Time magazine has produced another magazine cover designed to incite controversy (and drive sales) which has both teachers unions and the media – but I repeat myself – up in arms. It purports to examine the issue of teacher tenure by highlighting how difficult it is to fire a bad teacher. Before proceeding, let’s take a look at the cover.
The content of the article is actually far more tame than that, and raises the issue in what turns out to be a considerably muted way. The examples of “bad teachers” they provide barely scratch the surface of the many cases you’ve heard about here. And they question the methods of reform proposed by the “billionaires” who are looking to improve the system in California as well. But none of that mattered to those who will immediately fly to the defense of the unions, including the Washington Post.
Other issues about deficiencies in the public education system were discussed, but some of the stiffest criticism remained on the issue of tenure. One critic took particular umbrage with this passage.
Before states began passing tenure laws in the early 20th century, a teacher could be fired for holding unorthodox political views or attending the wrong church, or for no reason at all if the local party boss wanted to pass on the job to someone else.
But what began as a popular idea has become increasingly controversial as countless stories of schools and districts being unable to fire bad teachers have populated the news. In a story that hit headlines in 2009, the LA Unified School District was legally barred from firing a teacher who told an eighth-grade student who had recently tried to slit his own wrists to “carve deeper next time.” Episodes like that help explain why even in California, where the electorate votes overwhelmingly Democratic and is often sympathetic to unions, recent polls show that voters are skeptical of tenure.
Taken in reverse order, there are two glaring flaws in the criticism of this section. The second – the example of a bad teacher – was lambasted for focusing on “the few” bad apples, as if this were some isolated incident. But pointing out an insensitive educator who makes an offensive statement is rather tame compared to the cadre of pedophiles, perverts and potentially violent maniacs who show up in far too many of these stories and in far too many classrooms, yet somehow remain on the taxpayer funded payroll for years on end. Talk all you want about “isolated incidents” but the glaring question remains for those with an ounce of common sense. How many of these cases constitutes “too many?”
One. One is too many. Add to that the teachers who seem to simply fail to have a useful function and wind up sitting in rubber rooms – which still exist, but were simply re-branded after public scrutiny – and these incidents are hardly isolated.
But the really jarring and revealing part of this commentary is found in objections raised to the first paragraph above. It demonstrates the lack of understanding on the part of these unions and their supporters when it comes to people who live and breath in the American workforce. Imagine the horror of potentially losing your job for holding unorthodox political views or for no reason at all. Well, here’s a news flash for you from the front lines:
Welcome to the real world.
The employment market is competitive. Outside the fantasy land of the public workers unions, jobs are never assured for life. and those who do the best at their jobs keep them and advance. Those who do not are shown the door. Nobody owes you anything you don’t earn. But this shocking concept is so foreign to the teachers unions that even discussing it is taken as some sort of grave insult. This distorted world view is beyond shocking to the rest of the nation, where middle class working folks have to make their own way in the world.
Of course, all of this flying fur and fury won’t change anything, except possibly Time’s sales numbers for one month. But it’s still refreshing to see the other side of the conversation come up.