Archive Hosted by the AFL-CIO

Tuesday Talk: Why a conservative assault on teachers?

January 25, 2011 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Minnesota’s conservative-led legislature has made public employees enemy number one as it tries to balance the state budget through massive cuts alone instead of taking a balanced approach that implements cuts and raises revenue. Teachers are among those targeted, with a recent state legislative proposal to freeze teacher salaries. This caps years of conservatives attacks that undermine public confidence in teachers. What's your take?

Why is there a conservative assault on teachers? What fiscal policies would best protect the quality of our education system?

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • herbert a. davis says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Teachers will defend public education or it will not be around very long. We are on the road to “for profit” training!

  • John LaBreche says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:16 am

    The wealthy and their allies stay on top by sowing divisions in the middle class. A favorite tactic is to claim that since one group of the middle class has lost a benefit, such as defined benefit pensions, or wage increases that keep up with inflation, then any other middle class group that still has the benefit should lose it too. We should fight back by pointing out where the increased wealth as measured in state and national GDP has gone in the last ten, twenty and thirty years.  The pie has gotten bigger, it is the middle class share that has gotten smaller.  A truly progressive income tax and a climate favorable to the formation of labor unions is what we need to fight for.

  • Jon Miners says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Why a conservative assault on teachers?

    It’s basic to modern conservatism that government always fails. In order to prove this proposition, it is necessary to attack those areas where government is most successful, in this case, public education. Public education revolutionized our society. It is the foundation of our wealth and our success as a nation. Left unchallenged, it is the most decisive refutation of the conservative dogma that government always fails imaginable. So if that dogma is to prevail, public education must be attacked and taken down. The attacks on our teachers, some of whom fail, and all of whom are flawed, are the current tactic of choice in this long running battle between dogma, and doing what’s best for our kids.

  • John Crampton says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:24 am

    They want to bust the teachers union and destroy the public schools, so they can institute vouchers and further subsidize the rich and give additional entitlement to the private, parochial schools and home school mommies.

    Minnesota’s public schools have long been among the best in the U.S.,  we are consistently first or second in the country in ACT tests, yet Minnesota’s teachers are the 26th best compensated teachers in U.S.  Sounds like an excellent value to me, but the Republicans are determined to make slaves of all except the very rich!  Give it all to the rich is their motto!

  • John Bridell says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:24 am

    The assault.  It fits right into the promotion of Home School. Believe it or not the Conservative Right would be tickled pink if they could destroy the American public school system. Why not start with the visible classroom teacher? Have any of those righteous characters ever spent a full day in a classroom? They wouldn’t have have the time to give up their prayer breakfasts.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Lets be clear, teachers didn’t create the public education system but their power hungry Union is very much at the center of the demise of public education. The only question now is will teachers unions give up thier strangle hold on education and turn control and power back over to the peolpe who own it, or will their unwillingness to compromise force the destruction of the present system so we can build something that works for children and society. Cry me a river, but you brought this on yourselves through self serving greed.

  • jeffito says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

    The goal of the assault is to complete the conservative privatizing project and to destroy all that is left of the commons. Public eduction, from primary grades to the PhD is thought of as a potential profit center for businesses. The goal of assault on teachers for those running the conservative agenda (Grover Norquist, Carl Rove, Bill Gates, The Koch brothers, etc.) is to make money on what is now public education. The goal is not to educate but to make money. Among the last areas of the public sector are public safety and public education. The conservatives have already begun privatizing he military and are now attacking police and fire departments and going after teachers. Their goal is transparent; drown the public sector in the bathtub and cash in on the profits with no systems of accountability or regulation.

  • Dr Hugh M Curtler says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

    As a lifelong educator and one who has written a book and numerous articles on the state of education in this country, I can say that our public education system is in serious jeopardy. I believe the unions, which have done immense good for the teachers, has also hurt in encouraging a militant stance and stressing benefits for their members at a time when the students can’t keep up with other students in the world. Short school years coupled with delayed starts to the school days, and early outs, have given the impression—coupled with falling scores—that out teachers care more about themselves than they do their students. This may not be fair; but it is the impression. Teachers need to work on their image and their priorities while they learn to accept legitimate criticism. At the same time, legislators must back off and work with the teachers to find a balance and not destroy a weak system by gutting it entirely. Charter schools and home schooling are not the answers. Improved quality of teaching and tougher standards for teachers and their pupils are the answers.

  • Jon Miners says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Our kids and our schools are doing just fine in comparison with other countries, which is not to say we should be at all satisfied with that. I certainly am not.

  • Dan C says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Frankly, I believe the plan by the rich is even more diabolical than assaulting teachers to promote “privatizing” it.  I think the rich find little value in educating the middle-class.  I believe they feel it will be easier for them to “take over” if the public is generally ignorant and unaware.  The rich donm’t feel they need educated people in their factories, besides, you would just have to pay the educated more.  I believe the rich will be the only people in the country, if it is up tho them.  In this way, there is little resistance to a plutocracy, and wages can be significantly lowered to subsistence.

  • Su Mackey says:

    January 25, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I have always believed that the conservative attack on teachers stems from the fact that teacher groups almost always endorse the more liberal candidate (because teachers are so smart and educated).  They give their money and time to progressive candidates.  Conservatives can’t fight them on philosophical grounds so they attack them on political and financial grounds.

  • Richard Amaro says:

    January 25, 2011 at 10:03 am

    All part of the Republican plan to destroy the middle class and create the “Oligarchy of America”.  Masses of undereducated labor willing to work for a dollar or two a day with no social safety net and no means of upward mobility, while being fed the pabulum of propaganda, appear to be the Republican dream. 

    Certainly, public education and those who educate must be brought down and attacked.  After all, this is class warfare!

  • Bob Treumann says:

    January 25, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Conservatives believe that there is a symbiotic relationship between public employee unions and the Democratic party.  By that logic, the growth in the number of unionized public employees means more support and more money for the Democrats.

    Conservatives are against Democratic policies for a lot of reasons, but I think they see cutting off the growth of public employee unions as a key element in starving the Democratic party.

    Meanwhile, Democratic party office holders seem more concerned about the union members that supported them than they are about the non-union working class.


  • Paul says:

    January 25, 2011 at 10:21 am

    ...if by “just fine” you mean in the middle of the pack along with emerging democracies and second tier economies…

  • Dave says:

    January 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Close many of the Community colleges. In Minnesota there is a Community college just about every 50 miles or so. Way to many. Close and consolidate others and there would be plenty of money for teachers.

  • Jon Miners says:

    January 25, 2011 at 10:48 am

    For science literacy, America’s white kids, on the 2006 Pisa tests, finished seventh, ahead of the UK, Germany, Switzerland Austria, Ireland, Sweden, and yes, even the Czech Republic. Obviously, that’s not good enough, but then how do the test scores of America’s black kids, many of whom have to contend with horrible situations at home and in our culture, compare with those of Finland’s?

    America’s schools need to get better. We need to close the achievement gap. They need to do a great job for all of our kids, not just a majority of our kids. But the statistical fact that the school that’s educating my kid is among the best in the world, suggests to me that the answer to our admittedly serious problem isn’t a justification for tearing it down. Nor as it happens does the fact that my kid’s teacher (like teachers in Finland) is a member of a union, seem to hamper that teacher in his ability to give my kid a good education.

  • Dr Hugh M Curtler says:

    January 25, 2011 at 11:34 am

    In the South many of the teachers of science will not, or cannot, teach evolution. Many of them are ignorant of fundamental truths in the sciences they teach. The scores of our students in literacy are pathetic. Vocabulary has dropped more than 70% since the 50s. A few years ago the Princeton testing group had to adjust the test scores in reading upward on the SATs because they were so low.
    The problem is not the scores in and of themselves. They speak for themselves, and have been shouting at us for years. The problem is that we are in denial about those scores. Teachers tend to become defensive and argue away the scores (I know, I was a teacher for 41 years!). We need to clean up our house and try to find a way to salvage what is strong in the schools—and there are many strengths—while trying to keep the legislators, who only care about getting reelected, off our backs.

  • Owen says:

    January 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I continue to be perplexed! Why would some politicians promote an “agenda” that is designed to destroy the very system that helped make them (or any of us, for that matter) who they/we are today?

  • WAYNE says:

    January 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm


  • Jon Miners says:

    January 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Pisa scores show that a lot of kids are doing fine and NAEP scores are improving, not as fast as we would like them to be, but not fast enough to suggest fraud either.

  • Mark Bannick says:

    January 25, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I was watching “At Issue” and the interview Tom Hauser had with Tom Dooher.  Tome Hauser began the interview by asking Mr. Dooher about the “Controversial” issue of education in Minnesota.  Why is education in Minnesota a “Controversial” issue?  Don’t we all, conservatives and liberals, want an affordable and high quality secondary and post-secondary education for our children and young adults?  Education is not controverisal.  It is a necessity and an issue we all, as Minnesotans, must agree should be the highest quality and at the most affordable price for ALL Minnesotans.

  • Judith Daniel says:

    January 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Knowledge is power, most teachers inspire students to learn and think. There is, among some conservatives, a fear of knowledge, a suspicion that thinking upsets the status quo. It can and it does.

    Public education is not perfect, but it has given this country a tradition of innovation and creativity, a dynamic history that embraces change; that keeps on challenging the status quo. It has given the power of knowledge and critical thinking to all of us, regardless of income and status.

    What’s to fear or demonize?

  • Ginny says:

    January 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I think jeffito and several others commentators are accurate in that the end game is to “destroy all that is left of the commons.”
    I always thought that free public education, as envisioned by Horace Mann, and in Minnesota, our own Harriet Bishop, was an unassailable right. WHO could want to destroy public schools?
    I thought, and still think, that a democracy needs well-educated citizens as well as people who are able to fill jobs, many of them complex and requiring advanced education. I always thought that this was (or should be) a conservative goal and it is for many. How else are companies going to find people to staff their increasingly complex companies?
    I think the attacks are short-sighted—destroying the long-term good of all of us for money—greed. If you start tearing down a house that was stable and usable, a little over time, by letting the roof leak, chopping at the siding, attacking the people who are trying to keep it upright and whole, and covering it with graffiti, and then stand back and say—we’ll do it our way, you’ve got what we’re headed for. Greed overcoming public interest. 
    Much of this comes from my earlier comments that a public education is the foundation of a successful democracy.
    Well, maybe we can see just how that is working out.
    As jeffito noted, privatizing the schools is a potential source of money for private corporations, and effectively keeps out the poor. “Home schooling” for the poverty stricken (who usually have little education) is absurd.

    The purpose of public education go well beyond job training. A teacher of mine used to say, the main benefit of education isn’t to learn facts and the date of a war, or whatever, you can look that up (especially now), but to teach people how to use facts to think and analyze and reach good decisions.
    We’re not doing a good job of that now. Especially when I read about the teaching of evolution forbidden in schools in the south (and no doubt elsewhere), and the illiteracy of many students over math and science—not to mention words, which put the whole thing together so it’s usable for others.

  • Dan C says:

    January 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Owen, I’m perplexed, like you.  I have thought over and over about this issue.  I keep coming back to the role education has played.  Education has greatly helped elevate the standard of living of million and millions of families.  The GI Bill, which helped fund college educatons were an enormous “shot-in-the-arm” for our economy and future growth.  However, back then our nation was positive, looking to the future with optimism, and driven to see our country grow like never before.  I remember when JFK worried bout Russia’s Sputnik launch, said the US would put a man on the moon within 10 years.  And we did.  We can’t duplicate that today.  I remember watching the moon landing live on TV in 1969.  Our country was driven, as on a mission. People were proud and inspired.

    Now, in 2011, our society is fractured, with diametrically opposed factions.  Instead of inspired, people seem disillusioned.  One faction doesn’t want to spend any taxes, another wants religion to permeate politics and science, and big business wants to capture most, if not all Government services in “privatization.”  While these might not appear to be bad for everyone, I think it is impoortant to look at the motives for all of this.  The anti-tax people are governed by exceptional selfishness, not wanting to share wealth or health with anyone else.  The religious people want to impose their beliefs on everyone else, as a last ditch effort to salvage failing evangelism.  Then, there is the crowd who are not religious at all, but use it as a wedge issue for the general populace.  Religion is a good opiate for the masses that distract people from the looting of our country by the rich.  The privatizing of Governemnt services isn’t being proposed to offer better services at a lesser cost to the public.  Instead, it is looked at as a huge cash cow from which the rich and business can further profit.  Public service and even lower cost will quickly take a back seat to enormous corporate profits.

    The concentration of wealth in our country is truly scary.  Too few people have entirely too much of our nation’s wealth.  I believe the conservative movement is an effort to consolidate and strengthen rich people’s hold on our country.  We are steadily marching toward a plutocracy, if we aren’t already there.  Then, the rich can keep us ignorant, low-paid, and low-skilled to perform the menial tasks they want completed.  They don’t want the masses educated.  That means competition for their wealth.

    What I am trying to say is, the rich have a motive to ensure education deteriorates in our country.  They don’t want people educated and able to understand the complexities of our society.  They just want poor dumb workers to make their widgets.  The rich will cement themselves in the oligarchs by paying whatever fees and whatever costs it takes o educate their children.  They know the key to maintaining their power is staying educated among themselves.

    Right now the rich gain by the continual infighting and division they seed among the people.  As long as the pople are divided into factions, they can easily manipulate a faction or two.  Also, the infighting diverts the peoples’ attention from the real danger of too much wealth concentrated in too few hands.  People will remain ignorant about who owns what and what control that might exert in our lives.

    Of course, ultimately our country will decline to third-world status.  The rich won’t care because they view it as, it is better to be a big cog in a little gear than a small cog in a big gear.  In other words, it is about the power they will wield.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    We come from different sides of the aisle Bill; but I agree with you.

    This is NOT a teacher issue. It is a teacher union issue.

    MN2020 knows their audience well and knows how to use a provocative headline as a canard.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    In the DFL I joined Mike it use to be ok to disagree because you knew that perhaps on the next issue you would agree. The teachers Union greed has made the DFL a gang label.

  • ellen wolfson says:

    January 25, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    The Republican goal for many years has been to kill unions.  People seem to forget that during the time that unions had real power in this country we also had a thriving economy and a solvent middle class.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Sadly Ellen public employee unions cut all our thrats when they refused to back PATCO. It’s way to late to cry now.

  • Ginny says:

    January 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Tom Hauser is not neutral. He is conservative and used the first question to establish that.

  • Ginny says:

    January 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    This is what baffles me. How do these corporate owners think they can sustain their own prosperity if they don’t have a bunch of educated people to staff their complex environments? Where are they going to get them?

  • Ginny says:

    January 25, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    No, they’re not doing just fine. Countries like Finland and South Korea put a much higher percentage of their money into education, and they have cultivated a culture of the importance of education. Look at any of the very available statistics on how our educational systems—K through 12 and university, and we come out pretty poorly.
    Until we make education as important as sports and treat our educators and scholars as well as well as we do sports figures and stadiums, we will continue sinking economically, shamefully, in this country, outdone by third world and poorer countries. Actually some of this is already happening. Especially in health care. Also in infrastructure like bullet trains. And, as we note, in education.

