Bob Herbert takes a look at AFT President Randi Weingarten’s recent speech as part of a column on American workers. He writes that:
Ms. Weingarten was raising a cry against the demonizing of teachers and the widespread, uninformed tendency to cast wholesale blame on teachers for the myriad problems with American public schools. It reminded me of the way autoworkers have been vilified and blamed by so many for the problems plaguing the Big Three automakers.
But Ms. Weingarten’s defense of her members was not the most important part of the speech. The key point was her assertion that with schools in trouble and the economy in a state of near-collapse, she was willing to consider reforms that until now have been anathema to the union, including the way in which tenure is awarded, the manner in which teachers are assigned and merit pay.
Two thoughts. First, I know a lot of people in this business and I don’t know anyone who casts wholesale blame on teachers for America’s educational woes. On the contrary, there tends to be a lot of empathy for teachers who are too often stuck in lousy structural arrangements. Perhaps Herbert is extrapolating from today’s emphasis on teacher effectiveness and human capital. But saying teachers are the most important within school factor in student learning, and that public policy does not respect that today, is not the same as blaming them for today’s problems. Second, in the context of the column, Weingarten’s efforts, if she can succeed, are key steps to help ensure that public schools – and their employees – don’t find themselves in the same jam the auto industry is in, namely a failure to change with the times.
Meanwhile, over at National Review Mike Petrilli and Rick Hess attack President Bush over No Child Left Behind. They caricuture the No Child law a bit, but the fundamental point is clear: They don’t like all this achievement gap and civil rights oriented national policy. The fight for the Republican soul on education policy is on.
Update: Mike Petrilli thinks my ilk should be declaring victory…