Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Man bites dog story: Forbes article supports teacher unions

Malcolm Forbes named his yacht "Capitalist Tool," so the last place you'd expect to find an article supporting teacher unions and questioning the validity of market-based "education reform" is the Web site that bears his name.

Yet here it is. Writer E.D. Cain opens with this riff on conventional right wing wisdom: "Teachers' unions are often portrayed by their opponents as standing in the way of efforts to reform our schools. Maybe this isn't such a bad thing."

Cain acknowledges that attacks on teacher unions and support for privatized reform come from both the left and right wings of the ideological spectrum. Both sides, he says, have fallen for a neoliberal scheme to disempower teachers and their unions while funneling vast amounts of public money into private coffers.

About reforms, he says "Vouchers have been met not only with public disappointment, but with few if any real benefits. Most charters haven't fared much better. And for-profit schools come packaged with all sorts of other troubling implications for our public - or should I say "public" - education system."

About the horde of non-educator experts who devise schemes like high-stakes testing "which boil down education to learning by rote," he writes, "When technocrats and businessmen take over the hard work of designing a system of education is it surprising that the result of a complex labyrinth of testing schemes aimed at only those subjects that can be measured, quantified and pasted into spreadsheets? Is it any winder that professionals who care about education might see this as a threat?"

And about the unions which defend professional educators, he writes, "I support teachers' unions because they are the best chance this country has to improve and strengthen public education for the long haul. No other organization will step in to protect teachers from political blowback and the reform-trend-of-the-moment."

It's a good read, with important ideas, from an unexpected source.

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