  • Greg says:

    January 25, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Of course there’s a war against teachers.
    The last thing the GOP wants is an educated public.  People came here from Europe to get away from a society dominated by upper classes.
    The Republicans do all in their power to maintain the dukes, the earls, the private schools and the exclusion of opportunity for the many . Anything goes as long as the rich are not required to pitch in to the general good.

  • Marie Alena Castle says:

    January 25, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Given the strong religious-right orientation of so many Republican legislators, I’d say one of the reasons for the assault is to weaken the public school system so an argument can be made to fund private schools (read: parochial schools). This has been a major goal of the religious right for many years. To succeed, they have to discredit or otherwise ruin public confidence in public schools.

  • Ginny says:

    January 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Ellen, you are absolutely right. The history of unions is fraught with the desperate need of companies to kill unions, in whatever way necessary—calling in vicious private security forces, the national guard, and others to put fear in the hearts of those who want to organize. Now it’s a little more subtle: We don’t kill the people who want to organize—we just fire them. And hire scabs to take their place. Along with the steep decline in prosperity for the lower- and middle classes has been an enormous drop in union membership to about 11%.
    I belong to a union and always will in some way or other (I’m not a teacher).

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    January 25, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    You are right. But the schools are vulnerable. The weakness has been known for more than thirty years—given the mass of studies that have been done. The religious right has simply started flailing a weak horse. The best way to stop the nutters on the Right is to feed the horse: strengthen our public school system by demanding higher standards for teachers and students and longer school years as well. America has been lax in this regard for many years when compared to other industrialized nations.

  • Owen says:

    January 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    With all the teacher bashing, is it any wonder why unions are needed? Teachers teach with the tools “they are given”. If some feel the system is somehow failing, I would suggest that the finger pointing needs to be moved “up” the ladder a few rungs.

  • Al says:

    January 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Wages in our area have been stagnant for years.  Teachers are the highest paid employees in most small towns. It is commonly said that teachers only work a 9 month year and can retire at full pay. Conservatives have used this as a wedge.  Combine this with NCLB, cuts in state funding, and the constant persuit of operating levees and you have class warfare to distract us from what is really wrong with education.
    Distort, distract, decaive-who will you beleive?

  • Bonnie says:

    January 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I agree!

  • Dennis Schapiro says:

    January 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    The attacks are not sudden. In part it is related to the rise of right-wing foundations and think tanks.

    They noticed that the plurality of delegates at national Democratic conventions were teachers and therefor the enemy to be attacked.

    Step by step they built the case for education as a civil/human right and the weaknesses of public schools, documented for well over 50 years, became grist.

    Now they have big money folks in need of a vision quest, like Gates, Broad, Walton and others,  who will support high sounding ideas that play down the values of teachers.

    Our education system has survived a lot of attacks. My guess is it will outlast this one, too.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    What came first: The chicken or the egg?

    Did the unions create a US centric thriving economy?

    Or did we have such a great US centric thriving economy that even the inefficiencies of unions could not destroy the thriving economy at that time?

    Me thinks the latter!

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Why doesn’t it surprise me that you needed the crutch of a union Ginny?

    I didn’t need a union and we raised our children to be self-reliant and compete in the free and open marketplace. I am proud to see they will not need the crutch of a union as well.

  • mike.savick says:

    January 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    This is a part of a drive to lower all wages.  Remember Tom Emmer wanted to lower minimum wages for servers? Lower any groups wages and create downward pressure on all labor.  This is what the wage earners who are social conservatives and anti-government Tea Party supporters don’t understand about the real power in the Republican Party.  The wealthy few care not about the social conservative view, just their voting power.

  • Owen says:

    January 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Mike. Although neither of us may belong to unions, others do/may not have a choice in the matter.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm


    Perhaps we need to restore some freedom and liberty by making union membership a personal choice!

  • Hawkeye says:

    January 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Yes…the Republicans have wasted little time doing what they know best, showing that they hate government in all forms.  They despise all business regulations, public K-12 education, public higher education, public transportation, public health, and the source of funds that support them all…namely taxes.  Why?  Because in a progressive tax system, which we still have in place (watch for changes in that) the Republicans pay more, and they hate it!  They have always hated government; so when you watch what they do this session, it will all be a repeat of temperment and actions that go back at least 75 years.  They would rather have a society in which they are allowed to do whatever they wish, unchecked, and are willing to accept living in a state that is far less civilized—with poor health, poor education, poor roads.  Why? Because they can afford to take care of themselves, and they don’t give a damn about anyone else.  They’ll send their kids to private schools and colleges, maintain their unfettered businesses, pay for their own health care, laugh all the way to the bank…and the rest of the state can just “lump it.”  I wonder what excuse Republicans would use when they, (like their federal counterparts, would begin each session by reading the state constitution, and asking each bill introduced to be labeled as to what part of the state constitution is invoked in allowing the passage of each piece of legislation)get to the part of the constitution that says that the state shall establish a uniform system of public education.  They will, trust me, find a wormhole in that language so that not every child is deserving of a healthy life, and a quality education, regardless of the district in which they live.  It’s “deja vu” all over again!

  • Dan C says:

    January 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Mike - you are way over the top.  If someone belives in unions, that’s fine.  If they don’t that’s fine.  I see no reason you have to demean someone who values unions.  There are many very good things unions have done.  Also, there have been lots of bad things companies have done to workers.  So live and let live.  Your intolerance and narrow-mindedness seem typical of the extreme right.  Next, you’ll be teling people which church they have to worship at.  Do you understand our country wasfounded on freedom and liberty?  Then, why do you act so narrow-minded?

  • Dan C says:

    January 25, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Yes, Republican have bad-mouthed Government so much and so long they now believe their own BS.  It’s a weak-minded group-think with little critical self-examination.  Just just want short phrase to remember, not understan problems.  Sometimes, I think they are the ones where our education did fail.

  • Dan C says:

    January 25, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Hawkeye - what I am most astounded at is the number of Republicans who oppose progressive taxes and limited Government, but who most benefits by them.  I used to always say that unless you earn a million dollars a year, you are a fool to be a Republican.  However, I think there is a significant number of weak thinkers, earning far less than that,that have been sufficiently bamboozled.  Worshiopping Sarah Palin?  Come on.  She can see Russia from her porch, but probably hasn’t read any rferences laying on her coffee table.  A mental light weight.  She disparages the Canadian health system, but used it many years when in Alaska.  Repulbican religious zealots who want to dictae the moral life we shjould lead, but who freqently break commandments themselves.  How about Joe Miller?  He railed against welfare, Medicaid, and unemployment, but he received them al himself.  Giant hypocrits

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    If you agree that our Founding Fathers believed in individual freedom and and individual liberty, then you would support individual choice in union membership Dan.

    PS I agree that unions fulfilled a very useful purpose 100 years ago. But buggy whips were still around 100 years ago as well.

  • Ginny says:

    January 25, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    You are right and it’s frightening. Sometimes I imagine a world that adheres to the Republicans’ “vision,” and it looks awful. Sort of like 1984—we’ve got some of that already. I was in Romania a few years ago, and saw block after block of cheap concrete housing already eroding and wonder if the working people in America will have to live in this kind of housing. It will not be a kind world in addition to being bleak.
    A dreadful possibility.

  • Dan C says:

    January 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    I agree in individual freedom and liberty.  If a job is union and a closed shop, then that individual has all the freedom and liberty to avoid taking it, if they so desire, but if you are saying the person has a right to take a union job and participate in all the hard-fought union bnefits and pay, then you arte worng.  Tha’s like saying you have the right to select any home you want to live in, but you don’t have to pay for it.

    It is not up to you or me to determine the role of unions.  It is the workers that determine that.  You know, they have rights, freedoms and liberties as well.  I certainly don’t think it appropriate for you to decide for others what their rights are to be.

    If one espouses freedom and liberty, then I believe you have to afford that right to everyone, even if you don’t agree.  I don’t think you would appreciate it if I were establishing work rules or business practices for you.  It’s called live and let live.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    It is truly sad that you have zero confidence in businesses but 100% confidence in government. I would suggest therapy but Dan thinks I am over the top.

    I encourage you to read the Federalist Papers, books on our Founding Fathers, etc. to learn their values & principles. They created this great country as a direct result of the big gov’t proponents in England & Europe. Our Founders established a limited gov’t with specific enumerated powers to free a new American spirit. It worked well for nearly 200 years. However, big gov’t proponents have robbed future generations of the very greatness which made this country special.

  • Mike the Nurse says:

    January 25, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Um that was from Soviet building projects and then later socialized house. Trust me on this one, I was stationed all through Europe. So this is not a good example.

  • William Pappas says:

    January 26, 2011 at 7:40 am


    There is no question our eonomy reached its pinnacle because of the effect unions had on wages and the protections they offered from exploitation by capitalists.  When wages are high, workers consume and the economy prospers across the board.  What our country would look like without the proliferation of unions and their consequences is frightening.  Republicans can’t reduce salaries and wages fast enough.  The assault on teachers is a shameless political tactic that discounts the incredible achievment of Minnesota public education with respect to overall college readiness relative to other states.  We are unexcelled in that all important area.  If you would listen to Pawlenty you’d think Minnesota K-12 education is hopelessly damaged with Educate Minnesota at the core of the disfunction.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Minnesota’s teachers are as well trained and prepared to instruct as any other state in America.  Had Pawlenty touted our education as he should have, our state’s economy and the business outlook would be brighter.  This is one of the big tragedies of Pawlenty’s ideological and political tenure as governor.  One other thing, Mike: unions are not a crutch.  They are a collective bargaining tool that protects the rights of workers from exploitation by the power of employers.  They were created by the obvious need of employees to have some organization to do so.  They actually exist to enhance the human rights of all workers.  They are a very deomcratic organization (as in democracy, Mike) and reflect well on our society and the value it places on ordinary human endeavors.  The demagoguery engaged by Pawlenty to demonize them is shocking in its disrespect for worker’s rights.  As pensions have been robbed by the unregulated stock market, wgaes and salaies slashed, retirement accounts depleted by the derivitives ponzi scheme and health insurance reduced by employers the corporate elite have continued to profit and are basking in this new productivity at the expense of workers.  In the face of this the economy is looking at the new future, one without a middle class, but fortunately unionis are squarely planted to resist this capitalist takeover of human rights, dignity and the American dream.

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Mike-you so surprise me.  Here you just got done saying unions were a hundred years ago and so in the past.  Then, you bring up the Federalist Papers which are over 200 years ago.  You talk about rights, but yet you want to infringe on workers rights to organize?

    I think you have to organize your beliefs in an effort to be consistent.  Right now, you appear to arbitrarily pick items off a smorgasbord with little thought given to whether they are cogent.

    I suggest you organize your beliefs to “weed out” inconsistencies, lest you be vulnerable to hypocrisies.

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Mr. Dowling, I doubt you hae read the Federalist Papers.  First, the Federalist Papers were written to “sell” the Constitution to the State of New York.  NY was a critical early state needed to ratify the Constitution.  Remember, we weren’t annointed with the Constitution, it was ratified by the states.  You seem to think they are the “Dead Sea Scrolls.”  The Federalist Papers were a sales pitch to the state.  Accordingly, the authority of the Federal Government was played down.

    More important than the Federalist Papers was the Continental Congress and the convention constructing the Constitution.  One of the authors in the Federalist Papers and involved in the Constitutional Convention, Alexander Hamilton, believed in the overriding power of the Federal Government.  I think you need to remember that the period of time, when the US was governed by the Continental Congress, our country’s governance was a disaster.

    Realizing the Continental Congress was a disaster of governance, you need to ask yourself why?  The Founding Fathers of our Constitution realized the Federal Government did not have nearly enough authority and power over the states to effectively govern or nation.  So, almost all members of the Constitutional Convention realized that strengthening the power and authority of the Federal Government was paramount.

    There have been countless Supreme Court decisions over the last 100 years reinforcing those increased Federal Powers.  I hear far too often from Tea Party people about the Constitution and Federalist Papers.  Yet those people know so little about what is in them, or the history of them.  It is as if they are mouthing the words of someone else manipulating them.

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Mr. Pappas, I totally agree with you.

  • Alec says:

    January 26, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Actually Mike, the constitution was written almost a decade after our founding as a direct response to the Articles of Confederation in order to strengthen and enlarge the Federal Government. The author’s of the constitution were actually the first big government liberals Mike, sorry to say. You and your ilk are more Articles of Confederation types. We liberals are more in line with the balance the constitution provides.

    We need to have a balance between business and government. A tyranny of either can take away our freedom. Believe in both, but trust neither. We the people are the check and balance on government, and government has to be our check and balance on business.

  • Alec says:

    January 26, 2011 at 9:25 am

      You label everyone who disagrees with you as a socialist and marxist, then protest that your ideas are not welcome. I think maybe some self-reflection might be in order. It might not be your ideas, but the way you present them and the way you treat people.

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Mr. Pappas, I would like to add that Minnesota was a perennial national leader in education.  I moved to Minnesota in 1992 in large part because of the great school system.  In the years of the Pawlenty Administration, the quality of education has dramatically declined.  Minnesota’s quality of education is now mediocre.

    Now, one might ask why this decline occured.  Well, Minnesota used to lead the nation in education on a per pupil basis.  Now, we spend about an average amount.  My conclusion is that Minnesota has gotten what we paid for.  We wanted and paid for the best and we got it.  Pawlenty wanted to pay for a mediocre education system and we got it.  Most f all, it was his attitude of stte priorities that showed.  Education was not his prioity.

    I think people are foolish attacking the employees in the educational system, trying to do the best with what they have.  I also think it is self-destructive to hear people attack teachers while knowing little of what they do.  It’s more of that Tea Party hateful cannibalism.  It’s about diverting the attention of the middle-class, and getting them to eat their own, while the rich run off with the bank.

    Instead of arguing about whether teachers are overpaid, I think people need to realize that the top 1% of people in our country are all generally overpaid…..and coincidentally underworked.  I thought it so interesting listening to T. Boone Pickens this morning on MSNBC, when he said that it is absolutely unsustainable tha the US can sustain ourselves usig 25% of the owrlds oild, but having only 2% ofthe reserves.  Yet, Our country operates wih the top richest 1% of the people owning 42% of our country’s financial wealth.  That’s worse than our oil situation.

    If people want to improve eduation, fine, then work with schools and teachers to do that.  However, don’t sit there on a couch watching soap operas complaining about teachers.  Parents play a major role preparing their children to learn.  There is not nearly enough of that.  Parents have been largely responsible for the decline of student performance.  Instead of complaining, why don’t people join their local school PTO’s to make valuable input to improving schools?  You know, it is our community.

