Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - December 24, 2010


Hostility toward teacher's union

Dear Editor,

I confess that I find it strange and rather sad that the teacher's union is viewed with so much mistrust and hostility in Pleasanton. Ask anyone what image is conjured up by the word "teacher" and the answer is usually "a kind, hard-working figure who cares for his students." How strange then, that the phrase "teacher's union" elicits such a dramatically different response. Are the teachers who choose to belong to their union somehow transformed into totally different people?

Teacher's associations were developed to ensure that educators would be viewed as professionals and receive protections from people who place politics over sound educational practices. Before there were unions, it was not uncommon for teachers to be fired for getting married, becoming pregnant, having an adult beverage with friends, teaching about evolution or being a member of the wrong political party. It is against these forces that teacher's unions have worked to provide protections through collective bargaining. This process allows for the creation and maintenance of a contract establishing fair working conditions, fair compensation and a process for dealing with unfair treatment.

A teacher's union is nothing more than a collection of those same saints who greet your children with a smile each day.

Trevor Knaggs, President, Association of Pleasanton Teachers


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Dec 30, 2010 at 9:32 am

Mystified? With confessed ignorance and feigned innocence? And now, he's conjured up a union of saints. In the category of linguistic gymnastics, this is Mr. Knagg's finest, the Best of 2010. Congratulations, Trevor!
I wish you and your brethren a Happy Wordy New Year!

Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm

What do you say to the people who think a teacher should be fired for teaching evolution? Do you know that it has been connected with communism, atheism, and man's inhumanity toward man? Did you know that there is far more evidence supporting the biblical 6 day creation than some kind of evolution or whatever?

Web Link

Just Google Ben Stein Expelled.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 30, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

This community is going to suddenly fire teachers for teaching evolution, getting pregnant, getting married, having an adult beverage, or being a member of the "wrong" political party, etc.? Be honest now.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

"This process allows for the creation and maintenance of a contract establishing fair working conditions, fair compensation and a process for dealing with unfair treatment."

Collective bargaining may have been useful over 70 years ago but I question its usefulness in improving working conditions and compensation in this day and age. Just for an example, overtime pay for information technology workers classified as exempt employees has become an industry norm during this last decade yet it would be challenging to find widespread unionization occurring amongst such workers. But that's the nature of these highly-skilled workers. The unions don't offer what they're looking for.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 30, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Speaking of political parties.. "Democratic schism opens on fixing schools" Web Link

Taking a position against the unions was a switch for Huffman, a Democratic Party activist who worked for the CTA for 12 years and describes herself as a strong believer in labor rights.

"I'm not trying to destroy the union," Huffman said. "But sometimes you have to make a choice in life and right now, the education of our young people is more important than protecting the union."

Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Yes Stacey we want teachers actually teach the truth, rather than the junk science. I don't suppose you followed the links I provided. You problem think Obama is born in America and Christian to? Your against the unions just like us, so why won't you get on board? Where do you get your values?

Posted by mellow fellow, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Let's assume for a moment the idea of "saints who greet your children with a smile each day" is not a failed attempt at misspent hyperbole. Let's assume Trevor and the gang ARE IN FACT angelic specters from heavenly regions ... The problem in education is still the act of greed shown at many levels in education: The "high-paid executives at the University of California" demanding exorbitant amounts of dough in a failing educational system OR government employees (police, fire, et al) who see a "I WANT MINE" mentality as their holy grail OR labor unions who have truly bankrupted their own labor movement through gregarious greed. It's CONTEXT Trevor, not subtlety the creates public perception.

Posted by Arroyo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2010 at 10:32 am

Most unions breed mediocrity in work performance by protecting the inept in their ranks.

Posted by SteveP, a resident of Parkside
on Dec 31, 2010 at 10:40 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Trevor, you must be harkening back to the McCarthy days. (for some the good old days, before obscene budget shortfalls).
Your statement about unions proecting teachers who "receive protections from people who place politics over sound educational practices" is the antithesis of what is in practice now. Unions donate generously and march in lockstep with Dems who protect the status quo of poor education in favor of 'teacher protections'.
I guess we can't blame you for your defensive posture now that folks are finally awakening to what's been going on during the last 40 years of educational decline in Calif. Your union, much like the House Democrats, can see the writing on the wall, as voters rise up to demand accountability.

