Reply to “Grover” on “Teacher’s Unions”

At the discussion on New Jersey’s educational cuts at The Daily Princetonian, “Grover” writes:

The teachers’ union is the biggest obstacle to education in this country. It’s about time that a politician took it on. As someone pointed out in horror, the teachers who get pushed out from these cuts are the youngest ones. But why? In any other job it would be the worst teachers who were fired, but the union’s “last in, first out” seniority policy puts the interest of its members above the interests of students. Compensation is also decided primarily on the basis of seniority and the union puts up a huge fight against rewarding teachers based on the results they produce. Why? How does that benefit students? Or taxpayers? It’s damn near impossible to fire bad teachers (“rubber rooms” anyone?)–cui bono?

Add to these concerns the issues about neutrality, establishment, and accommodation, and note the fact that private schools can get better results while spending less money per student, and it becomes pretty clear that on pragmatic grounds alone we would ideally have no public schools at all. Obviously that ship has sailed, so the best we can do now is destroy the teachers’ union and implement a voucher system. The budget crisis can serve as an opportunity to move in that direction.

Of course teachers are going to complain about this because it hurts them. And it does look bad on the face of it: “Cut education spending? But think of the children!!!1!”. But (if you assume, contrary to fact, that government spending is usually cost-effective) cutting any program at all is going to look bad. “Cut spending on women’s health? But think of the women!!” “Cut spending on saving the environment? But think of the cute little baby polar bears?” The only place most Americans are willing to cut spending is on…foreign aid. But that’s not going to be enough, and education is something that could be more effective if less money were spent on it, making it a great place to cut spending.

Grover, firing teachers in and of itself means fewer, and not better teachers. News flash: if you fire teachers defined as “underperforming”, you still have to go through the expense of rehiring new teachers. This is a considerable expense, since certification requirements are strict, and added to this is the need to do background investigation to make sure the new teachers aren’t perverts.

Also, you seem to know who the underperforming teachers are. But it is widely acknowledged in corporations that “performance reviews” are highly subjective, and gamed by both sides. If on the other hand, you use test results, the teachers then teach to the test, neglecting most real educational tasks, and in some cases have helped the students cheat.

Of course, when you hear about this, Grover old buddy, your blood boils, and you say again, fire the bastards, écrasez l’infâme.

This is a non-lethal form of Jacobin terror, and it’s news to me that Robespierre did France any favors.

There is no queue of highly qualified, certified teachers out there who aren’t pervs just dying to teach, even if you increased salaries, which is not on in most districts. Most hot shots don’t have the patience or the temperament; many recovering Yuppies who have entered the teaching profession in recent years have difficulty with slow children.

Many other hot shots might talk anti-union talk, but themselves were educated permissively and read little, and therefore overuse lesson plans and abuse students who know more, or are more curious, than they.

And you’re right, hot shot. I do think of the children, the wasted lives, the violence and nihilism that comes in part from being unable to even think in, much less write, complete sentences such as “if I carry weed, or leap out of the car screaming at the cops, or ride with my woman when she’s mad at me, I will get my ass kicked by the cops” (cf. the very droll Chris Rock video “How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police” on You Tube).

The talk radio nihilism of écrasez l’infâme has caused America to lose two wars, and treated safety in oil drilling as an unnecessary cost that we should “cut”.

Maybe I’m old fashioned: but for me, political de-bate conducted almost exclusively from the Right in mock-falsetto, in which you attempt to demonstrate that your opponents are girlie-men (and quell your own sexual anxieties), or from the Left in a mock deep voice which repeats the Right’s shibboleths in an attempt to show their absurdity, is not de-bate: it is duh-bate.

The problem is that the Baby Boom generation, including supporters of Christie’s cuts, are themselves moronized, half-educated and aliterate by design, since the cost-cutting started when they were still in school. Left-wing nihilism of the later 1960s compounded the problem. The coup de grace was the moronization of the media necessary to convince the electorate to accept Reagan and his successors.

This means that people who can neither write nor parse a complex sentence above a low upper bound of complexity expect children to do so on tests they cannot themselves pass. They then blame the teacher, naming an unenumerable set of supposed incompetents as if their destruction would cleanse the system.

As to “rubber rooms”. The New Yorker did an article on them, I hope you read it. The zeks in this gulag have been put there by means of undefined, Kafkaesque administrative procedures, and in the rubber rooms they are not permitted to use laptops or cellphones. Yes, they are not fired because of the teacher’s unions, but this cruel and unusual punishment is the school system’s idea.

Many of the zeks say that they are in the rubber room because of politics or speaking out. Funny how we believed Alexandre Solzenitsyn’s zeks but cannot believe these teachers.

You gonna cut cut cut, pal?
Is that the grand plan, Al?
Well, all I can say to you
Don’t take any wooden nickels,
Don’t eat no yellow snow,
And don’t run around with scissors,
‘Cause sooner or later, alligator,
You gonna cut yourself,
And for the first time in your life
You will see your blood.


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