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 9:48 am

    I have every confidence in business to do business and Government to govern, but I have zero confidence in business ability to govern, as I would in the government to run business.  Today, there is too much emphasis placed on the ability of business to govern.  Frankly, considering the ability of business to manage Wall Street, banks, and auto companies, I think business has its hands full just acceptably managing their own affairs.  They are not the sothsayers they think they are.  Remember, Government has employed the most brilliant business minds available to assist with governance.  So, if Government is a failure, what does that say about business?

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Excellent point Alec!

  • Ginny says:

    January 26, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Sure it is. I don’t care if you saw them or not. I don’t care who built them. They are what I see when I think of the “vision” of far right-wing conservatives.

  • Ginny says:

    January 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    This morning’s Trib had a story about how school test results show that fewer than half of Minnesota fourth- and eighth-graders are proficient in science. (In nmost other states they’re worse).
    Now, where do you suppose that came from?
    It’s not the teachers’ fault. It’s your fault, it’s my fault. We do not give our school the money they need to adequately do their job (if they did, my volunteer work and that of thousands of others in my community would not be needed.
    We do not pay them the money they require to, in some cases, eve3n support themselves—beginning salaries in many cases at $13,000.
    We attack our educational system (which needs vast improvement, but not for the reasons conservatives say, and with no serious ideas for making our schools prepare students for 21st century world—and the competition. President Obama is absolutely right in holding up South Korea and China as examples of countries that do revere education—and we are looking at the results (I think some of these practices have gone overboard, but that’s another story).
    Without well educated people, who is going to come up with the next innovations in transportation or production or whatever that we need to prosper—not to mention the educated citizenry that can understand why schools are important.

  • Ginny says:

    January 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Those who bash unions as being unfair should take a look at our country’s business practices regarding unions. Have you heard about the Citizens Alliance? If not read the book “A Union against Unions.” The union that the author refers to is the union of businesspeople who fought any kind of unionization to the death—literally.
    One leader said, “I believe we should endeavor to strike at the root of the matter, and that is to be found in the wide spread socialistic sentiment among certain classes of people.”

      “Law and order must be enforced and ... class domination over industry is not going to be tolerated.”
    That doesn’t sound all that different from some people’s verbiage today. This battle was fought over decades (and goes on) with the unions of businesses using every tactic at their disposal, including violence. My father was a trucker at the time of the 1935 Truckers’ Strike, infamous in our history, a brutal battle that finally loosened the grip of the business unions and allowed unionization.
    Unions have brought our people prosperity and dignity and a decent wage. No more. The business unions, especially under the various Chambers of Commerce, have used their strong influences and their money to pass laws that let them “dissuade” their workers from organizing, that let them create “open shops” (a misnomer), and that allowed them to hire scabs.
    Remember Reagan’s firing of all the air traffic controllers? Another nail in the coffin. In effect, businesses and corporations can do almost anything they want nowadays (one restraint are minimum wage laws).
    It’s not a pretty story, and I would recommend people read more about this. Most do not know about the long battle to even the playing field slightly with the well-financed corporations and businesses.
    I recommend Peter Rachleff’s books as well as Millikan’s. I know there are many others—but we don’t hear as much about them as we do the business-approved histories.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 26, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Dan K grin, the inconsistent thinking is on your part. I am for individual freedom and equal opportunity. You and your “ilk” are for collective outcomes regardless of ability, effort, skills, etc.

    American exceptionalism was based on equal opportunity and the will to be the best that you can be. American exceptionalism was up to the individual. American exceptionalism was never achieved due to collective outcomes.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Dan, You may not have read the summary of the 2008 Financial Collapse Report yet. You can speed read an article in today’s Pioneer Press.

    It was correct that this financial meltdown was avoidable and the blame starts with the Fed, the FDIC, Fannie/Freddie, the SEC, Congress, Clinton & Bush.

    My questions to you, after reading the article, is this: How can you place blind faith in such an ineffective and inefficient federal government? Would Wall Street have pushed bad CDOs if they had not been packaged for sale by GSEs such as Freddie/Fannie which had the “full backing of the federal gov’t”?

    Me thinks not!

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    William & Ginny,

    You paint pretty pictures of unions.

    We have different perspectives on unions. My perspective is from a family business in Illinois during the 1950s. I saw the Chicago Teamster goons come into our small family business their tactics included keying our cars, slashing tires on our cars and our trucks, making verbal threats to us and making threatening phone calls to our homes (yes before caller ID etc.). Eventually these tactics worked and the business was changed forever from a family to an openly hostile work environment run by the Teamsters. My father and his brothers sold the business and it has since folded. 150 jobs were lost in a small community due to the Teamsters.

    So paint with fair and balanced brush that takes into account the job destruction caused by the Teamsters, the UAW, etc.


  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    Mike - it is too bad hearing of your story, but I don’t think I have to tell you there are a thousand stories even worse about what businesses have done to unions and people who have pushed for unions.  I’m sure you’ve heard of “knucklebusters.”  Also, here were numerous people killed in Detroit and in coal mining comunities trying to organize unions.

    Like anything, there are abusive people in any realm.  Given that, it is a decision that should rest with the workers.  It is their job.  It’s not right you dictating wheter people can organize or not.  Then aren’t you guilty of standing in the way of freedom and liberty? 

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Mike - I hate to say it, but you aren’t for individual freedom or liberty, if you wish to prohibit people from organizing.  You claim to be “free enterprise”, then be it.  If you want to control people and tell them they can not organize, then you are NOT about freedom or liberty.  Maybe you are for total freedom for business, but controlling the people.  That’s not freedom. And I hate to say it, but that Constitution you have talked about cwas repletewith references safeguarding individual liberties.  It doesn’t mitigate that for business.

    I suggest that unions and personal freedoms are here to stay.  The message for you should be to learn to get along.  However, don’t peddle your freedom and liberty crap when you want to limit people’s right to organize.  That’s control.

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Mike - oyurt story about individual exceptionalism has existed in unions every bit as much as in business. Many great men have climbed and exelled in labor unions.  There is a long list of influential and successful labor leaders.  That was their chosen field.  You are not a person for freedom to want to control their careers.  If so, then you should realize they had a right to control businesses.  It ain’t a one-way street.

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    First, don’t talk to me about perspective.  I try to view things objectively here.  I was a management leader who frequently dealt with unions.  There were numerous times unions made my job more difficult.  However, it was my job to get the work done with the union.  It must be lazy management that wants to eliminate the competition when doing the job.  Management is paid well to get the job done, union or not.  I suggest management and ownership live with unions and start earning the astronomical pay they get. 

    Even though I battled the union on nunerous ocassions, I always realized they had the rigt to do what they did.  Also, I admit there were lots of incidents I,(management) could have abused employees without a union reresenting emloyee interests.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Thank you for your understanding Dan.

    We will agree to disagree on the subject of individual freedom vs collective freedom. I submit that individuals must have an individual freedom to choose and not be subjected to the wishes of the 51-99% who are willing to give up their individual freedom. I value my freedom to fail or succeed on my own.

  • Dave C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    The teachers are a highly visible focal point for misplaced anger. They, along with unionized state workers, and any other union worker; are constantly under attack from the billionaire class and their “think tanks”, media “stars”, and multimedia holdings!
    Have any of you noticed how similar the attacks on unionized workers, no matter their profession, has been? It doesn’t matter if the attacks are at the national, state, or local level, the similarity is there! The attacks are not limited to the unionized workers, but are directed there to divide and conquer the dwindling middle class!

    This is not the end game, just a step along the way to eliminating the social safety net, that has been put in place over the years.

    As during the lead up to the stock market crash in 1929, when the top 0.1% controlled everything and had a disproportionate share of the nations wealth; we are seeing the inflation of the next destructive bubble! Stock market: up, commodities: up (driven by speculation, despite what the smoke screen is saying)!

    All bubbles burst; this one is on track for mid 2012, just in time for the coming Presidential election. The divided former middle class will blame Obama and elect a Republican figurehead to oversee our march into serfdom via necessary “austerity measures”. The only way that Obama can stop this, is to quit playing “ball” with the Wall St. crowd. Will he, or is it even possible? I’m going to keep breathing while I can!



  • William Pappas says:

    January 26, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Besides that fact that unions are all about freedom, the freedom to organize, the freedom to bargain collectively with your employer and the freedom to pursue a better life for you and your family, I would like to offer you this fact.  Our company runs construction projects in many other states; nonunion states such as Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, Neraska, Missouri and North Dakota, where commercial construction is performed largely by non-union labor.  Conversely our Minnesota projects are exclusively union.  The quality of labor in those states is dramatically less qualified, not as well trained, poorly paid, much more inefficient and a lot slower with less quality.  The result is dramatically increased construction durrations and ultimately higher labor costs.  The union construction labor in Minnesota is without a doubt the envy of every region in America.  The reasons’s are many, but most of it is due to the profesionalism of unions and their effect on worker quality.  Apprentices are methodically trained, wages offer workers incentive to invest in their skills while pensions and health insurance give dignity and purpose to worker’s future. Projects in Minnesota are routinely finished in 60-70%of the time required for out-of-state projects.  Sorry, Mike, this is just a fact.

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Just remember Mike, you have the same freedoms to take or not take the job, with or without the union, just like you would have those freedoms working or not working for a particular employer.

    To suggest that you take a job, knowing it ws a union shop, and then disregard that obligation after you get the job, shows a serious lack of personal integrity and character.  To accept the union job, with all of its accrued benefits that others have have fought so hard to obtain, and the refuse to support the union is aain a serious lapse of integrity and character.  It’s taking a job under false pretenses.

    As an individual you always have a choise.  Having your cake and eating it too might be a good selfish ideal, but it isn’t compatible in a cooperative environment.  If you want to work as an individual, then take a job where you can function as such.  Don’t expect the union to subsidize you.

  • Dan C says:

    January 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Mike you always hae the choise.  However, you exercixe that when you accept or reject the job.  You don’t deceive the union or the employer to getthe job and expect them to live with oyur deceipt.

  • Pete King says:

    January 26, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Why a conservative assault on teachers?  Education spending made up roughly 24% of the 2010 budget.  Imagine if education were privatized, that would lead to over $10billion in savings and a new source of employment (of course, some would be educators moving into these jobs) but some private industry would take much of that revenue.  What else they would do with that money belongs to someone smarter than me.  Minnesota consistently earns among the highest ACT scores across the nation.  If Minnesota teachers are so horrible, then why are the students so good on that national exam? Seems inconsistent with the message the major media sources are spinning.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 27, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Dan C.:  I believe you should have referred to F.A. Hayek’s “The Road To Serfdom” . This book accurately describes what the liberal progressives have been doing for the last 40+ years. Fortunately the voting public has woken up and expressed their objections at the polls last Nov 2nd and will do it again on Nov 6th 2012.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 27, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Dan, The deception is yours if you think union members have individual freedom.

  • Dan C says:

    January 27, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Mike - Don’t be childish here.  There is no individual freedom in anything, unless you choose to live on an island or as a mountain man.  As long as one chooses to live in a society among other people, there is never total freedom.  Guess what?  You also have responsibilities.  You know, there were times, when my children were very litte, that I had to tell them that not everything was their right, or that doing something impinged on their freedom.  Or doing something sometimes meant doing it because I or their mother said so.  There are also responsibilities we all have to each other.  That’s what being a society is all about.  Society is not just a smorgasbord, where you get to pick only the things you want and reject the things you don’t want.

    Society means speed limits, it means no killing or stealing, it means sometimes being drafted to fight in wars of the country.  It means receiving an education until a certain age.  It means paying for utilities you use, and on and on.

    Sometimes the Tea Party seems like a childish regression to childhood where people feel they only have to do what they want.  Prisons are full of thos people.

    As far as your writer is concerned, his is widely known as extreme.

  • Dan C says:

    January 27, 2011 at 10:11 am

    William Pappas and Dave C - I totally agree with both of you.  The rich have been waging class warfare for years and they have been killing the middle class.  Maybe they won’t stop until that Marie Antoinette moment, who knows.  Usually, when I hear other middle-class people criticizing others, it is the less intelligent among us.  The rich right foments a latent hate and fear in these people and then direct their hate to others in their own class.  They accommplish 2 things when they do this: One, they can more easily persuade the less aware among us that they need to add to their riches if they are to benevolently add jobs, and two, they use these less aware people to do the dirty work of bashing other have-not members of the middle class.

    However, the rich have one overriding fear themselves.  They know they are small in numbers, making the physical defense of their position difficult.  So they are susceptible to physical threat, if they think it comes from a populist effort.  However, their practiced manipulation of the masses will undoubtedly be a distraction from any populist effort.

    Mike has things totally turned around.  Obviously, he is historically unaware.  It was the struggle and many deaths earlier in this century that caused the poor and middle-class to fight for their right to unionize and be free to to do so, that exemplified the quest for freedom and liberty.  It was workers asserting their rights in the production process that prevailed.  While Mike makes a very silly Tea Party argument about freedom from unions, it is he who argues against freedom.  He is the silly frog in the pan who wants to return to the feudal system of another century, when employers were free to abuse employees in most any creative way they wished.  That argument is silly and without sound reasoning.

  • Dan C says:

    January 28, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Mike, I think you need to decide what YOU want as freedom.  No one appointed you to determine what union members should determine as their freedom.  It is amazing to me that one who so hates unions claims to know what members of the unions want, more then the members themselves.  Frankly, I leave that to them.  You want freedom - the freedom to meddle with the freedoms of others. 

    I guess if we use Mike’s logic, union members should determine if corporations and businesses should exist.  Your logic remends me of a patient directing the surgeon who is operating on him/her about the art of surgery.  The logic that takes a person least knowledgable and interested in an organization, to direct it, is upside down.  I suggest Mike would have his hands full dealing with problems in his own areas of expertise.  So much so, that I find it hard to fathom how he has solutions for areas way outside his area of expertise.

    Unfortunately, his scenario reminds me of a child looking to deflect blame for something they did, by pointing their finger at someone else.  If Mike diligently worked to improve in his area of expertise, and everyone did the same, all our nation’s problems might be solved.  However, the blind monday morning quarterbacks, with confidence long surpassing their abilities, seem to keep our nation needlessly embroiled in a caldron of discontent.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 28, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Yes Dan, only a child can not comprehend that you give up your rights to individual freedom when you subjugate yourself to union rules. You can not be the best that you can be. You must conform to be a collective average and protest productivity improvements through work rules.

    Nonunion employees are free to be the best that they can be with their education, experience, attitude and their performance. Freedom should be cherished.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 28, 2011 at 11:07 am

    ‎“Students should be prepared for a world where technology improves individual and collective productivity exponentially. It will take fewer people and less time than ever to collaborate across vast distances to get work and projects done. Productivity will not be related to a place. Productivity will be the province of talented people with the right tools to get things done.” (

    How can a union help an enterprise accomplish this? The frank answer is that unions are an obstacle to improving productivity and making America more competitive.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    January 28, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I tend to agree. It is certainly the case that unions in the academy have negatively affected the teaching and learning of students—despite the fact that faculty benefits have improved over the years. At least, there is an interesting correlation.
    Scores have gone down, grades have gone up, and students know less and less as the years pass. The attention of the faculty have become increasingly focused on terms and conditions of employment. I know whereof I speak.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Thank you Dr. your input here in the halls of denial is greatly appreciated.

