More Paige

In the WaPo my friend Rick Kahlenberg reviews former Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s new book. It’s a great example of why the book is so lousy because the otherwise reasonable Kahlenberg almost can’t even bring himself to write that there are some problems with the teachers unions! The closest he comes is noting that they “too often…protect incompetent teachers and resist efforts to pay the teacher who works long hours any more than the one who springs for the parking lot the moment the bell rings.” But those are hardly only problems and I think more symptoms of larger issues than exclusively union caused problems anyway.

Then he pivots to all the good stuff and asks, “Why are conservatives so worked up about teacher unions?” This is soothing balm for the teachers’ unions but ignores the fact that, often as not these days, liberals are upset with them, too! Citizens Commission on Civil Rights, Ed Trust, New Teacher Project, Joel Klein, Alan Bersin, Arlene Ackerman, Joe Williams…etc..etc…hardly a roster of ‘wingers. To be sure, as Rick notes, the teachers’ unions do plenty of good things and his forthcoming book on Al Shanker illustrates what an important figure he was. Still, it’s a shame that Paige’s over the top critique is obscuring the more complicated and nuanced issues here. When it comes to the dialogue about teachers’ unions Paige has the reverse-Midas touch…

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