Upon first reading "Teachers Unions and the Myth of 'Public' Schools" at National Review, my immediate impulse was to just mutter "fatuous bullshit" and move on. But this piece is a fine distillation of a current genre of writing--the piece that blames current school closures on the self-serving teachers' unions, who see distance learning as a great way to pursue their dream of being paid for doing nothing. And as such, it needs to be responded to, even if only by a lowly blogger. Also, the National Review is not some completely stupid rag, and it should do better than this.
The writer is Cameron Hilditch, a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at National Review Institute. He's originally from Belfast, went to Oxford, and has been playing in the big leagues. When you see his picture, you're going to think he looks like he's about twelve, but it's not fair to hold that against him; in my picture at the top of this blog, I look like I still have hair.
Hilditch comes out of the gate mighty aggressive:American taxpayers have been hoodwinked by the whole idea of “public schools.” No other institutions get away with such bad behavior on the part of some employees who staff them.
The saddest and most salient example of “public” institutions that are nothing of the sort in the United States is our “public” education system. These schools are advertised to taxpayers as institutions that serve every child in the nation. In reality, they serve the interests of no one other than the small group of Americans who work in these schools as teachers and administrators.
Since the teachers unions can shield their own avarice with claims of “public service” to children, they can manipulate the actual public into thinking that more money, job security, or political power for themselves is in everyone’s interest instead of their own. They can claim that the hopes and dreams of America’s children are somehow mystically present in their paychecks and their extended holidays as if the funds in each of their bank accounts amount to some sort of progressive eucharist of which the entire nation partakes.
In typical fashion, the teachers unions are arguing that their actions are meant to protect the health of both teachers and students.
She said that “we will lift up all of the things that they are doing to destroy public education, to dismantle it, to hurt our educators’ rights to organize and have a voice to advocate at work for our students and for their community.” Notice the sentence structure. It isn’t “our students and … their community” whose “rights” are being “hurt.” It’s “our educators,” who stand in as middlemen between taxpaying parents and their children in order “to advocate at work for our students and for their community.” They claim the mantle of “public educators” when they should be called “taxpayer-funded educators.”
The assumption that government-run schools operate in the “public interest” has prevented us from noticing the many ways in which teachers unions operate in their own self-interest.
Is there a way that don't have to look at everything in absolutist terms? Everyone is an enemy sent to destroy us? I am a teacher and I care about my kids. I appreciate my union and it's efforts to create a better working environment. I appreciate that they give us a voice and the admin listens to that voice. They advocate for us and for the kids. Can't we all do more than one thing at a time? Public schools do try to help kids. So do the teachers. This article is dripping in poison as are a lot of the comments. I think the slim possibility must be considered that teachers and public schools are trying to the right thing.