  • Dan C says:

    January 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Dr. Curtler, I’m very surprised at your sketchy deductive reasoning here.  You say union activity has increased among college professors, and pay for them has increased, but student performance has decreased.  Therefore, you conclude unions have an adverse impact on student performance?  I would have thought you would do far more testing of that theory, before proposing it.  I could also say that sun spot activity has increased over the last years, and student performacen has decreased, therefore, sun spot activity has adversely affected student performance.  How about global warming affect on academics?  I could go on an on. Obviously, you have a predilection for that theory.  However, your deductions are insufficiently proved.

    Another ingredient in this mix of unions and student performance is management.  Unions have not been able to singularly prevail in the deterioration of education.  There are many other variables.  Management being key.  It is management and its relationship with the unions, along with its abdication of authority that well might have contributed to the problem.  In other words, management has not been doing its job.  Unions don’t unilaterally give themselves raises. 

    Also, there is an obvious affect that parenting has on student performance.  In the last many years, the prevalence of both parents working full-time, away from home, has undoubtedly adversely affected student performance.  Children have missed needed parental mentoring.  In pre-WWII times, one parent was home almost all the time to teach and mentor children.  Now, families many times rely on the schools to do that.

    You know, since the beginning of time, people have always sought more and more.  Kind of like the rich in our society.  Whatever you have is not enough.  It only whets the appetite for more.  The question almost always comes down to, when is enough enough.

    Since our society has seemed to always operated with “role models,” and these “role models” have invariably been the famous or rich among us, wouldn’t it be appropriate that the rich set the example for the rest of society by limiting pecuniary wants?  Also, how about a societal responsibility to the less fortunate among us?  Wouldn’t this be a better model to emulate?

    I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you have come close to establishing a relationship between unions and student performance.  There are far too many variables in determining student performance to so simplistically relate it to unions.
    Now, in a separate discussion of unions, I think it is important to point out that management has been duplicitous in the your allegation of wage creep.  After all, it was management that granted the wage requests.  Also, it was management that supervised teachers’ performance.  What did management do to improve teacher performance?  Did management remove substandard performers?  Did the state and local school districts creatively use strategies to hold wages back?  I tire of management and executives justifying enormous pay in their contracts by stressing their high responsibility, but who reflexively point their fingers at the production employees when the “bottom line” is not there.  Poor performing schools districts and schools are because of failed management, not failing teachers.  School management has not adequately inspired or removed poorly perfoming workers.

    I was management and I fired many employees who did not, or would not, perform.  I felt a career change was necessary for employees who could not be inspired or taught to improve.  They might have a better opportunity to succeed in another organization or career.  Also, it was my experience that you fire poor performing employees earlier in their career, when their opportunities are best, and to prevent a feelng of entitlement or invincibility.

    My point being, unions will always be here.  And unions are doing what they are supposed to be doing.  The problem is getting management to do what they are supposed to be doing.  Also, to make management accountable to a level of performance.  Like any employee, management has to know expectations, just like employees do.  They also need to know the consequences of failing to meet those expectations.  The “good ‘ol boy” atmosphere has to end in the management ranks.

  • Dan C says:

    January 28, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Dr. Curtler, one more thing.  I believe colleges and universities have “tenure” and “sabatical leaves.”  It is my feeling that tenure is detrimental to professor performance because it might offer an evasion from performance expectations by insuring career security.  Also, I have known college professors who have taught only one class in consecutive terms.  I have known several professors who have exercised a provision to take sabatical leaves, with partial pay, I might add, to “enhance their academic practical experience” or to write books.  However, many times I know the sabatical leave was really used as a paid vacation to have a good time.  None of these were conducive to productivity.

    While unions might have been active in preserving these professorial benefits, it was the colleges and universities that ultimately had the authority to curtail them.  Again, a deficiency in maagement.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    January 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    I did not try to establish a causal relationship between unions and poor student performance. I was careful to point out a correlation; cause is very hard to establish. But I have seen growing concern in my 41 years of college teaching over terms and conditions of employment among faculty members, while concern for the poor performance of the students goes unnoticed. I find that reprehensible.

  • Dan C says:

    January 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Dr. Curtler.  I do believe you did try to establish a causal relationship.  I will quote you: “It is certainly the case that unions in the academy have negatively affected the teaching and learning of students—despite the fact that faculty benefits have improved over the years.”  That certainly sounds like you are trying to make a causal relationship to me.  In fact, you state UNIONS have negatively affected teaching.

    As far as correlation is concerned, your use of correlation here is too loose to even be much of that.  There is almost an infinite number of correlations that could be used to correlate deteriorating student performance.  I’m surprised at your substandard academic work here. 

    Now, you might perceive a deteriorating performance of professor performance in colleges, but again your association of that and union activity is loosely connected, at best.  I’m afraid you have again not objectively established a connection between the two.  First, all of this presupposes your attitudes about your profession and students have remained static over the years.  If it is a standard to judge your colleagues or students, it would need to remain static.  However, I very much doubt that occurred.  Undoubtedly, your attitudes and aspirations changed considerably over that time, as well.  Accordingly, your judgement of student and colleague performance was made during a time of morphing standards, feelings, and even self-perception.  It’s like you were trying to shoot a moving target from another moving target.  I did not see any objective evidence to establish what you were saying.  Frankly, if I were a colleague or yours, I would take your accusations very personally and with little basis.  It was like you were striking out against a profession that you felt “wronged you.”

    I have a very good friend who is a retired college professor and headed the professors bargaining unit at the university for years.  She was highly acclaimed as a professor and as a union representative.  She accommplished many good things for professors and students.  Also she improved the environment at the university.  I realize this is anecdotal, but I see nothing that you have said that is not anecdotal, as well.
    I remember my father telling me as a child that if I can’t say anything good about someone or something, to then keep quiet.  I feel compelled to criticize you because I think you recklessly indict a profession, without proof, accept a decidedly prejudiced personal feeling.  I think you demean a profession others have owrked hard at their entire lives.

    While you might harshly judge your colleagues, I think it important to advise you that post-secondary education in America is considered one of the best in the world.  It is sought out by residents of countries all around the world.  It is valued as one of the best preparatory educational systems in the world.  I think those earned merits go far and beyond what is necessary to refute your perceived opinion.  All institutions have considerable room for improvement, colleges and universities among them., but you have furnished no evidence to implicate unions as responsible for deteriorating student performance.  In fact, you haven’t even offered proof post-secondary education has even deteriorated.

    I can think of a profession with few, if any, union members - investment brokers.  When I reflect about what they did to the economy of our country, I really wish they had had a union.  Their unbridled greed and selfishness nearly destroyed our country, and might yet still.

    I will accept the fact that you do have a certain animus about your former colleagues, but I have not read any convincing evidence from you establishing that unions have contributed, in any way, to decaying college student performance.

    Another thing for you to consider is that unions do not teach children.  Teachers teach children.  If a poor performing teacher is teaching a child, then that’s who is failing, not the union.  Just because a poor performing professor lives in Minneapolis doesn’t mean Minneapolis causes poor professor performance.  I find it even a poor correlation.

  • Ginny says:

    January 28, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    A substantial body of evidence is helping schools and universities what does work in teaching children, including the poorer ones whose parents may not be able to help their children for their lack of education. There is the Harlem Childrens Zone in NY. Minneapolis seems to be trying to set up something similar. In St. Paul, Melvin Carter III is working on something similar to improve the schools in my neighborhood, which desperately need it.
    There is probably other research going on I don’t know about, including at the U of M education department and in other colleges and universities. I think everyone agrees: our schools must be better, our children must do better. I think, I hope people are beginning to wake up when they see the competition in other countries.
    I think conservatives want everyone to be free to be as poor as they want to be. Or are forced to be.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Welcome to this Board Dr.! We welcome your ideas and first hand experience.

    Thank you! Keep up your posts to enlighten the MN2020 audience.

    Dan C. is beyond hope since he has attended a variety of re-education camps to learn Saul Alinsky’s techniques in order to promote unions (especially teacher unions) and bash management (of which he knows nothing) and bash corporations (of which he also knows nothing).

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm


    You simply are projecting your anger when you say “conservatives want everyone to be free to be as poor”. That is a flat out lie and you know it.

    Conservatives want everyone to develop self discipline, self responsibility and become self motivated to use their God given talents to be the best that they can be.

  • Marie Alena Castle says:

    January 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    What planet is Mike from? “Nonunion employees are free to be the best that they can be with their education, experience, attitude and their performance. Freedom should be
    cherished.” I spent many years working in both union and non union jobs. The union jobs consistently gave me protection from favoritism, discrimination, and whatever unfair treatment an employer/manager felt like inflicting. Promotions came with seniority, which reflected experience.

    The non union jobs were a crap shoot. If the employer/manager was decent, all was well. If not, well, in one case I (a totally competent, top performing woman) was passed over for promotion in favor of a guy who had no experience in the field. In another case I was laid off because my views on religion did not conform to the boss’s religious-right views, while a far less competent employee who shared the boss’s views was kept on. In another case I was fired when my long-ago union activity came to light, though it was irrelevant to the position I held. (I was hired for that job specificially because of my impressive track record of honesty, competence, reliability and loyalty. A lot of good that did me when my long past history of union involvement came to light.)

    On one non union job I observed two employees being fired for refusing to do poor work. (Getting the product out on time was more important than getting it out without defects.)

    Based on my many years of personal experience, I’ll take a union job any time. Freedom to be abused does not seem like much freedom to me.

  • Dr Hugh M Curtler says:

    January 28, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Dan C.
    Thanks for the rather long reply to my all-too-brief comment. If an argument is won on length alone, then you are clearly the winner! I still maintain, however, that I have not claimed a causal relationship between the growth of unions and the weakening of our higher education system. But there is considerable evidence that the system is losing ground. A growing number of professional schools, including law schools, are requiring remedial work of their incoming students. Employers have complained for years that the people entering the work force with college degrees cannot read a memo, write one clearly, or make a coherent, concise presentation to a group.
    In a recent study in Texas, it was determined that 4 in 10 of the teachers of science in the schools (presumably college graduates) thought humans and dinosaurs walked on the earth at the same time.
    Three out of four Freshman students entering America’s colleges will require remedial work. If the students entering need that much help, it is no wonder that so many of them who graduate cannot calculate the tip in a restaurant or read beyond the eighth grade level. These are facts, if we can agree that studies establish facts. In general, I do have anecdotes to supplement these claims. But I also have worked with some remarkable, inspired teachers. And I have seen students blossom and prove the exception to the rule. But the rule is startling: we have work to do. As I said, while this is going on members of college faculties (in general) have shown greater concern for the terms and conditions of their employment than they have to the demise of academic standards.I don’t claim the unions are to blame. I say again, I simply point to an interesting correlation. I think the causes are multiple, in fact. But the fact that our college graduates are generally less well prepared for a meaningful career or active citizenship than they were 50 years ago is evident.

  • Ginny says:

    January 28, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    One more thing. I currently belong to UAW 1981, the National Writers Union. It helps writers and editors to get fair compensation for their work and goes after companies that are trying to pay much lower for their writers’ work than is warranted, esp. for freelance. They offer health insurance, work in legislative action, legal action, and other kinds of organizing campaigns to defend contract rights and free expression, and to advocate for better working conditions for writers. They’ve won some serious battles on national issues like letting writers protect their sources.
    They have a job hotline. They give excellent professional workshops on subjects like how to get published. Basic job: seeing to it that writers of all kinds get a fair shake and are free of hassles so they can do their.
    I seldom need their services, but I like what they do and belong in part because I want to support my union. I’m proud of it.

  • Alec says:

    January 28, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    What about the almost perfect correlation between right to work states and poor academic performance on the NAEP tests? It’s pretty clear that there is zero relationship between unionization and poor academic performance. There’s probably zero relationship either way, but trying to imply a negative causation when the quantitative evidence shows a positive correlation is pretty unprofessional. If you want to reform the human resources office, that’s fine. Just admit that is what you want to do.

    Most conservatives at this site will only offer opinion, anecdotal evidence, and personal bias. I would hope a “Dr.” would bring more scholarship to the table.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    January 28, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Why the scare quotes around the “Dr.” ?? I thought the idea behind this site was to discuss issues, not label people and get personal.

  • Alec says:

    January 29, 2011 at 12:32 am

    Excellent point. I should not question your credentials, and that was uncalled for.

    It just gets a little tiring when folks continuously attack labor, without real facts. Just innuendo, anecdotes, ideology, and their own qualitative research.

    The fact is that unions have gotten weaker and weaker since Reagan busted the air traffic controllers 30 years ago. The middle class has declined. America has declined. Unions are less powerful now than they have ever been, yet they are the bogey man for everything from our trade deficit to the decline in our education system.

    There is an easily proven positive correlation between unionized states and stronger academic performances. I don’t think unions cause this, but to argue the opposite in the absence facts is mind boggling. I just don’t think you would accept such logic and scholarship from your students, yet you present it here on this forum.

    Please see the nations report card:

    Then compare that with most anti-union states of Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, West Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Virginia.


  • Alec says:

    January 29, 2011 at 1:00 am

    The Texas anecdote is probably more a factor of their religious zealotry. Especially since Texas is one of the most anti-union states in the nation. Across the nation, unions are weaker than they have ever been, as right to work laws have grown tremendously since the ‘70’s. I believe 75% of the population now live under anti-union right to work laws. If anything, you could say their is a correlation between the decline of education and the decline of union membership. I say they are probably not related.

    I will argue that we need to work harder, get better, and figure things out faster, however, your pessimistic view has been recycling since probably the first cave man taught their friend how to club a triceratops (j/k). Here are a few quotes for your enjoyment:

    “It has been said that we have not had the three R’s in America, we had the six R’s; remedial readin’, remedial ‘ritin’ and remedial ‘rithmetic.”  Robert Maynard Hutchins 1945

    “Education … has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. ” Trevelyn early 1900’s.

    “We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.
      Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)”

    It is little short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not already completely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry…. I believe that one could even deprive a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness if one could force it with a whip to eat continuously whether it were hungry or not…
      Albert Einstein

    You get the point. Education is always declining from the good old days, and teacher bashing never goes out of style.


  • William Pappas says:

    January 29, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Unfortunately for this discussion you know nothing about how unions work despite your father having been vandalized by one.  I am a VP in a corporation that specializes in commercial construction using 99% union contractors.  I am not a member of a union.  I am a salaried executive.  In our work around the west and Midwest we have found that all of those other non-union states (Kansas, Missouri, Iowa Nebraska, North Dakota, Colorado) cannot even come close to the efficiency, PRODUCTIVITY, safety and professionalism of our union workers and subcontractors.  Our work force is the envy of all those states but they are unwilling to pay their employees the living wage that is required to get it.  Ultimately the unionized Minnesota workers perform our work and it is CHEAPER in the long run.  We finish jobs in Minnesota much faster than similar projects else where because of such high union work force PRODUCTIVITY!  Not only that, when these men and women retire they won’t have to be supported by government programs for the poor.  They will have pensions and be able to actually participate in the state economy.  Their health will be better through life long health insurance.  Just looking at workers from other states is an education in the effects of long term lack of health insurance.  You have a lot of learning to do about the realities of labor, livable wages and the effects of an aging population in poverty.  Apparently we’re going to have to rediscover that tragedy after learning it before durring the depression.  Your talk of freedom rings hollow.  Unions allow working men and women more freedom to live lives free of illnes, poverty and able to realize their full potential for them and especially their families.

