Paul Craig Roberts
February 14, 2003
The union that killed education
If you have a child in public school, you need to read "The Worm in the
Apple: How the Teachers Unions Are Destroying American Education," a new
book by Peter Brimelow.
Public schools are run by the National Educational Association. They are
not run by people you can hold accountable, such as teachers,
superintendents and school boards. The NEA opposes merit pay, charter
schools and any decision by any school administrator that has not been
determined in advance by collective bargaining. Simply put, the NEA
opposes everything except its own power.
In Connecticut, the teachers union filed a grievance demanding pay for
an extra two minutes a week that the union claimed teachers worked. In
Pennsylvania, a grievance was filed because coffee and doughnuts were
not provided during a teacher training day. Jaime Escalante, a teacher
whose extraordinary success in teaching calculus to inner-city Hispanics
resulted in a Hollywood movie, was run out of his California school
district by the teachers union. Escalante, it seems, violated union
rules by complaining about teachers who used the teachers' lounge as a
real estate office and called in sick to extend their weekends. A high
school principal who requested that teachers write daily objectives on
the classroom board was denounced by the union as a "draconian zealot."
Meanwhile, kids aren't learning. The vocabulary of the average American
14-year-old has dropped from 25,000 words to 10,000. San Francisco
Examiner reporter Emily Gurnon asked teen-agers to identify the country
from which America won its independence. Among the answers: "Japan or
something, China. Somewhere out there on the other side of the world."
"It wouldn't be Canada, would it?" "I don't know; I don't even, like,
have a clue." "I want to say Korea. I'm tripping."
Brimelow next introduces the teachers. Sara Boyd, a recipient of many
awards and accolades during her teaching career, experienced difficulty
passing a mathematics competency test. She sued the state of California,
claiming the test was racially discriminatory. But at her deposition she
was unable to answer the question: "What percent of 80 is 8?"
Teachers can't teach because the union won't let them. Perhaps it is
just as well. Here are some course listings in the education department
at the University of Massachusetts: Embracing Diversity, Diversity and
Change, Oppression and Education, Introduction to Multicultural
Education, Black Identity, Classism, Racism, Sexism,
Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Oppression, Jewish Oppression, Oppression of the
Disabled, Erroneous Beliefs.
Schools of education have turned teachers into agents of the therapeutic
state, a new form of government analyzed by Paul Gottfried in his recent
book, "Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt." Indoctrination and
social reconstruction have replaced the traditional emphasis on reading,
writing and arithmetic.
When you can stop laughing or crying, pay attention. Brimelow is
serious. He knows the NEA inside out. But the media do not. Brimelow has
a chapter describing how the NEA bribes the media for favorable stories
by handing out "media awards." The Dallas Morning News won three awards
for promoting a trip by area teachers to the state capital to lobby for
money for teachers raises. In 2000, when NEA delegates voted to
strengthen their policy against merit pay for teachers, The Associated
Press reported the opposite. Newspapers across the country then
editorialized on the basis of the erroneous AP report.
The problem, says Brimelow, is that the NEA is the backbone of the
Democratic Party and public education is a government monopoly. Brimelow
asks Lenin's question, "What Is to Be Done?" and replies with 24
One senses that Brimelow believes reform has little hope when it is
opposed by NEA lobbying. If the NEA is to be undone, its undoing will
come from parents and teachers deserting the schools. Homeschoolers,
without benefit of fancy facilities, science labs and huge expenditures
of money. outscore public school students.
Teachers themselves are dropping out, demoralized by lack of
professionalism, chaos and crumbling educational standards. As readers
recently pointed out to me, teachers are being imported from India and
other Third World countries under the H-1B visa program to take the jobs
that American teachers are abandoning.
Brimelow uses the wrong tense when he writes that "the teacher unions
are destroying American education." They have destroyed it.
(c)2003 Creators Syndicate, Inc.