Teachers unions have lately taken a pummeling in the war of ideas (see here, for example) and yearn for some defending. Diane Ravitch provides it in this impassioned article from the AFT's flagship publication. And does so in part by pointing much-deserved fingers at district administrators: "If scores are low, the critics say it must be because of the teachers' contract, not because the district has a weak curriculum or lacks resources or has mediocre leadership. If some teachers are incompetent, it must be because of the contract, not because the district has a flawed, bureaucratic hiring process or has failed to evaluate new teachers before awarding them tenure." And her examples of curricular incompetence in New York City are enough to make you scream "Solidarity!" Still, while teachers should surely have a "voice" in important education decisions, particularly about curriculum and pedagogy, in the wrong hands (on either side of the table) Ravitch's "checks and balances" approach could yield paralysis. To us, that's part of the appeal of charter schools, where educators can coalesce around a shared educational vision, avoiding the us-versus-them mentality that permeates today's debates. Would that their visions were always worth coalescing around!
"Why Teachers Unions are Good for Teachers--And the Public," by Diane Ravitch, American Educator, Winter 2006-2007