  • Dan C says:

    January 29, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Dr. Curtler, well, I’ve read you acknowledge deficiencies educating our children.  Howeer, you have not mentioned anything new here.  I think you rebut your earlier point, when you mentioned incoming college freshmen needed considerable remedial education.  I deduce that K -12 might also have a problem?  Might that contribute to the deficiencies of college graduates?

    Most importantly, while you seem to be aware of the common education deficiencies, I find zero, zip, zilch in your writing that appropriately attaches these problems to bargaining units or unions.  All that I have read, from your writings, is that you identify problems already redundantly identified before.  Then, you look for someone or something to blame.  Apparently, you have a dislike of unions, so you lay our educational problems at the doorstep of unions.  However, I would like to refute your contention using a point made by another writer earlier on the site.  How do you explain the chronic relative poor academic performance of many of the Southern states, where there are no unions?  Why are so many of the “right to work” states some of the academically lowest peforming states?  I think your proclivity to jump on unions for the travails of our educations system is more a signal of your prejudices than that of fact.

    I think all of us are to blame for the deterioration of education.  Republicans who are so eager to defund it certainly don’t seem to place education as a priority.  Parents working long hours away from home might be a factor.  Availability of too many distractions for children might be another factor.  Hopelessness among the poor in society might be another factor.

    I have a sister who is a teacher.  She says over and over again, that it’s the parents of children at risk who are the parents who don’t come to parent-teacher conferences.  It is the parents of children who chronically don’t complete homework who don’t inquire about what they can do to help see that their children complete their work.  It is parents who all too readily look to admonish teachers or look to legal rememdies when their children are disciplined in school that contribute to the problem.  Parents who shelter their children from any responsibility.

    I could go on and on.  No, the blame for our educational problems need to be shared by everyone.  Even the complainers, who offer nothing other than criticism, are to blame.  It takes little intellect to identify prblems and complain.  The difficult lifting is in fixing the problem.  There are too many people who offer criticism as their contribution to the fix.  It’s as if they feel their “Pontius Pilot” disclaimer contributes to the fix.  I’m sorry, but they too are part of the problem.  This attitude remnds me of the Tea Partier negativity.  They seems to be against everything and for very little.  I guess that’s easy.

    Dr. Curtler, I suggest you contribute to a fix in the system by volunteering some of your time to your local schools to help fix problems.  Then, you can claim you are part of the solution, not the problem.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    January 30, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I spent 42 years of my life trying to “fix the problem.” I also wrote a book where I substantiate many of the claims I have made on these blogs (“Recalling Education” available on Amazon, if you are really interested). I am aware—perhaps more than you—that there was never a “golden age” in education. There have always been problems. But those problems have multiplied and deepened. The evidence is overwhelming and uttering platitudes about education “always having problems” simply hides us from that evidence. You sister is probably, almost certainly, correct. that the problems start in the home before the kids ever enter school. Jane Healy (who also knows whereof she speaks) has shown in her excellent book “Endangered Minds” that students who are set down before the TV rather than having stories told them or read to them (among other things) lose the capacity to use the left side of their brains. But the schools compound the problem.
    Finally, let me be clear about this. If you both had read my first blurb on this site you would have noted my qualification when I noted the correlation between increased faculty interest in terms and conditions of employment and lower grades: I did NOT claim a causal relationship. I was not bashing unions. I am of two minds on the question of unions. I taught logic for 41 years and know about the fallacy of false cause. I also know about the fallacy of straw man, which is what you two seem to love (that and the ad hominem) when you distort my views and attack me rather than what I write. This lowers the level of discourse and reflects badly on the writers of those comments.

  • Dan C says:

    January 30, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Mr. Curtler, again, you ascribe motives to your colleague that I don’t feel can be substantiated.  I’m sure your evidence is purely anecdotal.  Again, I uggest you just furnish facts, instead of personal prejudices here.  Maybe you should solicit one of your pecuniary motivated professors to also join this site and we’ll see if that person substantiates what you say.  Meanwhile, I suggest you stop pointing fingers.

    I find it perfectly understandable why education has deteriorated in our country.  People, for whatever motives, want to find te miracle cure “boogey man” causeing the education problem.  Then, I’m sure, with the prope dose of public flagellation and embarrassment the accusers will pronounce the problem fixed.

    I just looked over the link Alec attached to his last email.  It shows that most all Southern states perform substantially worse than Minnesota.  Isn’t it a coincidence they are also “right to work” states.  I suggest we anayze what those states have been doing and then do the opposite.  Yet, I’m hearing others here, so selfishly motivated to not pay taxes, trying to justify the education models of Southen states as someting good for Minnesota.  Evidence is replete with references showing the Southern strategy is an outright failure.  I think it is time to more heavily invest in education. 

    I’m not an education professional.  However, I see the problems with ignorance among us.  This is not the time to to walk away from our responsibilities to better educate our children.  It’s time to redoubleour efforts.  I agree with the President that we need a “Sputnik Moment.”

  • Dan C says:

    January 30, 2011 at 11:46 am

    There was an excellent editorial in the Mankato paper today sying we need to invest more in infrature and education for MInnesota, if it is to remain “above average.”  I think it was a good read.  Tim Pawlenty shares a major responsibility for our states decline:

  • Dan C says:

    January 30, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Mr Curtler, you now seem to equivocate about your allegation that unions have adversely affected education.  You stated quite plainly unions have had an adverse affect on education, even though pay has increased.  Also, in re-reading your posts I see virtually NO solutions.  You just seem to redundantly recount history, and then you blame.  Fine and good, but that is not constructive. 

    Before I would spend money to buy your book, I would like to hear your solutions.  You have already devoted enough to problems here.  As I’ve said there is no shortage of finger pointing and shallow analysis.  Where are your solutions?  That’s really the “heavy lifting” here.  It requires little intellect to point fingers and recount problems.  What are your proposed solutions?  Also, what was your measured improvement?  I still have not read of one. 

    If you have spent 41 years in education “trying” to improve it, what did you try?  I view another book repeating the same tired problems as intellectually baron and hardly constructive.  If you have spent these 41 years analyzing the problem, certainly you would have arrived at a more constructive solution than blaming unions?

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 30, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Dr. Hugh Curtler

    I have not read Jane Healy’s book but I’m intrigued by your following comment: “Jane Healy (who also knows whereof she speaks) has shown in her excellent book “Endangered Minds” that students who are set down before the TV rather than having stories told them or read to them (among other things) lose the capacity to use the left side of their brains.”.

    One could speculate that sitting down at a TV etc. may be a direct cause of lower interest in STEM curriculum and in STEM outcomes in the US compared to other parts of the world. I am very concerned that US students are so poorly prepared for and, in fact, have had less interest in STEM curriculum over the last 30-40 years. As a retired business executive, I am very concerned with the future competitiveness of the US. Without US competiveness, our grandchildren and future generations’ standard of living will inevitably drop.

    How do we reverse this trend? Your thoughts please.

  • Alec says:

    January 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Dr. Curtler,
      Thank you for your response. Could you clarify your point in bringing up your perceived relationship between faculty bargaining and student achievement. I am sure there were hundreds of correlations between lower student achievement, and other phenomena. What point were you trying to make by focusing on that correlation?

    Do you have quantitative evidence that your students are less prepared when leaving university?

    Do you have quantitative evidence, either through personal interviews, or union membership, that rise in union power coincided with poor student performance?

    In my opinion, if we want to improve the education of our children, we have to focus on education. This distraction of an ideological labor debate takes us away from solutions.

    We can go round and round with anecdotes, hearsay, and personal observations. I work with the most underprivileged kids in our country every single day. That is why this conversation is so troubling because it distracts from them.

    My final challenge to you would be to find any longitudinal, meta-analysis that links unionization with poor student performance. I’m pretty sure there is none, but I could be surprised.

  • Iowa reader says:

    January 30, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Dan C.

    Before launching too fiercely at Dr. Curtler, realize he has authored 12 books looking very intensely at philosophy and ethics, education and American character as it relates to politics, community and business. If ever there was a man passionate about education and those it services, Dr. Curtler is it. As he says, he is of two minds on unions and was, quite likely, a member himself his whole career. I think he’d rather see members devote more energy to their students than union activities may be a summary of his comments here, perhaps.

    On unions, my father was a public school teacher and administrator most of his life. The teachers union made a major difference in the quality of life for our family, lifting pay, benefits and retirement income my mother now lives on after my father’s death. My mother, on the other hand, worked at the same school in a non-union clerical position, went six or seven years without a raise, got no paid vacation other than holidays, and after my father died, qualified for no health insurance. I think unions did quite nicely by our family.

    Pete King: As for your proposition that K-12 education be privatized and thus save the state a quarter of its budget demands — possibility. But I think if your proposal is to be taken seriously, then you must also acknowledge the likely very real demand that taxpayers will want the large portions of their property taxes and other taxes that currently support state spending on K-12 to be eliminated. We’re not going to want to give the state that money if there’s no public education—and if we’re going to have to be paying tuition for our kids at private schools. Correct assumption? I can’t see you wanting to continue with an unnecessary tax.

    So not only knock out the expenditure portion of the budget caused by K-12, but also the knock out the revenue generated by taxes that support it. I think you will find the budget is not in as great of shape as you seem to think it might be.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    January 31, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Mr. Downing:
    I cannot recommend Ms Healy’s book too highly. My own recommendations have been spelled out in my book and a number of articles, but I can summarize here by saying that we must return to basics—not a new idea, surely, but one that needs to be stressed. Robert Hutchins, who has been quoted by one of my critics on these pages, fought a losing battle in the 30’s and 40’s against John Dewey and the proponents of progressive education. Their victory has led to an educational system where students learn what they want, not what they need. As adults, we educators and parents have shirked our responsibility to our students and children by not having the courage to set out for them the elements of an education that will put them in possession of their own minds—free from those in this culture that would teach them what to think rather than how to think. I have said all this, and more, in print. But it needs repeating. If we are to improve our educational system, we must return to a required curriculum that embraces those intellectual disciplines that we know, from experience, will help those young people become active citizens of the world.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    January 31, 2011 at 8:36 am

          For those readers of these blogs who thirst for “facts,” and accuse me of leaning too heavily on anecdotal evidence in my concern for the current state of education in this country, I will say that anecdotes are confirmed by research done for the National Education Progress Report of 1976 that shows a drop in general knowledge among college students of 11% between 1969 and 1976. That drop has continued and was confirmed by a more recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) study conducted in 1985 which shows that by 1984 56% fewer students scored above 600 on the SATs than in 1972 and 73% fewer scored above 650. The problem was so embarrassing to educators that in 1994 the College Board officials “simply raised the average test scores by fiat “ The math scores were raised 20 points and the English scores were raised 80 points” (Sykes, 148). You may also have heard about the results of the survey conducted recently by Zogby International on behalf of the National Association of Scholars.  It has caused quite a stir, because the group found that contemporary college seniors scored on average little or no higher than the high school graduates of a half-century ago on a battery of 15 questions assessing general knowledge. This is not a bolt out of the blue.
        According to the report “Nation At Risk,” published in 1983, for example, American students do not compare favorably with students in other industrialized nations of the world, failing to come in first or second on any of 19 academic tests and coming in last seven times. That report also indicated that the average achievement of American high school students on most standardized tests was lower than it had been 26 years previously, and that many 17 year-olds who plan to attend college do not possess the “higher order” intellectual skills necessary to write a persuasive essay or solve a mathematical problem requiring several steps.  Furthermore, we are told that the average college student’s vocabulary has shrunk by 72% when compared with college students of sixty years ago.
        Charles Sykes points out, in “Dumbing Down Our Kids,” that “25 percent of high school seniors can barely read their diplomas.”  Worse yet, at the collegiate level, it was noted in a 1994 report by the Educational Testing Service,  that “half of the nation’s college graduates could not read a bus schedule and that only 42 percent could summarize an argument presented in a newspaper article.”   
        Many Freshman students in a required course I taught several years ago were using “Cliff’s Notes” to assist them to understand Huxley’s “Brave New World”—if they bothered to read anything. Also, I spoke with a professor of Engineering at S.D.S.U. recently who said that a growing number of his students cannot solve word problems because they do not understand what the problems are asking them to do. This sort of thing is increasingly commonplace, though these, too, are anecdotes.
        More to the point, a recent study found that “American business loses nearly $40 billion in revenue each year because of the low level of their employees’ literacy and the added time required to train and retrain workers for new technologies. Recently, for example, the Stone Savannah River Pulp and Paper Corporation had to spend $200,000 to train workers to use computers after managers found that workers lacked the reading skills they needed to operate the equipment “ (Sykes, 101). And these workers, by and large, were college graduates!
    As things now stand, three out of four entering Freshmen in four-year colleges across the country require some sort of remedial work in English. “In the brief period between 1975 and 1980, for example, public four-year colleges were forced to increase their courses in remedial mathematics by 72%”(Sykes, 238).These percentages should be considered in light of the fact that a number of our basic Freshman courses now offered as standard fare would have been labeled “remedial” forty or fifty years ago. For all practical purposes, it is not an exaggeration to say that the incoming college Freshmen, who demand courses that will challenge them as little as possible, cannot perform basic mathematical computations, comprehend what they read, or write a coherent sentence. Even granting that a great many more students are attending college today than was the case, say, fifty years ago, we must conclude that either the students today are not as bright as they were in bygone days, or that Robert George is right and the schools are simply not doing their job. Rather than point the finger at someone else, I fear we must reluctantly admit that we in education, at all levels,  are simply not getting it done.

  • Dan C says:

    January 31, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Iowa Writer - First, I don’t mean to be fiercely launching any attack at Dr. Curtler.  However, I do mean to criticize, what seems to be a very prejudiced and unsubstantiated point that unions have adversely affected education.  I, and other writers, have debunked much of that based on readily available facts.  The fact that Dr. Curtler has written 12 books does not add credence to his flawed statement implying unions adversely affect education.  If Dr. Curtler was a professor, he is expected to write books.  He very well might have received sabatical leave to do so.

    Needless to say, I’m sure Dr. Curtler is devoted to his field.  However, I think it would be wise for him to back up his statement, when he denigrates unions as a culprit for deteriorating education.  He submitted NO evidence, even though several facts have been presented to repudiate (refudiate in Palin talk) what he said.  While I have workeed in management and outside of unions for most all of my working career, I don’t think it is appropriate to conveniently “pile on,” only because they seem to be such and easy and popular target.

