I want to like Joe Matthews and “Prop Zero.” I know a lot of smart, wonkish people have loved his book. But it seems these days that you can’t keep a job in the media without picking an issue to punch some hippies on. Apparently, Matthews has decided to pick on teachers. Well, at least their unions. You see, teachers unions aren’t allowed to advocate for teachers and do their jobs. They’re supposed to be education policy officials for some reason. (This must have been a “new rule” at some point.) The new ethos in America is to stop anyone from doing well if you can’t too, I guess.
Today’s blog post is entitled, “Teachers Aren’t Secret Agents.” (No linky.) As if the only public scrutiny teachers face is a potential LA Times database. Have these people completely forgotten school boards? There is also data published all the time on the individual schools. It’s also completely ignorant of what goes on in schools right about now: a lot of breaking down of last year’s test score data to work on areas of improvement.
This is completely leaving aside the question of whether these scores measuring anything or the right things. So, even assuming that’s true now we have “reasonable liberals” like Kevin Drum and Joe Matthews saying that it’s a good idea to publish all of this data about teachers because, umm, they are public employees and data is good. Or something. Except that even public employees still have a right of privacy with respect to their personnel files. Except that there is a virtual certainty that this data will be used to harass, settle personal scores, and for all kinds of shenanigans. There will be a “nobody could have predicted” moment.
I tell teachers (my mom and mother-in-law are teachers, my wife was for 6 years before moving into administration, and I taught in community college about 10 years ago) that they need to accept testing as part of their job now and try to use it to their advantage: it provides a quantitative metric of their job performance (even if it’s not measuring anything you believe in). Many people would love to have something like that to always make sure that they can prove they are performing. It’s not the ideal situation, and the unions that are supposed to improve their working conditions are under no obligation to support it, but that’s the lemonade to be made here.
But that’s a far cry from suggesting that the James O’Keefes of the world should be given all of this information to be used for whatever purpose they want. And, I still am shocked that people think that it’s a good idea to make the teaching profession even tougher. Low wages (especially for the amount of education required), increasing instability, tough working conditions, and now this? And somehow the big evil teachers’ unions are all powerful?
And then there’s a companion piece from Dan Quayle’s lackey on the same blog today (NO linky) rinse and repeating all of the voucher arguments once again. This is another one of those hippie-punching “credibility building” issues for liberals. Even The West Wing flirted with this one. See, it’s clever. Make us feel sorry for those inner-city colored children who will suddenly all magically have access to perfect clean suburban schools if they just have vouchers.
My head is about to explode. Seriously.
I have your solution to the “problems” in schools right here: triple the wages for teachers. You will have young people with Ph.D.’s from the top schools clawing each other’s eyes out to fill almost every position. Competition to get the best test scores will be fierce. Know how I know? This is what big corporations, law firms, banks, etc. had to do in the late 90s to keep each other from stealing each others talent.
But see, this simple “Econ 101” style “supply and demand” fix that is almost Ayn Randian in its oversimplicity never occurs to the free market defenders of the Constitution for some reason. And to me, that completely destroys THEIR credibility on the issue. They want better schools and better teachers but they also want to be able to pay them nothing in crumbling buildings.
It’s a lie, a hoax, it is destroying our future and it gets traction with every attempted hippie punch by fame seeking media whores like the aforementioned.
Update: Add David A. Lehrer of the LA Jewish Journal, whoever he is.