Dying to learn how to make balloon animals? Tie-dye a tee-shirt? Cut out the perfect construction-paper snowflake? If you're a teacher in Massachusetts, you're in luck. Courses in these very subjects are not only being offered by your union this summer (truly; read the conference agenda for yourself) but they come bearing professional development points (PDPs), too! What, you wanted to learn new pedagogies for teaching controversial historical subjects or improve your knowledge of English grammar? C'mon, this is a fun day of personal fulfillment where dull academic subjects are banished to make room for feel-good fluff. But not everything being offered at the conference is totally innocuous. Hidden amongst the classes on basket weaving, silk screening, and folk dancing (if only we were making this up!) are "Effective Advocacy: Grievance Processing," where you'll learn how to sock it to your district should you ever have reason to complain; "MTA's Lens on Beacon Hill," where all your union-qua-lobbyist questions will be answered; and "Designing and Bargaining Salary Schedules," which will explain how locals can more effectively bully their districts into bigger raises. We're long familiar with unions' political agenda but let's not attempt to disguise them as legitimate professional development--or pretend that basket weaving will turn Ms. Smith into a more effective and knowledgeable history instructor.

"Teachers' union flunks courses," by Charles Chieppo, The Boston Herald, May 27, 2009

"Balloon Animals," by Peter Wood, The National Association of Scholars blog, May 22, 2009

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