    In a perfect world, everyone would like to see teachers devote all of their energy to teaching and none of their time distracted by pay and benefits, but I think Dr. Curtler forgets the concern about pay and benefits doesn’t go away when unions do.  People will always be concerned about pay and benefits, whether in a union or not.  Many of my colleagues incessantly worried about their pay and benefits, but they belonged to no union.  Also, obsessing on the adverse effects unions have on education is not appropriate priority in the triage.  I think there are many many more important concerns for improving education.  How about longer days, longer shool years, more after-hours teacher availability, more teachers, more money spent for education, increased community expectations for parents, more assistance for poor parents working multiple jobs, more “latch-key” programs, more tutoring for slow learners, more advanced classes for fast learners, more attention to the core “3 R’s”, allowing lay instructors with specialized experinece, and getting back to multi-language requirements.  There are probably a lot more, but that is what I came up with off the top of my head. 

    I think unions are an appropriate counterveiling power to employers.  In fact, the larger the employer, the moe a larger union is needed.  Without unions, employees risk substantial abuses by employers.  That’s not speculation, that’s history.  Now, we can all argue about whether unions have gone too far and achieved pay and benefits beyond what productivity would justify, but I believe the process does have checks and balances in the negotiation process with the employer.

    I think I have gained some insight from our President, who seems to emphasize the importance of moving on, looking to the future, and determining what we are going to do from this day forward.  He and I agree, at this point, that it is an incredible waste of time to linger on recriminations and past problems.  The past should only serve as a guide for the future.

    I think I have learned that if Minnesota is to again achieve national prominence in education, it must pay for it.  It is certainly not a number 1 priority being funded at a lesser level.  Tim Pawlenty showed us that.  He reduced funding in education and we got reduced education.  Now, Minnesota is mediocre in a field it used to dominate.  I don’t know about you, but I like being number 1.  I, and many others, were proud of Minnesota for being progressive and forward thinking.  Progressivity has contributed to the states high standard of living.  We certainly haven’t prospered because of nice weather.  An intangible in all this, is the focus people acquire in setting a goal to be number 1.  This will cause an improvement, additional money or not.  It’s an attitude!  However, it is pretty hard to convince people education is important when the State does not think so.

    If our State is to improve and reach national prominence in education, we must ALL change our attitudes.  We have to forget recriminations and looking for scape goats.  Instead, we must decide what hasn’t worked, change direction, try being innovative and creative and get on with it.  Also, we need “hands-on” in this endeavor.  Kibitzing from the sidelines just ain’t cuttin it.  I plan to offer para-professional volunteer services to our local school district next year.  Maybe then I will feel I will have better earned a right to criticize the system.  Right now, I’m just part of the problem.

  • Dan C says:

    January 31, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Dr. Curtler - a nice long fact filled post.  However, I never noticed one reference to any of this being union caused - GOOD.  The statistics you furnished have been long available and reported many times.  I don’t think there is much of any doubt educational achievement has significantly deteriorated.  We can write 112 books repeating this again.  The question is, “What are we going to do about it?” 

    Posting reports that my children have not cleaned their rooms doesn’t necessarily do anything to make them clean their rooms.  I believe it is actively involved parents that get their children to change.  Now, we can get into a whole new realm about using the negative or positive reinforcments to accommplish that.

    I believe we have to get away from the regurgitation of facts recounting the past, unless they can serve as a vehicle to improve in the future.  To do otherwise is simpley a course in self-flagellation.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    January 31, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Dan C. You are right. I mentioned my own take on unions in passing on the way to a larger point about the current sad state of education in this country—which makes the educational system vulnerable to attacks from the political left and right. It is a minor point, to be sure, as no one knows for sure what the cause(s) are for the current problems we all seem to acknowledge in our schools. Your suggestions about what might be done are excellent. I endorse them totally. But I do think we need to pay more attention to curriculum as well. We need to be sure these young people can read with understanding and write a coherent sentence; know about their own history and how our political system works; understand at least the rudiments of mathematics and science; and, in general, have the mental equipment they will need to compete in an increasingly complicated world. The kinds of support you recommend would help immensely, but it is not enough.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 31, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Dr Curtler, Thank you for your response.

    China & India understand that a growing and thriving society depends on STEM curriculum and motivating students to major in STEM relating degrees. They obviously agree with your premise of teaching students what is needed in society rather than what they feel like doing.

    For some of the reasons that you list, our current educational system is ill preparing our youth to compete in this global economy. The net result will be our grandchildren facing a low growth and high unemployment society which will yield a lower standard of living from what our generation has had.

    BTW, I am very impressed with your CV and the comments on your book. My wife went to school with Barton Sutter in Manley Iowa.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 31, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Me thinks a cluttered and confused mind produces many “words just words” (quote from your idol candidate Obama.).

  • Alec says:

    January 31, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Dr. Cutler,
      We can all agree that our education needs to get better. That’s where the discussion should focus. I think that’s all people want, is a focus on students, learning, and teaching. Not some ideological battle over labor unions that really have no effect, positive or negative.

      One piece of caution about the “good old days” is that the people making decisions today, writing curriculum today, making policy, etc. might have benefited from those good old days, but not everyone and maybe not even most people did.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 31, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Thank you again DR.Curtler. Now Dan, doesn’t quite lay his soul on the line, C., you have displayed the attack when you can’t defend tactic perfectly for us. Excuse me if I am not impressed though as I have seen it done much better. There is no question but that there is a strong corilation between the formation of teachers Unions and the steadily incresing decline in education quality for our children. I personally think it has more than a touch to do with teacher union connection to the progressive/eugenics movement and population control via liberal application of, “Better living through cemestry”.

  • Jeffito says:

    January 31, 2011 at 10:39 am

    One of the best books on education reform written in the last 30 years is, _Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project_, by Robert P. Moses and Charles E. Cobb. Here Moses and Cobb point out that in the years before 1970, many students, perhaps most, were prepared to be sharecroppers or factory workers. Our schools were designed, and still are designed, so that a majority of our citizens will be satisfied with work in the fields and factories and in a second class type of citizenship where others, presumably better educated, would rule. As a nation, we have changed our language about education without changing the system. Moses has gone on to create a wildly successful program for teaching algebra and citizenship in our worst performing schools. Any person interested in school reform needs to read this book and take the finding seriously. Moses is now working on making quality education a constitutional right. Here is a link to this movement, already underway and worth supporting.

  • Dan C says:

    January 31, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Dr. Curtler, thank you for your very toughtful and concerned post.  I agree, education is deteriorating.  I think everyone knows that.  Also, I know there is a tendency to point our wagging fingers at the schools to blame them, but I don’t think that’s it either.  In fact, I feel for teachers and schools futilely flailing in this environment of decline.  We are scared, don’t know what to do, and just jump on the wagon to try something.  That is good, but not productive at this point.

    I fear our problem is far deeper than our educational system.  I hear about teachers using a significant time addressing very basic needs of some students who live in broken homes, don’t get fed properly, and generally exist in a state of hopelessness.  Maybe we need to start there.  Let’s start giving children hope.  Hope that they can be a valuable contributing member of society.

    For quite a while, I’ve been monitoring the increasing concentration of wealth among fewer and fewer people.  Income distribution is worse now than at any time since 1928.  It might even be worse now than in the robber baron days in the late 19th century.  Something is dreadfully wrong when the top 1% of wealthiest people own over 70% of our country’s financial assets.  Also, the top 1% of workers in our country earn 25% of all the income..  In the 26-year period from 1980-2006, the top 1% of earners TRIPLED their share of after-tax income, while the bottom 90% of earners saw their share of the earning pie decline by 20%.  Between 2002-2006, the top 1% captured 3/4 (75%) of our entire country’s economic growth.  Our country’s path toward plutocracy is rapidly accelerating, if we aren’t already there.

    I bring this up because I feel it is possible that our country is transitioning into a phase where the oligarchs among us don’t feel our education is that important.  They don’t need educated factory workers or phone answerers.  Maybe they view it as an unnecessary expense.  Just keep us ignornat and working menial tasks.  Besides, education would be relegated to the children of the oligarchs.  What better way to justify inheriting such lofty positions and pay? 

    I see poor conservatives playing down education, health care, etc., and I have always wondered why would such people lobby for positions so detrimental to them?  The only explanation I have is that so many have been manipulated over concerns for abortion, religion, guns, and self-reliance, that they associate themselves with this new right.  However, I believe the new right is 2-tiered.  The first tier being the monied and controlling interests (oligarchs), and tier 2 being the conservative value people generally manipulated by the tier 1 people.  The tier 1 people woulddn’t have a plurality of anything without the tier 2 followers.

    I believe that if our country is to be viable in the future, income must be better distributed.  All people must be able to, or have an opportunity to, share in the “American Dream.”  This would help instill the all-important hope.  Because I believe hope is what our country needs.  Then, people on the lower economic rungs will turn that hope into more focus on education.  They will see a benefit to education.  They will help their children learn.  As we lift more people from poverty, more people will be inclined to want to further grow.  Look what the GI bill did for education and prosperity in America?

    I believe the cloistered rich in America have to do a lot more to imporve our country.  I can’t seem to view them as much more than a giant vampire sucking the life blood out of our country.  They not only take the money, they are also taking peoples’ hope away with them.  They prise their selfish money goals above that of our country.

    I think that if our country becomes more egalitarian, hope will be restored, and with that ANYTHING is possible.  At present, we have this enormous untapped potential of the underperforming hopeless.  Tapping into that potential could create prosperity beyond what our country have ever experienced.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    January 31, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I think you are correct in your careful assessment. The disparity of income in this country is a sad commentary on “the American Dream” that gave impetus to the folks in this country for so many years. But I would interject a comment about “conservatives.” To begin with, the term is terribly vague. Not only are there tiers (as you point out) among the “dollar conservatives,” but there is a core of intellectual conservatives—among whom I would include people like Robert Hutchins and Mortimer Adler.  These people may be, and often are, politically liberal but they worry that we have thrown out the baby with the bath-water in lunging in the direction of progressive education the latest fad and fashion in education circles. The goal of these people, as I read them, is to preserve what is important while at the same time freeing the minds of the young to enable them to become active citizens in our democracy. This sounds like pie-in-the-sky, but it an honest attempt to restore respectability to our educational system. Dollar conservatism, which you describe, I find antithetical to the very goals the intellectual conservatives embrace.

  • Alec says:

    January 31, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I think the intellectual conservatives you describe want a return to a system that worked for them, and left so many others behind. We’ve always done well with our top tier kids and continue to do well with them. Singapore is often cited as #1 or #2 in the world on the various assessments, but if you took a high achieving state like Massachusetts as a separate country, they would be number one in the world, ahead of Singapore.

    Most of the conservative intellectuals just want to reconfigure a system that has left half the country behind for a century, but worked for them. It’s an honest mistake. In their experience they know what worked. They are blind to all those around them, from their generation, that were left behind.

  • Dan C says:

    January 31, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Dr. Curtler - I agree with you about my use of conservatives.  It is far too broad a term with too many variations in meaning. I guess I was referring more to the GOP. 

    I see you hold to some of the older values of education.  A major part of my thrust, which was taught in older education, was much like in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it is much harder to educate chldren who are struggling with the basic elements that sustain life.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    January 31, 2011 at 11:35 am

    This seems somewhat dismissive to me. Rather than psychoanalyze the opposition, it would seem wise to see what they have to say!

  • Dan C says:

    January 31, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Very good point Alec

  • Ginny says:

    January 31, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Dan, I think along those same lines. You cannot learn when you are chronically hungry. You aren’t interested in learning if at home your father is a bully and a menace to you. A friend yesterday told me he could never get through to one of his students he was tutoring, but he knew she told teachers her father “hated” her. Plain indifference doesn’t help much either and much of that comes out of overwork (2 jobs maybe) or ignorance.
    But I am hopeful about the St Paul school district’s project to bring together the whole community and its resources to bring up our children. It’s not just basic instruction, but an approach that brings in the family and tries to bring all the pieces together in a child’s life and fill the holes—health, nutrition, family counseling, or whatever is needed.
    It is modeled on the Harlem Children’s Project and it seems to be working. We will have to see the results, but I think it will work. What we’re doing is not working, and it’s costly to lose all these children. There might be a John Cage, or a Jonathan Franzen, or a Mother Teresa, or a Michelle Obama among them.
    And I can’t help but agree with your characterization of the wealth and corporations as they exist in today’s society. I wonder why these people at the top aren’t more patriotic. They are sitting on vast amounts of money, not creating jobs here, but sending them overseas, and often, “headquartering” their companies (setting up an office with a couple of employees) to avoid taxes. Now that’s unAmerican!

  • Dan C says:

    January 31, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Right o Ginny!  It’s too bad our educational system has to band-aid lives torn by dysfunctional families or grinding poverty.  I keep coming back tomy point of lifting people up by having opportunities (jobs) for them, with enough income that they can support themselves above the subsistence level.  Something to give or restore hope.  Then, I believe we will have a whole bunch of new people ready to learn.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 31, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Middle Class against the 62%
    Never mind the battle between the rich and the middle class, the important battle today is between we of the 62%, (not rich or middle class), and the middle class who have sold us out to their progressive Eugenic desires for population control.
    It is the middle class that has consistently been behind the push for the addiction of 47% of American adults. It is their socio/economic and racist war upon our poor if you really look at the figures. With way over 60% of our poor now being targeted for legal addiction, this is no accident. Life expectancy continues to rise for those with QUALITY health care, while they offer us second class health care then used to poison our livers and drop our life expectancy rates drastically. It is again a socio/economic and racial war against our children with over 15% addicted, with many poverty groups well over 25%. This effort rewards them with Federal education dollars to fund our schools and to pay teachers wages, as well as lining Dr.’s pockets. While the psychiatric community continues to tell us that addiction should be the last resort, our MC friends have made addiction the legal, legislated, first choice. They beg for our support in the DFL, while they use their disproportionate power to fatten their wallets as they unnecessarily poison our old and our children. To them this has become more important than quality education; it is class warfare against us.
    Not all Middle class folks are supportive of, or active in this effort, yet few MC DFLers stand against the White Collar, public employee unions who do. They are the power within the DFL, and It is time for we the people to retake this power we have allowed this minority to steal. It is time to again make them the minority public servants they really are, as the real power always belonged to us. The “Tea Party” has done their part in the Republican Party, now the time has come for we of the working class to take back the DFL and again make it the great all inclusive party it once was.
    Thought a few of you would like to see the result of our months of sparing. This is only the beginning.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 31, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Bill, while we differ on the solutions to our State’s & Nation’s problems, I agree it is time that people like you help the DFL return to the center left as opposed to the far left.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm


    We obviously have two fundamentally different perspectives on life.

    You believe income drives education and that businesses should forget about their shareholders and benevolently increase incomes to motivate people to become educated. Where in this world has your model worked?