Posted by Jane Hull, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 3, 2011 at 11:44 pm

It's rather a shame that many of the above posters here -- judging by their deficient use of grammar -- did not reap the benefits of a quality education. Too, it appears that Dark Corners wants Mr. Knaggs to apologize for writing a lucid piece -- and employing 'big words' too! I think the union constructs a necessary firewall of protection against so many in our community who wish to 'dumb down' the curriculum in one way or another.

I dread facing the prospect of my children soon having to be squeezed into a classroom with 42 students and one teacher. Having to care for three of my own, I realize how difficult it is. 42 in a classroom, seven hours a day? I would venture to say that this indeed qualifies one for sainthood! It is positively shameless that so many above would want to pare away any gains teachers have made via unionization. I submit that the grammatically impaired above have an axe to grind because they did not do well in school. I pray earnestly that my children do not ever develop such ignorance of and hatred toward the nurturers and cultivators of our children. They are worth every penny they earn, and we should be bending over backwards through volunteer work, donations, and, yes, showing a willingness (from those who can so easily afford it) to pay higher taxes for continued improvement of our educational system.

Final comment: Last time I looked, all those 'high-paid administrators' in the Univ of Cal system were NOT unionized.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 4, 2011 at 12:16 am

Stacey is a registered user.

If the lack of firewalls results in a dumbed down curriculum, then I think it is in the best interest of our children that we should add more firewalls! People will be more than willing to pay higher taxes because more firewalls will mean better education. We shall start with giving tenure after only one year. Next we shall do away with evaluations. Administrators will no longer be allowed to evaluate teachers on a periodic basis. No paper trail means no worry. Freeing teachers from this stress will leave them better able to handle their day-to-day job. We will follow up that change with lowering class sizes to the ideal 1:1 ratio and constructing new school buildings with classrooms sized appropriately. No one will ever think about increasing class sizes when limited to such small rooms. And no employee will ever get laid off ever again, even if enrollment decreases. We don't want to lose any saints. All of these measures are sure to improve education!

Posted by joe, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Stacey's frantic hand-waving and misdirected sarcasm indicates a good deal of ignorance regarding educational needs in the community. While every bureaucracy, including unions, has shortcomings, sometimes it is necessary to realize that the shortcomings may be necessary as a means of staving off worse shortcomings. Good teaching is as much art as science. It often involves creativity and risk. Moreover, very good teachers can get low evaluations from their superiors because their superiors are using superficial, hackneyed, or politically biased criteria. I don't want my kids' teachers looking over their shoulder at every juncture for fear of a biased or incompetent or vindictive supervisor. Nor certainly do I want those such as the contributors to this thread being in charge of saying who is a competent teacher and who is not. Union protection is necessary in order to protect teachers from fearing bad administrators inside the institutions and political zanies out in the community (e.g., Dark Corners, SteveP, 'reader' [though this requires acceptance of an oxymoron], Stacey, and others above). Jane Hull from downtown raises a good point. Instead of crying about quality of our teachers and their legitimate union (which strikes me, Stacey, as but a ruse for you not wanting to pay taxes for anything that doesn't directly benefit YOU), we should be attempting to increase tax revenues and its apportionments for our schools and teachers. Volunteering to help out overwhelmed, underfunded, and overly worked teachers might also be a positive contribution from those who seem to be so tight-fisted when it comes from their money. Sarcasm about striving for a 1:1 teacher-student ratio, within the context of the overall message, seems to indicate that Stacey couldn't care less whether the ratio is 1:1 or 100:1. She just doesn't seem to want other people's kids reaping educational benefits that come at her (the community's) expense. This seems short-sighted, selfish, and in the final analysis lends itself to more ignorance, hardship, crime, and susceptibility to the kinds of political bimboism being frequently advanced on these pages. As the bumper sticker so accurately conveys: 'If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.'

Posted by Karenna, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Unions keep bad teachers in their jobs. It should not be difficult to fire people who have power over children and are abusing it. There are teachers who are frustrated because they see and report mistreatment of students and nothing is done.

Posted by Hmmmm, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 4, 2011 at 5:16 pm

"While every bureaucracy, including unions, has shortcomings, sometimes it is necessary to realize that the shortcomings may be necessary as a means of staving off worse shortcomings."

Can you explain/expand on that thought? How are the union's shortcomings a necessary evil?

"Good teaching is as much art as science. It often involves creativity and risk."

