A Brief Note on Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars

In Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars, there is an undertone that can be found throughout the book, which makes it’s first appearance in the introduction: “I suspected that the key to understanding the American view of teachers lay with our history and perhaps had something to do with the tension between our sky-high hopes for public education as the vehicle of meritocracy and our perennial unwillingness to fully invest in our public sector, teachers and schools included.”

I strongly agree that this sentiment and read the book through, in part for it’s history, to figure out why we blame teachers so much on a failed system that has more to do with society and corrupt educational institutions as a whole, than teachers themselves. I believe the answer lies in her suggested list of changes in the book’s epilogue. She outlines serval insightful actions that she believes will improve our country’s public education system, among them is the subsection titled “End[ing] Outdated Union Protections.” In short, she advocates for the removal of unsuccessful union policies.

Generally speaking, the public perceives teachers’ unions as entities that only care for teachers’ protections, without regard for the students they teach. Policies such as LIFO, weak tenure qualifications, strong policies against revoking tenure and years-long appeal processes to oust ineffective teachers, certainly put a teacher’s wants/needs above the cost of their students. Unions should be able to protect teachers from irrational and unfair firings and abuses but policies, such as sitting in one of New York City’s infamous Rubber Rooms for three years, is a gross abuse unions. I don’t think that eliminating unions altogether, as most charters schools opt to do, is the answer– educating children is far too complex and has a lot of gray area to do that. But, and I think Dana Goldstein would agree, teachers unions are weighed down with policies that harm the education system. Unions need reform so that policies that are counterproductive to students’ learning.

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