Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 28, 2009


Caroline Grannan, Change - I've been musing a lot on the extent to which the U.S. mainstream press bashes, blames and demonizes teachers' unions, while so often writing admiringly and unquestioningly about charter schools.

There's a notion that it's impossible to "get rid of" bad teachers. The pro-privatization, anti-union right wingers like to raise an outcry about "the dance of the lemons" –- situations in which problem teachers get shuffled from school to school. And the mainstream press - even liberals - joins in.

Those voices constantly cite teacher tenure as the evil to end all evils. Here's how Merriam-Webster defines tenure:

"a status granted after a trial period to a teacher that gives protection from summary dismissal."

It seems to me that anyone who has ever worked for an employer would view "protection from summary dismissal" as a reasonable right for workers. That would include most every employee of the mainstream media corporations –- who I have a feeling haven't thought this through when they do all that bashing, blaming and demonizing of teachers.

I've seen situations in which it was indeed difficult to "get rid of" a problem employee. I've seen them both with teachers, in my life as a public school parent and advocate, and also with union newspaper employees, in my previous career as a daily-newspaper copy editor.

In my observation -- while union contracts did indeed help protect those problem employees' jobs and make it impossible to "summarily" fire them -- in every case I've seen, it was poor management judgment that led to the situation. I recall several cases in which my newsroom colleagues, including union activists, were voicing serious and legitimate concerns to management about new employees still in their probationary periods -- and went ignored. Then when the problems blow up later, the union gets the blame. . .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There seems to be an assumption that charter and private schools will be union free. I know of no facts that would support such a contention. The purpose of private schools isn't to eliminate unions, it's to educate children who are clearly not being served well by the current system. Has nothing whatsoever to do with unions, except that maybe this inaccurate view is being pushed by teachers who don't want to be held accountable.

April 29, 2009 5:04 PM  

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