    Whereas, I believe parents & children have the fundamental responsibility to choose to be educated in order to EARN an income based on the value they provide to a business. Good choices yield good outcomes and poor choices yield poor outcomes. This model has worked throughout modern history.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 31, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks Mike, it is a long year ahead to the Caucuses.

  • Dave C says:

    January 31, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Mike and Bill,

    So you want the DFL to move from the far left, where ALL people are treated as valued members of society; to the center left, (ass kissing corporate, blue dogs?)?

    How about, you first bringing the off the wall, far right, corporations have all the answers and never do anything wrong, Republicans, back to the center!

    There was a time in MN’s history, when Republicans and Democrats would work together, AND get things done, to the betterment of ALL Minnesotans!

    Maybe it is time to revisit corporate charter law, AND ADD, that they SHALL operate in a manner that benefits society, as whole! 

    In today’s world, it is all about the next quarterly report, share price, and the annual bonus; the public and environment be dammed! We ALL can do BETTER, working together!

  • Marie Alena Castle says:

    January 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    My experience as a student and later as the mother of students and with various schools is this: Students who want to learn, do learn. Students who are not interested in learning do not learn. Students who want to learn but cannot do it easily need extra tutoring to get them to an acceptable level of adult productivity. I have observed that this does not change regardless of class size or school amenities or teacher excellence. Now break this down by population demographics and you see that the lack of interest in learning (the most important ingredient) is concentrated in areas of poverty and social anomie where families simply do not care if their children learn anything or even get to school on time or at all. This is the source of the problem and is what should be addressed.

  • Ginny says:

    January 31, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Minnesota in earlier years was blessed with some extraordinary governors, and some were Republicans. One was Elmer Anderson; another Luther Youngdahl; Elmer L. Anderson (there were 2 Elmer Andersons but this one was an amazing man), Harold Stassen, and a few others. (There were also some outstanding DFL governors.) All of these men got an extraordinary amount done with the cooperation of DFLers. Youngdahl is known for his work in mental health facilities, I don’t remember the details on the others right now but I could look it up.
    These outstanding, effective governors also never engaged in bashing their opponents. They never stooped to smears and lies. They knew not only that their opponents weren’t socialist-communist-fascist-freedom-hating firebreathers but much like themselves with a different point of view. ALL of them were most interested in the welfare of Minnesotans, and nothing else.

  • Dan C says:

    January 31, 2011 at 5:43 pm


    I think you better stick to defining and explaining your own positions, if you can.  Hopefully, you will be more accurate than you are describing mine.  However, I’m glad that you are working to define my views for me.  It shows that you are reading, just not understanding.  The next thing would be for you to define my views accurately.  In the interim, I suggest you just stick to defining your own ambiguous views.

  • Dan C says:

    January 31, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Mike-I read over your comments again, where you tried, but failed, to define my position, and I had a very difficult time understanding what you said.  I think I know what you meant, but if I correctly understood it, I think you greatly trivialize the dilemma of parents.  Particularly parents living in or close to poverty. They have exceedingly difficult decisions to make about education.  The rich have no difficulty at all.  For the rich, education is an incidental expense of little consequence.  In fact, they wealth was incidental.  Over 75% of wealth is inherited.  I guess easy come easy go.  It is he poor that have to determine the degree of sacrifice they can endure.  So, it’s not just an easy decision to make.  However, I realize conservative generally try to stick to black and white decision making.  No use involving too much judgement.

  • Dan C says:

    January 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Marie—I think you greatly simplify the problem.  Currently, there are a few dynamic schools who before were very poor performers.  They now have new, dynamic, and caring administrators who have turned the schools around.  I think I just saw recognition just given to a West Coast high school with less than a 50% graduation rate before, that now has 97% of its graduating seniors attending college.  Huge turnarounds can be accommplished, but somehow the successes of these schools have to be communicated around for adoption. 

    I don’t feel students are destined to be motivated or not motivated.  Many things happen in their lives to cause these things to happen.  More has to be done to ensure success. 

    People like Mike who pooh-pooh effots to improve kids, accepting the results as a survivalist inevitability oversimplifies.  To me that’s a lazy way of NOT dealing with the problem.  It is also greatly short-sighted, because it is a waste of a vast human resource that could benefit us all.  Mike accepts the little engine and what it can’t or won’t do.  I believe there is a whole new horizon, of little engines that can, out there just waiting for the right influence to start a dramatic poitive pull for our country.  I try to think of the possibilities, not limitations.

  • Ginny says:

    January 31, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I’m with you on this, too. We need money for our schools but since they so desperately need improvement and some way of closing the education gap between people of color and white students, we also need to break out of old molds. I think that’s going on all over the country.
    I mentioned in a previous post the Harlem Children’s project and in St. Paul a similar program whose name has the word “Promise” in it. I’ve been excited about that since I heard our councilperson Melvin Carter III talks about it. He has 2 daughters and he didn’t want them to go to one of St. Paul’s lowest performing schools. But then he got involved in making this program succeed and I think his girls are in that school.
    I see signs of innovation all the time. I volunteer the the Obama Service Center and I am hearing about interesting new programs, including having children go to neighborhood schools and quit busing kids. That goes along with a community wide approach to educate our children and to bring them up understanding about community and community service.

  • William Pappas says:

    January 31, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Are you kidding me Mike.  The DFL has drifted to the right so far I almost don’t recognize it.  “The far left….”  It doesn’t exist.  The truth is that people like you are representative of the racical right shift of the Republican Party.  They are so far right they have polarized debate and, like Pawlenty, don’t believe in comprimise and negotiation.  That has been reserved for democrats who keep comprimising to the right.  Look at the health care reform bill.  It is a copy of Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan and now the republicans are calling it socialism.  This isn’t even debatable.

  • Mike Downing says:

    January 31, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Dan C.,

    Oh yes, I am lazy and a victim. I was given a BS & MS in Chemical Engineering for my laziness. I was given my 32 year successful business career at 3M for my laziness and being a victim.

    You believe in victimology as a discipline and the need to reward these poor victims who make poor choices. This social experiment of rewarding poor victims who make poor choices has been the mantra of the left for 45 years and it has failed. Fortunately, the majority of Americans rejected rewarding victims for making poor choices on 11/2/2010 and will do the same on 11/06/2012.

    Perhaps you would like to address Dr. Curtler’s premise of high schools & colleges teaching to the students wants rather than to America’s needs. STEM education comes to mind…......

  • Marie Alena Castle says:

    January 31, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I’ll bet those schools that did that fantastic turnaround did something to motivate the parents. Find out and do likewise. Kids will care to learn if they have parents who really want them to learn and show it.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    February 1, 2011 at 8:16 am

    You have to be careful about putting labels on kids! To say that a child “doesn’t want to learn” ignores that “late bloomer” who suddenly wakes up in, say, his second year of college! I have taught young people like that. I don’t think it is possible to say whether a person “wants to learn” until he or she is dead!
    But your later point is certainly well taken: kids imitate. If their parents read and love to learn about the world around them their kids will do so as well. It all starts in the home.
    Once they get to school, however, it is up to the teachers. They must set the bar higher. And so so we as a society. We need to pay them more and ask that they lengthen the school day as well as the school year. With all they have to do, this is asking a lot. But as things stand now, not much is getting done.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    February 1, 2011 at 8:22 am

    At the risk of raising the specter of the unions again, I want to revisit an earlier entry you made when you mentioned a number of things that could be done to improve the education of our children. I agree with pretty much all of the steps you recommend. But several of them, notably, the lengthening of the school day and, perhaps, the school year, are not items the teachers’ union will fight for. Instead, we have “early outs” and “short days”—goals sought and achieved by the teachers’ union—at a time when our kids are learning very little in school. Clearly there is a conflict of interest here.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    February 1, 2011 at 8:52 am

    I have been chided for my lack of particulars, for the careful analysis of the problem (!) with no suggestions as to solutions to the problems of the schools. In the interest of remedying this situation, and in order to put more fuel on the fire, I suggest the following—developing some of the suggestions already made by Dan C (whoever he is).
    To begin with, we do need to pay the teachers more in order to attract brighter young people into the ranks. And we need to hold them accountable. We need to have them major in an academic subject—preferably the one they plan to teach—and do away with “methods” courses entirely. teaching is not a science; it is an art. After majoring in, say, history, literature, or science, the student would take an extra year as an intern in a school working with a veteran teacher. This would mean a five-year program and if this makes some people nervous, we could give teachers a M.A. after completing the program (which would entitle them to more money). We also, as Dan says, need to lengthen the school day and the school year, stress subject matter we know will challenge young minds to learn and continue to want to learn—subjects like literature, foreign language, math, science, history, and even, perhaps, a return to civics—at a time when so many kids in the schools don’t even know how the political process works (“you mean Rhode Island has as many Senators as California? Good grief, I didn’t know that !”)
    It is one thing to focus on the kids, and not a bad thing, surely. It is also important (and seldom done of late) to focus on the teachers and what they should teach. We need to do more of the latter.

  • Dan C says:

    February 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Dr. Curtler, you’re right about unions not wanting to lengthen days or the school year.  However, the State and school districts have to better negotiate contracts.  I think teachers will less likely strike in today’s environment and risk setting public opinion against them.  At these times, I would almost invite a strike.  I believe a strike would do grievous harm to the union.  However, the public reaction to longer days and years have to be evaluated as well.   

    This all brings me to another point.  While I haven’t worked as a professional within education, it does seem the system is permeated with teachers.  Even the administrators were either former teachers or trained as such.  As far as I’m aware, many of the politically appointed education leaders in State and Federal Government have degrees in education.  If so, it seems like a rather incestuous system.

    Maybe if union negotiation is to be more effective, there needs to be less system bias weighted in favor of teachers and enhancement of the educational bureaucracy and more bias toward the community and results.  When I was in MI, I noted in a teacher strike that the administration seemed to have a tilt in favor of teacher demands. 

    Another thing puzzling me about schools is in the use of administrators.  It seems that school administrators seem to be the primary interface with the public and student behavior problems.  They seem to be the school PR person handler of problem cases for teachers, almost to the exclusion of anything else.  Ths seems to take too much responsibility away from the teacher.  To me, student discipline can be carried out by someone other than the highest paid people in the school.  Most of the discipline should happen in the classroom.  Difficult cases could be sent to a disciplinary specialist at the school.

    I believe school administrators need to be supervising teachers, more so than students.  How is a school system to accurately know who are the best and worst teachers.  When a deficient teacher is identified, what documentation is accrued for possible personnel actions? 

    I believe there needs to be adequate system for evaluating teachers to see they are doing their jobs and identify areas needing improvement.  That has to be a hands-on process.  There should be required job reviews for all the teachers.  Areas identified as deficient, need to be discussed with the teacher remedial action taken.  A timeline and follow-up review should be done to verify corrective actions have been taken and that they are effective.  Of course, the review process should also be used as a tool to recognize superior performance.  There should be a minimum number of class observations used, as well as curriculum/lesson plan and activity reviews.  Also, intangibles such as student inspiration could be included.

    To me, an active teacher evaluation program will assure teacher accountability and change to accommodate student and community needs.  These evaluations will offer a teacher needed objective feedback about where they “stack up” in the system.  It might help to include goals and measurement standards as part of the review.  Those standards could be set with administration, teacher, and community input.  A good teacher will respond to this.  Those who don’t, need to be counseled, assisted, and if still not performing, removed. 

    The point is, an effective regular performance rating system will help motivate teachers and help point the way where improvement is needed.  If none of that is successful for a teacher, then the system can serve as documentation for personnel action.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    February 1, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Excellent points! I have always thought the school system as a whole could benefit from outsiders looking in. It is an “incestuous” system, as you say. I have a former student who is a lawyer and he has a better perspective on how the schools should be administered than many of those responsible for doing that job. To begin with, the schools at every level are top-heavy. A good administrator with an efficient secretary could do the work of several sit-arounds who now take in large salaries for doing little except preparing reports required by outside agencies. Money could be saved—or more teachers hired—by ridding the schools of administrative positions. The problem, of course, is that the administrators are the ones making those decisions!
      Anonymous per-evaluations would be as step toward holding teachers accountable. And, as you say, let’s reward the outstanding teachers with bonuses. But “outstanding” does not necessarily mean “most popular.” The outstanding teachers are the ones who get the most from their students—and that can be measured.

  • Alec says:

    February 1, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      We the unions obviously have a communication problem. Could you tell me why you think unions do not support longer days or year round school? I really would like to know where that comes from. There is so much misinformation we need to correct.

    My children go to a year round, urban school. They are in school over 200 days a year. The school is majority poverty and majority minority. The school makes AYP in all categories. The school is public and unionized. It’s been in existence for 10 years. Pretty sure the union has been on board the whole time.

    I teach at an urban high school. We have an extended day. Kids are in school from 8:30-4:30. Most high schools are out at 2:00. We are unionized. Pretty sure the union didn’t stand in the way of this, since I’m a strong union supporter and a strong supporter of our extended day.

    Do you know that teacher’s unions are standing in the way of these reforms, because in my very real experience, the unions are supporting and even leading these reforms.


  • Alec says:

    February 1, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Dr. Curtler,
      Peer evaluations are another way that our union is leading the charge. The district had been resistant, but we knew the old way wasn’t working. Our Peer Action teams will work with identified teachers to get them better, and then counsel them out of the profession if they do not.

      That being said, the most collasal waste of money is losing trained teachers within the first 5 years because of burn out and isolation. Professional Learning Communities, meeting during the day to discuss data and outcomes force teachers out of their isolated classroom kingdoms. They cannot slack off because their peers see what they do every day and they have to check in. It also averts burnout because you are not working alone anymore. Just another reform that works that the union is spear heading.

    Bad teachers are a problem. No one wants them. Losing good teachers is a bigger problem.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    February 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks for the input. I am delighted to know there are unions that support the longer days and longer school years. Who, then opposes these steps—knowing they would help the students learn more? Why aren’t we there yet?
    I do think anonymous peer evaluations would be a step in the right direction. Student evaluations are worthless (I say this as one who usually did well on those evaluations, not as one who got burned. They are too closely tied to grades to be helpful.)
    I would think burn-out would be a terrible problem. A big part of this is the fact that teachers are virtually powerless in the classroom and have to spend time trying to keep order. Teachers should not have to do the work of raising children in addition to teaching them. It all does start in the home.

  • Dan C says:

    February 1, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    First, I would like to thank Alec for shedding some light on extended schools day/year.  Obviouly, unions aren’t as big an obstacle as I’ve been lead to believe.

    There is one area where I do disagree.  Peer reviews might be integrated as a part of the overall evaluation process, but I think you have to have management (school administrators) most heavily involved.  First, they are able to observe teachers in the classroom and see the interaction with the children.  Also, school administrators will take a degree of a popularity contest out of the appraial process. In addition, school administrator either have or should be trained how to properly evaluate teachers.  As much as possible, standards should be used to evaluate so teachers will be measured with the same relative yardstick.  Most impoortant, it is the school administrator that will need to hold the performance discussions with teachers after the appraisal is completed.  Acordingly, schoo administraors need to personally observe a major part of the teacher’s performance.

