Monday, March 14, 2011

NY Times' Kristof Tackles Pernicious Fallacies

NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is demanding we pay teachers more. Sounds good, doesn't it? Which teacher couldn't use more money? It kind of makes you think he's pro-teacher. And it would be true, if it weren't for the fact that no one is actually offering teachers more money, and the priority in these United States is not compensation for teachers, but lowering taxes for Steve Forbes.

Nonetheless, you'd think the man who declared qualifications for teachers were so onerous that Meryl Streep and Colin Powell couldn't get classroom jobs (despite the fact that neither had expressed the remotest interest in them) had finally come to his senses.

But like the Republicans, who claim it's in the public's best interest to strip working people of bargaining rights, Kristof tosses out misleading headlines and saves his real message for later:

Look, I’m not a fan of teachers’ unions. They used their clout to gain job security more than pay, thus making the field safe for low achievers. Teaching work rules are often inflexible, benefits are generous relative to salaries, and it is difficult or impossible to dismiss teachers who are ineffective. 

In fact, history dictates that teachers did even worse before the advent of unions. Of course, history is neither here nor there to teacher-bashers. The media devotes enormous attention to a charter with a handful of teachers that are allegedly paid more. Never mind that its track record is miserable, that there is no research whatsoever to support its methods--that's what you'll see on 60 Minutes, rather than what's really happening in the overwhelming majority of American schools.

Kristof knows nothing of what's really happening in most schools, can't be bothered to research it, and seems to pull his opinion directly from his hind quarters. Despite his apparent sympathy for teachers, there's no indication he remotely understands what people in Wisconsin are fighting for--the right to come together and fight for what's in their best interests.

In fact, the non-union utopia of Kristof's vision already exists, in non-union and union-lite charter schools. And guess what? Such teachers, despite dubious exceptions like the one mentioned above,  are not paid more than union teachers. They are subject to arbitrary and capricious dismissal and do not seem to remain on the job as long as their public school counterparts.

But at the New York Times, you can propose ideas with no research, no basis in practice, no vision for realizing them, and still make many times more than any public school teacher.

Kinda makes ya think we're in the wrong business, doesn't it? Of course, educators, unlike American journalists, are supposed to deal in truth.

And that's one more reason the big money, disingenuously dangled by faux-liberals like Kristof, consistently eludes us.
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