-12 in the United States these days? For the constant abuse from unruly kids, their parents who think they can do no wrong, administrators using them as scapegoats, and a media that thinks they can make miracles happen? And now working under the idea of going to jail if they can’t make these miracles happen? It’s all so depressing, gross, and disgusting.

          • There are a lot of parents who ought to be in jail for contributing to the delinquency and failure of their minor children.  If we’re going to hold people responsible with criminal penalties, that’s the place to start.

            Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, I’m looking at you.

    • A “failing community”? What the hell is that?

      Or better yet, tell me that’s the new slogan in defense of the educational status quo. I can just see some approved-by-UTLA mayoral candidate running under THAT banner – “Vote for me you miserable excuses for human beings!”

      Villaraigosa’s done the political math and Michael’s partly right, where’s the unions going to go if they don’t support him? The unappetizing answer is nowhere. They can try to run their own candidate but if they’re getting the cold shoulder from a traditional ally what are the chances that a union lap-dog candidate will get any traction in the next election?

      That’s the “what” of the situation, not the “why”.

      For the “why” you have to look at where support lies for education alternatives. That’s why the education issue’s rending apart the left; support for education alternatives among minorities, particularly black voters, is splitting the left-wing. In the face of that change the unions have nothing to offer but to insist that nothing substantive change.

      Not the stance you want to take if you have political aspirations beyond the end of your current term and as it becomes clearer that the unions have nothing more to offer then the maintenance of the status quo it’ll be more and more difficult for supportive candidates to toe that line.

      • Michael E. Lopez says:

        For the “why” you have to look at where support lies for education alternatives. That’s why the education issue’s rending apart the left; support for education alternatives among minorities, particularly black voters, is splitting the left-wing. In the face of that change the unions have nothing to offer but to insist that nothing substantive change.

        That seems right. Well put.

      • An object lesson on what a ‘failed community’ looks like is the ghetto… Yes, failed communities really exist.

        And you are right about what a poltician running for office would say if they were totally truthful – I remember several movies and TV show episodes over the years touching on that subject. The polticians know the vast majority of the people in their jurisdiction that would vote for them are dumb – really dumb (most humans are, unfortunately). And selfish and short sighted and backward thinking. They can’t admit that they know this about their electorate, though! But they know…

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    Alas, this is a hole we have largely dug ourselves. For years, we teachers and our unions and the ed schools and the rest of the business have said, “Teachers are experts. They have been specially trained and have special skills. They KNOW how to teach. They can teach anyone. Thus, they should be well-paid and well-treated (e.g. due process).”

    This was a lie. We can’t pour in learning and we have limited ability to motivate.

    But regular people have heard us tell them that for decades. They know lots of kids aren’t learning and they conclude–based on our propaganda!–that these experts must be failing. It must be the teacher’s fault!

    If we want to stop being blamed, we will have to start telling some unpleasant truths.

    • Sean Mays says:

      By unpleasant truths saying things like: I’m not a social worker, first responder or psychologist? That if you send me an underfed, underslept person full of rebellion and desiring instant gratification, the best I MIGHT deliver is a holding action?

      BUT, IF your child can tough it out and manage those impulses, there might be a chance he learns something useful, might go to college and graduate and might find a good job?

      Darn it!! I want my milk and honey NOW!

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        Well, yeah. Parents, if somewhere in sight, get to raise or not raise the kids according to whatever strikes them as a good idea, presuming they’re that interested.
        You’re supposed to turn the result into a minority version of Donald Trump, or Kwame Kilpatrick.
        You got a problem with that?
        Good point that the self-promotion of the teaching profession as a holy calling whose precepts are both infallible and unavailable to the lesser orders generated an unlooked-for responsibility. Now you tell us.
        It’s too sad for schadenfreude, although I’m tempted. It would be different if the rest of us hadn’t been told to butt out on account of having nothing to say.
        Went to a seminar held by a group led by Cyrus Vance–he wasn’t there but one of his traveling impresarios was–for ed admins and union reps. “They sat in school for twelve years and think they know about education.” “hahahaha” Worked so well, they clown did it twice.
        Well, yeah. We do. Teaching takes–if you’re good–total attention for the entire period. That precludes the frequent students’ moments of inattention to the material because the teacher is dealing with a recalcitrant student, handing out papers, because we already know what the teacher is explaining for the third time, writing something on the board, etc. In which moments we, as students, were able to think about something or other, including how the whole thing was going, especially as regards ourselves.

        • A lot of minority children reproduce the achievements of Kwame Kilpatrick.  There are only a limited number of mayoral slots so that really can’t be counted, but a spectacular number of them go to jail.

    • I promise you, teachers will die if these unplesant truths get told. People don’t like being told the truth when they already know it deep down and don’t want to admit it / take responsibility for it. Can you imagine the parents’ rage?

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    Unpleasant truth number 1: As a teacher, I know a fair amount about my subject matter, and I can “teach” it. But I have very little ability to get my students to learn it.

    • Why can’t you get students to learn? Is it because you’re constrained by bad curriculum or a bureaucracy that makes you teach to the test?

