Dear Mr. Pitts
I was disappointed in your recent article on teachers and accountability. Most of the time you provide a substantive argument for or against a position, but this time you succumbed to the same intangible rhetoric those less enlightened take. Or - to put it more succinctly - you sound like a Tea Party member yelling "that's socialism."
What does "embrace accountability" mean exactly? How is the "accountability" thing that gets brought up over and over defined? Why is that statement any less ambiguous than "activist judge," family values," or "less regulations." What accountability is to be embraced?
If it is poor performing students, are we to assume that this poor performance rests solely on the teacher, and if the union was removed we would somehow achieve a different result by firing the teacher each time performance is not met? In other words, all situations should achieve similar results regardless of any unique dynamics in play. Is that your position?
And better performance of students could be obtained - as you see it - if we could fire them at will. I can only speak for myself, but getting fired plays little into my "impetus for doing good." I do good work because that's a standard I set for myself and I am sure a lot of others, including teachers, work under the same standard. Kind of reminds me of the sign that states: Beatings will continue until moral improves.
There is no doubt that some teachers should not be teaching. And there is little doubt that their union protects them. However, on the other side there is little doubt that the blame the teacher mentality is persuasive. Even a guy like you, a thoughtful, reasoned, introspective humanist has the audacity to portray as fair and just the firing of an "entire facility of a poorly-performing school." I don't know, but that sounds a bit draconian to me, kind of like supporting the attitude for the war in Iraq of 'nuke em' all let God sort em' out.'
You state that "whenever anyone seeks to require better, they seem to find themselves at odds with the last people you'd expect: teachers. Or, more accurately, teachers unions." but you provide no evidence to support that. Yes there are most likely anecdotal evidence of a union or teacher getting away with something. But you are making a blanket statement that nothing "better" is ever adopted, that teachers want kids to fail, that unions want the system to continue to poorly perform.
There is good reason for opposing this blanket statement of "accountability." And if you stepped back a bit and looked at it from all perspectives you would see that. Regardless of how over protective unions can be, they adopt, they change, but bottom line - they protect their charges from the silliness of words like "accountability". They know that what we are asking teachers to do here is be accountable for the whole when they have little or no authority to correct, modify, or eliminate the dynamics in play; mainstreaming kids with behavioral problems, lack of support for disciplinary problems, parents who take offense at every little action that is misinterpreted, kids who have serious family issues, kids who are bullied or live with constant danger, and an education system that believes all kids are college material and vocational studies are somehow a disservice.
I am not a teacher, yet I am aware of what takes place in a classroom simply because I have listened to teachers discuss why they leave the profession. You, and your ilk, want the buck to stop with them, yet they are the lowest rung on the ladder. They fight "accountability" because its all responsibility without authority. Until you change that dynamic, kids will continue to fail.
But go ahead, fire them all if it makes you feel like you are doing something for the children. I hear they have a bunch of Filipino guest workers (USA Today 8/5/10) ready and willing to take their place, and for a lot cheaper too! Ah but that damn teacher's union will probably oppose that too.