Education is the single most important thing in the country. Nothing else is more important. Not health care, not the environment, not foreign wars, nothing. Education is the only path we have to abandonment of old beliefs and dogmas. For example, do you think if the country was as educated as would be ideal that there would be any debate about global warming? We'd all be riding around on bicycles and installing as many windfarms as we could manage. The environment is important, but education will provide the solution.
It is with this that I say we need to shit-can our current educational system and start anew. This thought train (like a soul train, but with less soul) was started with a Manhattan high school's riot after the principal decided that the correct response to a fight breaking out was to close down the bathrooms for everyone. This is startling.
Forget the obvious problems with punishing everyone for the actions of a few, much less the absurd idea that stopping people from peeing is correct punishment for anything, and instead focus on the fact that the principle thought that this was a good idea.
I have heard the argument that to attack teachers and destroy their unions is wrong because these teachers truly care. I'm sure that many of them do. My problem is not with their hearts, but with their minds. They're incompetent. This principal is in charge. This principal has power. This principle is a moron! How the hell are our teachers this out of touch? This principal undoubtedly thinks that Silly Bandz are the work of Satan. I remember when my teachers were banning slap bracelets and Troll dolls. We're not past this? We're not past teachers banning things in, apparently, some desperate effort to prove to every fucking student that they have that anything and everything which they have to say is worth ignoring? This situation is one of many, just amplified to a comic level. These teachers don't know what they're doing.
Our teachers are out of touch because the vast majority of people who become teachers, today, were never cool. They were never the bright energetic kids. Those kids are off doing cool things and earning lots of money. They were the awkward kids. The lower the grade taught, the worse it gets. In Freakonomics, the authors posit that the reason for the fall-off in teacher quality is women's-lib. Basically, fifty to sixty years ago, job prospects were pretty grim for women. But from that point forward, things got increasingly better. Obviously, the best women started leaving the work force in droves as they started being accepted into board rooms and positions of prestige. Essentially, we're now left with all of the people who can't get jobs elsewhere, because if they could, they would.
I completely advocate the elimination of teacher's unions. Once, they made perfect sense. Eighty years ago, when the first teacher's unions started forming as collective-bargaining bodies, teachers were women (a big strike against them, already) who were seen as poorly-skilled people who simply regurgitated a curriculum. They were, effectively, factory workers using lessons instead of rivets. Anyone who's seen as practically worthless needs a union, lest they get walked all over.
But that's no longer the case. Teachers are highly-skilled people with the most important task our country has: its own enlightenment. Standardized testing is nonsense, so we need more flexible ways to assess teacher performance. Student evaluations, final grades, peer review, etc. Whatever combination of those forms of evaluation is settled upon, the answer is clear that we need to do it.
We can't simply go forward with out of touch, loser teachers who, regardless of their motivations, are so completely lacking in skill and finesse that I wouldn't trust them with a dog.
I wanted to link to a well-written defense of teacher's unions. The author touches on a few concerns I have for things like charter schools, namely that the dynamic would simply result in segregation by race and economic status, but dodges the big gun aimed at unions: they offer no solutions for the flagging US education system.
Yes, yes. Unions "support" many great things. I don't care about what they support, I care about what they're doing to raise test scores, increase college admissions, and stop high-school drop-outs. Moreover, the author doesn't say anything about the biggest strike against teachers, that pay is determined by seniority, not performance.
Students Riot After Bathroom Ban (Jezebel.com)
Teacher's Union EXPOSED
It's Not the Teachers' Unions (The American Prospect)