      If these are the answers, you should ignore the curriculum and stop teaching to the test.

      Works for me, and the kids learn just fine.

      • The students have to WANT to learn it first. They have to meet you half way. Otherwise, you’re just talking to a wall…

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        Why can’t you get students to learn?

        Because they aren’t intrinsically interested in what I have been hired to teach. “It’s not you, Mr. Sweeny …”

        I don’t have a test to teach to or a crappy curriculum. However, I also don’t have much come-from-the-student interest. There is a fair amount of interest in getting a good grade but you and I know those are hardly the same.

        I make things as interesting as I can, and I’m sure every student learns something. But I am under no illusions about how much.

        I have a fantasy. Some time in September, students and teachers are both surprised to find that the day will be spent by students taking the finals in the courses they took the previous year. Would anyone be surprised if most of them failed? Badly?

        • Ponderosa says:

          Here’s my fantasy: an externally administered end-of-course exam that students would have to pass to proceed in school. THIS would motivate a lot of kids, and suddenly the teacher would become a valued ally instead of an annoying impediment to one’s social or gaming life. My colleague who spent a year teaching in Germany say that this is the way it is there. Sadly we have a chorus of “experts” who insist that there are less coercive, equally effective ways to motivate kids. And they make money and advance their careers spreading this lie.

  4. This is the mayor of Los Angeles, CA that cozies up to La Raza, an organization that believes that Hispanics are a ‘superior race’. They also believe that CA, AZ, NM, TX, CO, UT, and NV should all be ‘given back’ to Mexico… Disgusting. For one thing, because I’m adamant about keeping the 50 States and D.C. together as a single country (and Puerto Rico too, if they decide to join us!); and second, because racism is racism, no matter which race A is telling race B that they’re inferior.

  5. This post is unclear on the concept. You assume that Villaraigosa and other Dems are changing positions due to heartfelt, sincere belief.

    To call that naive would be an extreme understatement. But since it’s apparent that the obvious DOES need to be pointed out: These people are changing positions because the big-ticket donors require it of them. The notion of heartfelt, sincere belief is not part of the equation.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      Caroline — what is your problem?

      First, on another thread, you say that I need to spend more time in the “real world.” I don’t know where that came from or where you get off saying something like that, but I was willing to let it slide because I figured you were just having a bad day.

      But now you’re just randomly asserting something about my post — and my alleged lack of political knowledge — with absolutely no foundation whatsoever. I never said anything one way or the other about whether the change was heartfelt, and indeed I suggested (by using the word “caved”, if you bothered to actually read my post) that it might not be.

      Usually you’re much better than this. In fact, I just spent time and effort defending your reputation for avoiding ad hominem just a week or two ago.

      What gives? My name goes on the post’s byline and all of the sudden you feel like you need to be a mean-spirited, nasty critic? Is that how this works?

      • My reading of your post was that you believed that Villaraigosa had actually changed a genuine belief, something he felt to be true. If that’s what you meant, I do think that’s naive. I would have said the same thing if Joanne has said it, or for that matter if a friend had said it. I wasn’t singling you out and I don’t think it was mean-spirited or nasty.

        If you didn’t think this involved an actual change of heart but rather a shift in Villaraigosa’s professed viewpoints entirely for the purpose of sucking up to the deepest-pocketed contributors — and you said that clearly — I’m sorry I misread it.

        I was awfully mild compared to the things that have been said about me. Just for your entertainment, I will tell you that in the days when I was a truth-seeker and debunker of Edison Schools, the for-profit former “reform” “miracle,” one anonymous Edison Schools investor was posting on a Yahoo listserve under a name he/she had created, “Caroline_takes_it_up_the_ass.” That’s just one example. I think I could handle being called naive without batting an eye.

        In any case, the real story here might be that the financial weight has so clearly swung to the anti-union, anti-teacher, anti-public-education education-“reform” side.

  6. Roger Sweeny says:

    I completely agree that politicians change positions depending on what they think will get them votes. Campaign contributions are largely a means of getting votes. Some politicians even eliminate the middleman and change positions because they think the voters will approve. I wonder if that’s what’s going on here.

    • If you followed the tale of Jonah Edelman, you can see how it works. Edelman gave a talk at the Aspen Ideas Institute describing in detail how his education-“reform” operation outfoxed and outspent teachers’ unions in Illinois to shift the loyalties of key legislators who had been known as reliable labor supporters. It was a simple question of which side had more money to offer. The question of what the legislators actually believed was not part of the picture.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:


    I’m with you except for Puerto Rico. I don’t give money to political parties, but I might make an exception for the PR Independentistas. Like to go in on half a dozen Evinrudes to mount on the west end and let them motor off into Caribbean anonymith?

    • Well, you never know how things will turn out. Puerto Rico could enter the Union as a strong Democratic state, but then a generation later become a strong Republican state… It’s happened both ways many times before. And, if they joined the Union, it would be a long term commitment to being part of the USA, giving the republic and its people permanent access to the land, as well as other long term benefits (a permanent Naval base out in the middle of the Atlantic?) Cultures and political associations change every generation or so. Something as big as becoming the 51st State would be more long-term.