Thursday, November 13, 2008

Boo teachers!

Andrew Sullivan has a post lamenting the existence of teachers unions, arguing that "until we really do bust the teachers unions, the next generation of kids in public schools is at risk."

I have no love for teachers unions, because the one that touches my day-to-day life seems to be pretty ineffective at representing the needs of its members. Briefly, I think that benefits are slanted too much towards the interests of older memebers, and doesn't reflect the reality that many female teachers will want to return to work after having a child.

But, blaming the teachers unions as the rate-limiting step in improved education in this country is off-base. The 'welfare queen' of this meme is the tenured teacher who doesn't give a flip and mails it in every class. I know a lot of teachers and I don't know one who fits that category. Beyond annectodes, performance at public (with unions) and private (without) schools is damn similar, so the data suggest that unions are not what's holding children back. So the blame-unions crowd are taking something familiar (distrust of unions) and applying it hapharzardly to this situation.

I don't know what the problem is, although near the top of the list has to be bad parenting, either in terms of setting examples or encouraging self-discipline.