Education historian and former Bush administration official Diane Ravitch will not be joining the chorus of raves for WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, the much-anticipated
anti-teacher screed documentary about the problems in modern education.
Even if you don’t have kids, or don’t have kids in the education system, I’d urge you to read it. If you’re American, I’d guess. People outside the country might want to check it out for yet another opportunity to shake their heads and thank whatever fortune/good choices have placed them outside the U.S.
To summarize Ravitch’s point (and the point others have made) WFS distorts the problems is purports to address in order to demonize teachers, principles and teacher’s unions. Anecdotes about some bureaucratic difficulty are held up as examples of wide-spread problems. Instances (and there are many) of reforms unions have brought to education (smaller class sizes, anyone?) or have been instituted with unions as full partners are omitted. Everything is laid at the feet of “bad teachers,” with test scores held up as proof.
Ravitch’s article neatly and cleanly demolishes the whole standardized test canard, but it doesn’t matter. It’ll never matter. People can’t hear the criticisms and refuse to acknowledge them, because they’re demanding a way to rate schools and teachers. Sure, standardized testing doesn’t work, but people will never give it up until a more-effective, more-culturally-acceptable alternative comes along.
So the politicians are ramming testing (and “fire bad teachers!”) down our throats. It’s yet another way Obama has failed this country. And Ravitch, a long-time conservative who began to refute conservative education policy after studying the data on it, gives quite clear reasons for this. Another meme she evicerates is the union-bashing.
Because let me be clear: I believe the biggest reason that the education debate has gone the way it has is because of the continuing efforts to destroy unionization in the country. No, unions aren’t perfect. Yes, there are problems. Guess what? There are problems with corporations, too. And NGO charities. And religious congregations. But there isn’t a concerted effort by influential powerbrokers to completely destroy those other groups. WFS, for instance, regularly compares the U.S. to Finland, who has much better education system than we do. Does the film mention that the Finnish system is heavily unionized? Of course not. That would undermine the cartoon baddie they created for the film.
Ravitch nicely wrecks the usual union-bashing arguments in the linked article, but what good will it do? “Unions protect bad teachers!” is already a prevailing meme, pushed by raving assholes. “Get rid of the unions!” “Think of the children!”
The last time unions were strong in this country was the post-war period, and the nation was doing very, very well.
You know what is the biggest indicator of a child’s educational success is? Parental involvement.
How do we get parents more involved in their kids’ education? We give them economic security, and time at home with their families.
The way to improve education in this country is to reduce the out-of-control economic inequality we’ve been building up over the decades, and the best way to do that is more unions.