I agree with that statement but I'm not sure the current system fosters real creativity. I'm not saying the Pleasanton teachers aren't doing a good job. I think they are doing an excellent job. I just wonder if the union shortcomings are a hindrance to the creativity you speak of, and the overall quality of our student's education. I also keep hearing acknowledgment of union issues in one sentence only to see them dismissed in the next. If there are issues why don't the teachers challenge their union to make the necessary reforms? I think people would be more open to a parcel tax if the unions were to clean up their own mess, and make sure more of the current tax dollars actually made it to the classroom. If that happened there might not even be a need for a parcel tax.

Posted by Get Educated, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Hmmm..."if the unions were to clean up their own mess, and make sure more of the current tax dollars actually made it to the classroom." I'm wondering if you can clarify what you mean by this statement. What mess are you talking about? And how would the union/teachers be keeping tax dollars out of the classroom, what money are you referring to and for what?

As to creativity, you will have to read this article Web Link
It is really interesting how multiple factors affect the declining creativity development in schools and at home. (Although, blaming the unions is a new one I haven't heard) Teacher training is so crucial in this area- how to take standards and the pressure to perform on mulitple choice assessments and translate that into innovative thinking and creativity is a challenge. MANY are doing this everyday in classrooms around the district, but with a culture that is leaning towards ranking and publishing names of teachers based on their students test scores- this will be further threatened. This is the kind of topic that teachers in this town discuss and collaborate about- how do we fit it all in with the time we are given.

Posted by Hmmmm, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 4, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I don't have an issue with your answering your queations but you never answered mine.

"While every bureaucracy, including unions, has shortcomings, sometimes it is necessary to realize that the shortcomings may be necessary as a means of staving off worse shortcomings."

Can you explain/expand on that thought? How are the union's shortcomings necessary?

I'm not your enemy. I'm just challenging you to explain your comment.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 4, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Last night's channeling of Bastiat by me was to challenge Jane Hull's assertion that the union stands as some sort of safeguard against poor quality education. What looks like sarcasm is a very serious rhetorical device called reductio ad absurdum. Bastiat was good at it and I felt inspired to try my own hand at it, whether I did well or not, after someone posted under the name of Walter Reuther in another thread. Joe correctly understood the absurdity of the 1:1 ratio and the associate classroom sizes, but failed to see that I only took Hull's reasoning to its logical extreme. If the union constructs a firewall that protects against the "dumbing down" of the curriculum by protecting teacher jobs, then why shouldn't we create more firewalls? Surely more protection for teaching jobs would have the opposite effect from removing that protection.

Education quality though is not really protected by the existence of a union. If it were there would've been a rush to unionize in educational circles without unions because reasonable people always want to improve education. A union exists to improve the conditions of its members. I think Reuther might agree with that statement. Individual teachers may care about improving education and union leaders may claim it, but that isn't what a teacher's union really is about in practice. If it were, we would not be seeing the split occurring, especially in Southern California, between Democrats on this subject.

Now you may fool yourself into thinking that my post is advocating for the removal of job protection for teachers even though I said nothing about supporting removal. On the contrary, without some form of job protection, it would be nearly impossible to teach critical thinking because students need to have their beliefs and preconceived notions challenged (or at least that is the history of teaching critical thinking in the US). And that's the real reason for tenure, which was not even a creation of unions. Tenure historically was a difficult status to reach and was awarded only after years of demonstration of superior academic skills. Instead, unions have pushed for tenure to be granted earlier in California. Maybe others here can answer how this earlier and earlier tenure improves education. I do not see it and that only reinforces what I wrote above about unions not standing for improved education in practice. And changes in tenure is only one example of the kinds of laws and negotiated rules unions have won that does little to improving education. My post then is not about removing protections, only for blowing up the idea that the firewall of the union leads to better quality education.

Now Joe and I actually agree that we need more investment in education, but where we probably disagree is in how the money should be used. I believe that requests for money need to be justified with critical analysis of how the request aligns with organizational goals; for example, not just used to increase the pay rate on a salary schedule that experts agree does not align with most educational goals (i.e., read the recent "Cut here. Invest there." Thomas Friedman column). Readers of my posts from the time the PW published Casey's opinion piece advocating for a parcel tax will understand that I've never really changed my position on this, having called for a cost-benefit analysis of the PUSD budget. Maybe Joe can explain what he means by "we should be attempting to increase tax revenues and its apportionments for our schools and teachers"? What do you think should be done with the money, Joe? There's many other districts and states that spend more than Pleasanton on education without a higher quality outcome. Maybe Joe can explain that one too since he appears to be so knowledgeable.

What I'd also like to know is how many people in non-union jobs get fired for getting pregnant, getting married, being a member of the wrong political party, or enjoying an adult beverage (off hours and off premises, of course) without any resulting legal issue?

