American Consequences - September 2021


But not to worry, says a California teachers union leader and mouthpiece. That’s not the important stuff... Losing a year of in-class instruction is “no big deal.” “There is no such thing as learning loss,” Cecily Myart-Cruz (head of United Teachers Los Angeles) said in an interview with Los Angeles magazine’s Jason McGahan. “Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup.” (The bit about “times tables” is especially good.) There are signs that the teachers unions may have overplayed their hands during the pandemic. But I remain skeptical. They are no more likely to quit or even bend than those two enforcers who came down from headquarters to put me and the other volunteer school board members in their place all those years ago. It isn’t about the parents, and it isn’t about the kids.

THEWRONG INCENTIVES Still, I found myself following stories about teachers unions and school strikes and the woes of the nation’s public school systems. I especially liked this quote from one of the articles I read: Dismissing a teacher, as one school superintendent [said,] is not a process, it’s a career. California ranks near the bottom in school quality but is able to dismiss only two out of 300,000 teachers in a typical year. And this one, from Albert Shanker, who was the leader of one of the most powerful teachers unions, on why he seemed, like the two I “negotiated” with, to give so little thought to and spend so little energy on the students: When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children. So with the teachers unions running the show in public schools, we now have, as William McGurn writes in the Wall Street Journal : Of the 27 U.S. urban school districts that reported their results for 2019 – from Boston and Chicago to Fort Worth, Texas, and Los Angeles – not a single one can say a majority of the black eighth graders in their care are proficient in either math or reading. It isn’t even close. In a number of these school districts, proficiency rates for black eighth graders are down in the single digits (see Detroit’s 4% for math and 5% for reading, or Milwaukee’s 5% for math and 7% for reading). Most are in the low teens.

It’s all about them... And the incentives.

Geoffrey Norman is the author of 12 books of fiction and nonfiction, and many articles for periodicals including the Wall Street Journal , Sports Illustrated , National Geographic, Esquire, Men’s Journal , the Weekly Standard , and others.


September 2021

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