    Doesn’t the principal or vice principal supervise tachers?  Don’t they have personnel responsibilities?  If not, why?  And if not, why are we paying administrators anywhere near the money they are being paid?  Isn’t the principal responsible for his/her school performance? How can they be, if they can’t supervise the tools (teachers) for getting the job done?  Who evaluates the principal?  If the principal is nothing but a glorified clerical, then they should be paid accordingly.  I believe principals must be held accountable for their school’s performance and must supervise their teachers.  It is through their teachers they will get improvements in school performance.

    When my sister graduated with her teaching degree, she was placed in a classroom and left to her own devices.  While she was assigned a mentoring teacher, that mentor was of no assistance.  The mentor was too busy doing her own thing and disinterested in helping a colleague.  In fact, mey sister even needed to find where supplies are kept.  Now why the hell should that occur?  Why wouldn’t teachers be helping each other?  Well, that is an element that could/should be incorporated in the performance appraisal process.  I remember asking her if the school administrators ensured her teacher mentor properly mentored her.  She said no.  There was little management involvement, except to select the mentor.  Pardon me, but that’s a joke.

    I believe everyone has to be accountable for doing their job.  I managed several offices and I was responsible for them, the employees residing there, and the service given to customers.  I received regular performance reviews and so did all the employees working under me.  All employees knew their shortcomings and what they needed to work on.  Exemplary employee received awards (bonuses).  Substandard performing employees were removed.  You see it is about serving customers.  In schools, I would think the customers would be the children.

    I don’t believe peer reviews are good for overall evaluations because teachers don’t normally critically observe their colleagues in the classroom.  In addition, they haven’t been trained to formally review each other.  I’m sure many teachers would be reluctant to review their colleagues.  And isn’t the classroom where the rubber meets the road, so to speak?  While peer reviews might be a factor incorporated into the overall performance review, to add additioal light on overall performance, I believe it is management’s review of teacher performance, in accordance with set school district standards that need to be the core of the evaluation.

  • Alec says:

    February 1, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Great question. Minnesota actually is one of few states that doesn’t have a minimum school year. Last time they tried to set one, the tourism lobby went into overdrive.

    Also, year round is probably not a one size fits all solution. It’s fabulous for urban kids who might not have the enrichment during the summer that wealthier kids have. In addition, they have an intercession every 9 weeks to catch kids up or offer enrichment. It makes so much more sense to catch kids up in the midst of learning and keep them with their peers, then to wait until summer school when it is too late. Summer school is worthless. Regular intervention schedules are fabulous.

    Lastly, is money. It costs extra to run year round, but is so much more efficient in the long run. Our district and our union have worked together because they know how well the system works.

    For the extended day, which several of our union high schools now have, we run in shifts. One shifts starts right away and ends one period early. The other shift starts a period late, but goes all day. This way, you don’t have to pay a teacher more than their regular salary. Some teachers do both shifts, but they are paid a way, way lower hourly rate for that last extra period. Give and take.

    Real reform will require that teachers are supported in working together and that we abandon the isolated classroom kingdoms that have gotten us where we are today. Isolation kills morale, and it is less effective as well. But it costs money to give teachers time to work together. Most of the countries beating us have this time worked into their teacher days. Our union is fighting for us to have this time included in our duty day.

    No one wants us to do better than the teachers, and the teachers are the union and vice versa. The district fought like mad to keep control of the review process, and it seemed dysfunctional and that ineffective teachers were just passed around. We fought to gain control or a partnership in that process because we wanted to help our struggling teachers get better. If they didn’t we wanted to help them find a different career.

    I would advise anyone interested to come visit an urban classroom in Saint Paul or Minneapolis and see what is going on before judging or believing the propaganda. My classroom is always open.

    Thanks for your support.

  • Iowa reader says:

    February 2, 2011 at 12:01 am

    These last few posts about more parental involvement in their kids’ education is parallel to the good points raised by Dan C. and Ginny about the growing income gap in America and the overall economic disregard for K-12 funding in the places most vitally in need of it: Inner-city and property-tax-poor rural schools. In an economy where low and middle-income parents often work two jobs (or more, if they’ve been laid off from a full-time job and must cobble together a bunch of part-time jobs), in an environment where many children live in one-parent homes, it is more difficult for that parent-child time to occur.

    Acknowledging that, for years early-childhood-education experts and national economists (including Minneapolis’ own branch of the Federal Reserve) have stressed the importance of funding school-based early-childhood education programs—study after study showing that minimal investment in such programs avoids far costlier remedies later and leads to better students and more productive workers. Yet, even with these blatant facts, state legislatures are paring away early-childhood education funding. Iowa’s new, retread governor wants to do away with state-funded preschools altogether.

    This also touches on Maria’s point about some students not wanting to learn—in the right environment, with the right teaching method most students will learn, can be reached. The New Yorker magazine two weeks ago published a long essay by David Brooks essentially saying that learning environment and instructor empathy are as important, if not more, to a student’s retention of what’s being taught than the instructor’s mastery of the topic or the instructor being a great lecturer. In short, if the teacher makes a personal or emotional connection with the kid, the student’s more likely to care about what is being said by the teacher. This is where those who want education “run like a business” miss the mark: How do you gauge the cost of the time a teacher invests in a student relationship, the energy it takes? When kids got drunk, they would sometimes call my father—their teacher—to come and get them, drive them home, because they trusted him to be fair. Should he or the school district have billed the police department for his time, since he prevented a DWI and all the related court expenses, and could that then be counted as “profit” for the school’s bottom line?

    Complicated stuff, yes, and a part of why we have these kinds of debates. Basically I am talking about the makeup of a “good” or “great” teacher vs. an adequate or poor one—a teacher more committed to students than what goes on at the chalkboard (smartboard). If we want more of those good teachers, and want them to reach more of the struggling students, then class size, teacher pay, investments in after-school and early-childhood programs, etc. are essential to the equation.

  • Alec says:

    February 2, 2011 at 9:06 am

      We do not disagree even one instant! Administrators/principals should be in classrooms more. It can only make you better. They are part of the review process. too often they get bogged down in student behavior issues and such.

      Our Peer Assistance program is much different than the mentor program you describe. These are veteran and experienced teachers whose only job is to work with struggling teachers. The teachers are identified by administration, and then the peer team works directly and continuously to get that teacher up to standard.

      Administrative oversight, observations, and interaction are critical to this process.

      As far as the mentor process your sister describes, that is exactly why we lose so many good teachers. Crippling and scary isolation. In a professional learning team like we have, she would consultation and collaboration with a whole team of teachers several times a week. These teams help each other when kids need interventions, different strategies that work for them, and they go over student data every week to see who needs help and where, both students and teachers.

      The old mentor programs are hit or miss. Thanks for your support.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    February 2, 2011 at 10:17 am

    The arguement over peer review is mute, as that is exactly what we have had ever since teachers unions were able to undermine parent and citizen oversite. The fox watching the hen house never works. Citizen control ond oversite will reduce the idle chatter by the hens, and produce a better quality egg as it did in the past. I don’t care about teacher elitism or their arrogant belief that they are to inteligent to be controled by citizen review efforts.

  • Dr. Hugh Curtler says:

    February 2, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I’m not sure what “citizen review efforts” means. But I wuld say that if peer reviews were anonymous they would be a step in the right direction. In the grades, it does make sense to have administrators more involved in the process as well. The irony is that everyone involved pretty much knows who the good teachers are and that there are many eating at the public trough who should find other work.
    In the end, there does seem to be agreement among most, if not all, of the contributors to this debate that more money needs to be spent along with higher standards for teachers as well as their pupils. As long as teachers are underpaid we will be unable to attract the best students in our colleges to the profession. The low pay and what many students regard as the “mickey-mouse” certification requirements drive a great many would-be teachers away.

  • Dan C says:

    February 2, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I agree with Iowa Reader, who stresses the importance of teacher empathy with students, and that it can be as important as teacher expertise in a subject.  I agree that teacher motivation and satisfaction gained from educating children and seeing them successfully progress through life is the quality that should first be looked at for good teahers.  Today, it seems too much empahsis is placed on advanced degrees and credits earned for many times meaningless courses.  Instead, how much does the teacher really like what they are doing and what satisfaction do they get for helping children live a successful life?  How satisfying is it for a teacher who directs a child to make good choices in life?  Isn’t it really about the bottom line of successfully preparing children for a happy life?  Instead, there seems to be too much emphasis placed on objective educational measurements of input into teachers.  How about the results/improvement of the kids?

    I understand there are school systems that have used lay-teachers to teach in their systems.  I understand some of these lay teachers were very successful in varying business fields.  I understood their teaching success was because they were motivated to positively impact children’s lives, and teaching them was a way to do it.  I understood they were less motivated by money, since they already had enough.  What they really wanted was to feel good positively impacting young lives.  Some of these lay teachers were highly educated and in some very technical fields.  Why doesn’t MInnesota use lay teachers?  Shouldn’t there be a process to train/use them?  Maybe they can be paid less than career teachers, but used to help reduce the teacher student ratios, making it easier to teach.

    I thnk many things need to be tried.  Status-quo just ain’t cuttin’ it.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    February 2, 2011 at 11:29 am

    The citizen review I am talking about DR. is the power that use to be vested in PTA’s, teacher oversite comittees, and curriculum comittees, that were very much citizen dominated prior to teachers unions in the mid 1960’s. We also started our education system in 1896 requiring only a High School diploma to teach then moving to a 2 year degree around the 1920-1950’s. Four of my Aunts were 2 year degree teachers. While the 4 yr degree was suppose to further improve education quality, unionism arrived at the same time making it hard to determine how much of a detrimental effect to the system was attributed to additional teacher arrogance that came with the degree. The plain fact is that we have no need of anything but a compitent 2 year degree to teach K-8. One could still argue in favor of 4 year degrees for those teaching to the College bound if control mechanisms were in place to hold them to task.

  • Dan C says:

    February 2, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Alec, thanks for your response.  However, I wasn’t referring to a teacher mentor process for under-performing teachers, I was referring to teacher mentors for a BRAND-NEW teacher reporting for work after graduating from college.  I can’t remember what my sister labeled them as.  I guess I’m calling them a mentor.  I know what you are talking about othrwise.  One of my cousins was one of those “mentor” teachers dealing with problem performing teachers. 

    What I meant to say, was my sister received virtually NO assistance after reporting for duty.  Almost none from the teacher appointed to help and none from administrators who supevised her.  The “mentor” teacher would answer questions, if asked, but didn’t attempt to preemptively answer some common questions.  Now, maybe quations about where the bathroom were answered, but not technical issue questions. 

    In my previous work, we hired college graduates who entered a 6-month full-time formal training period, followed by a 2-year OJT mentoring program.  The mentor was expected to complete many and on-going reports and assessments of new employee performance.  Mentors were evaluated too because it was considered a formal extra job requirement.  Management was responsible for conducting many many job reviews and conducted many performance reviews, as well.  This doesn’t even address the more intensive reviews for an under-performing employee.  While I’m not expecting the training and mentoring process be this intensive, I certainly think there is a point on the continuum between what they got and what my sister received. 

    I believe it is essential that employees know how they are progressing and how they might “measure up” to their peers or expectations.  If the system values them as a resource, it would devote as much effort as possible to ensure their success.  How else would a teacher know they are not performing to standard, and most important, how would they know what they needed to improve?  Also, expecting teachers to “pickup’ on the job through a kind of “self-employment” program is a bad idea. There is no doubt teachers will think they are doing great left to their own devices, even though their emphases greatly vary.  It seems that system is too arbitrary and capricious, not to mention unguided.

  • Dan C says:

    February 2, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Citizen oversite?  I don’t believe citizens have any right or business in the supervision of school district employees.  That responsibility falls to the professionals.  To expect that “citizens” supervise teachers is foolhardy.  That’s like allowing people off the street walk into the Ford Plant and supervise the line workers. 

    Citizens have the right to make whatever input they want into the system, provided it is substantive, and preferrably constructive.  This citizen input could be incorporated as part of management’s evaluation of employee performance, but citizens have no rights to be involved in personnel matters.

  • Dan C says:

    February 2, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Alec - great.  It’s good to read there are teams to help teachers.  However, I also think it would be beneficial to have a one-on-one mentor.  You know the person a new employee can confide in?  The new teacher won’t feel as embarrassed discussing some issues with another individual colleague, versus discussing it with a whole group of peers.  That could be embarrassing to “hang that dirty laundry” out there among so many.

  • Dan C says:

    February 2, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Oh, Alec, I forgot to mention the appraisal process I’m talking about requires management to discuss with each employee the areas of of performance they will be evaluated on, in advance of the performance evaluation period.  In addition, each employee was informed which of all these areas was considered essential and critical to maintaining their job.  Employee input and questions were sought.  After this advance discussion the employee signed off that they received and understood their peformance plan.  Of course, this understanding didn’t necessary mean agreement, just understanding.  This performance plan covered a 1-year period.  There were two other formal evaluations - mid-term and final appraisal.  However, there were two other less formal evaluations.  Anyway, the effort was intended that when the employee received their final appraisal it would not be a surprise.  Also, several opportunites were offered to assist the employee, if they needed it. Deficient areas were discussed with direction and assistance to help correct those them.

    I think you mentioned it in a previous post, that school administrators spend a lot of time dealing with student behavioral issues.  I think that should be done in only exceptional cases.  I think teachers have to be able to maintain an order in their own classrooms and not use management.  However, particularly seriously chronic behavioral problem children should be taken out fo the classroom, if they significantly detract from the classroom learning process.  However, if a teacher seems to have an unusually high number of chronic and serious behavior problems in the classroom, then management needs to better assess that teacher to determine why.  What I am getting at is, if school administrators are to be left enough time to appropriately assess teacher performance, the more mundane school duties of dealing with behavioral issues should be left to the teachers.  That should be an element in their effectiveness anyway.

  • Ginny says:

    February 2, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Citizen oversight (meddling?) too often results in the public schools, or to removal of books like Huckleberry Finn and those by Judy Blume from the library.
    Why would we trust the judgment of citizens over those of educated, trained teachers and administrators?

  • Ginny says:

    February 2, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Sorry, a line got dropped. I said too often such citizen oversight results in forcing teachers to teach things like creatonism or to remove books such as Huckleberry Finn, etc

  • Alec says:

    February 2, 2011 at 3:59 pm

      Your sister’s experience exemplifies one of our biggest problems. How do we support and keep good teachers instead of losing 50% in the first 5 years. The teacher learning teams really do help out with new teachers, old teachers, and in between teachers. I agree that too many young teachers are thrown to the wolves. Real reforms remove this debilitating isolation.

      As far as how your administrative reviews went, with an administrator telling them employee what they want to see, evaluating them on what they told them, helping them improve, etc. is management 101. It’s amazing how effective those simple steps are. That type f management actually empowers employees because they don’t have to guess at what is expected of them, and they get help along the way, and the final evaluation should not contain too many surprises.