(For Bastiat, read his infamous reductio ad absurdum piece, "The Candlemaker's Petition", at Web Link)

Posted by Get Educated, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm you have me mixed up with Joe? I didn't write the statement you posted but am wondering what you meant by "I think people would be more open to a parcel tax if the unions were to clean up their own mess, and make sure more of the current tax dollars actually made it to the classroom."

Also no argument in me, but when you said that teachers should challenge their colleagues (the members of our local union) I'm wondering what mess you feel needs to be cleaned up?

Posted by joe, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Job discrimination within the ranks of teaching still exists in many forms. Some teachers are wary of disclosing their sexual orientation for fear of negative repercussions from supervisors or community, let alone disclosing same gender marriage or cohabitation. Other teachers face intended or unintended discrimination on account of one's race. And if you don't think teachers need to be anxious about their community, think about teachers in Texas where KKKers and John Birchers, under the auspices of Tea Party, have written Thomas Jefferson out of textbooks and curricula; or think about teachers in Kansas where religious nutcakes have written creationism into science texts and curricula. Now, having said that, re-read some of the goofball contributors to this thread who, yes, constitute part of our community. Teachers' unions are necessary, despite tendencies of all bureaucracies to be rigid, slow-moving, and resistant to creative input. As the great German sociologist Max Weber argued, bureaucracies are far from perfect but are to be preferred when dealing with specific, complex issues and problems that require specialized knowledge over public passion. Teachers are hired to teach, and we need to liberate them of all distractions from the tasks at hand, which is to administer to our children's needs. That's what teachers' unions are there for. Collective bargaining, the filing and pursuit of job-related grievances, and advocating for a better standard of living for teachers. Teachers were not trained to do such things; nor should we want them doing such things when they are currently so overworked and overwhelmed.

Posted by joe, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 5, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I support a parcel tax, though would like to see it progressive instead of flat, in that the wealthier would be required to pay a higher rate, and less wealthy less so. I want our teachers to get sabbaticals through part of their pregnancies, and I want male and female teachers alike to be granted extended leaves after giving birth. I want smaller classrooms and decreased teacher-student ratios -- the smaller the better. Beyond administering to our children's needs during the day, and then grading and putting together work packets for the next day's classroom sessions at night, I do not want our teachers having to stop by Staples every week in order to purchase classroom supplies out of their own pockets. I assume our teachers are not perfect superheroes, but well-intentioned, hard-working individuals who did not enter the profession to make the big bucks. Some are better teachers than others, but I assume the overwhelming majority of teachers want to improve their teaching skills. If providing some measure of job security alleviates their stress levels, I'm all for it. I'm not suggesting that throwing money at any and every problem is the answer. But, along with parental and community support, additional tax money might go a long way towards improving the overall quality of education.

Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Putting creationism in a science book where it belongs is not being a religous nutcake! Your the nutcake if you want evolution in there.

Posted by Joe what is wrong with you?, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 5, 2011 at 3:26 pm


First off you live in Dublin and we are talking about Pleasanton and secondly you come off like a flaming socialist. One word for you........therapy.

Posted by joe, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 5, 2011 at 5:58 pm

See what I mean? With the community consisting of the likes of, um, 'reader' and 'Joe what is wrong with you?' what possibly do teachers have to fear from their community?

Posted by susan, a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2011 at 6:33 pm

To 'Joe what is wrong with you', who wants to eliminate 'joe from Dublin' from the conversation. I am wondering whether you also want to exclude from the conversation Pleasanton teachers and their spouses who may live in other communities?

Posted by Really, a resident of Danbury Park
on Jan 5, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Let's get serious here. Joe is obviously a teacher and is trying to make some socialistic statements and get people agitated by trying to draw a correlation between the KKK, John Birchers, and individuals sharing the same views of the Tea Party. It is same as trying to draw some correlation between homosexuals and devil worshipers. Trying to create some type of class warfare by instilling his ideals of a progressive tax on people who have worked hard to give to people who have not been as successful.

With individuals like Joe responding it is no wonder that the teachers union and teachers like Joe it is easy to understand the LOW esteem they are being held.......keep it up good strategy.

Posted by Janna, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 5, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Janna is a registered user.

To a reader:

Stories of faith have no business being in a science book. None. If people want their kids to be religious, then you take them to church or put them in a private Christian school. Trying to insert religion in public school, where people of all beliefs and non-beliefs attend, is offensive. Not that you care if people aren't interested in your religion, right? Whether you like it or not, creationism is not a theory and never will be. It is blind faith and should not be taught as fact in schools.

Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Plane and simple evolution goes hand in hand with socialism and communism. The union wants socialism so there against teaching the truth! Jana read my link there is more scientific evidence for the biblical six day creation then evolution. The union is leading people to communism and tyranny.

Posted by Janna, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 6, 2011 at 9:36 am

Janna is a registered user.

a reader,

Looks to me like you just throwing around GOP catch phrases. None of what you wrote makes the least bit of sense. With people like you living here, I fear for the future of our country.

There is zero science to back up your story that the world was created in six days, I don't care what link you posted. Is that link straight from Jesus?

Posted by Rosie, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:00 am

Thanks to joe from Dublin for giving his sensable opinion of teachers and teaching. Since his postings, all I've see is name calling. (He musst be a TEACHER, he must be a SOCIALIST, he must be a NUTCAKE, he must be a COMMUNIST, he NEEDS THERAPY. Nobody's called him a MUSLIM TERRORIST yet.) Perhaps this name calling is the best the other side can muster?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:17 am

Stacey is a registered user.


"a reader" is trying to make a point about teachers needing job protection.

Joe wrote: "I want smaller classrooms and decreased teacher-student ratios -- the smaller the better."

That works "better" only when the teacher is a quality teacher. If the teacher is not, we get 15 kids getting the short end of the stick instead of 20. That's supposed to be better? Without making teacher evaluations more meaningful in order to improve teacher quality, firing teachers who do not perform, and recruiting top graduates to become teachers, all classroom-size reduction will ever be is another educational fad.

It's the same with the idea of staff development. It sounds like a great idea and I support that idea, but if there's no evaluation of the quality of the programs or a periodic re-evaluation to see if the program is being effective in improving the teacher force, it's just another educational fad.

See, the issue is that critical analysis is needed whenever someone says we need more money for education. It isn't enough to just say "we need to raise revenue". Let's use our money wisely. California doesn't do that critical analysis enough, or doesn't act upon it. Categorical funding and mandates are just a complete mess because of the lack of periodic re-evaluation.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:20 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Joe humored me by saying "the smaller the better" in terms of class sizes. Sounds like my earlier 1:1 ratio joke. I was also humored by his reference to reducing stress. Man, I must have been right on the money with my Bastiat post.

Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Pleasanton is a traditional values city in a sea of godless wickedness. We need to fix the schools and that means goodby unions. Homeschool is best but not everyone can do that.

Hey Rosie I don't know about MUSLIM TERRORISTS you have to ask the president about that!!!

Posted by Chris, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm

That's right reader! You Go Girl! Good bye to Godless and Wicked unions and Hello to home schooling for all kids! Let their parents sit them in front of the tv all day, every day! Then Pleasanton will have kids with brilliant minds and reasoning power like reader has! God be praised!

Posted by Glenn Wohltmann, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Let me direct you toward a recent story that addresses the teacher issue:

Web Link


Posted by Pablo, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm


What is wrong with a little religion? Sounds to me when I read these blogs about drug abuse, alcohol abuse, robberies, assaults, etc that we could use a little more goodness in our society...yes?

I actually think that in many cases children would be far better off it they were home school and not exposed to the BS which comes out of many of our teachers mouths.

Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and you certainly are entitled to yours as am I to mine.

Right now we are seeing good and evil being played out in front of us and it will be interesting to see who wins.........I am betting on good.

Posted by Pablo, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm


Nice little article but seems a bit childish that we would need to set up programs for teachers on coaching, lesson planning, and how to say no. Shouldn't we be hiring teachers who already know how to do these things? Seems to me that these are fundamental to being a teacher and a waste of money for Pleasanton taxpayers to pay for after the fact. In the real world if you are not cutting it you get put on a performance improvement plan for 90 days or up to 6 months, if at the end of that period you are not performing at a satisfactory level then you are terminated and someone is hired who can do the job. In my experience 80% of the people who get put on an improvement plan do not make it. We need to raise our expectations.

Posted by Janna, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Janna is a registered user.


You've made a mistake. Religion has nothing to do with goodness. Anyone who thinks religion automatically makes them a nice person is delusional. In my opinion, people who use the fear of god to behave in their lives are not genuinely good people.

Posted by Janna, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Janna is a registered user.


I was referring to this post by a reader. I'm not sure what you're talking about.

a reader:
"Plane and simple evolution goes hand in hand with socialism and communism. The union wants socialism so there against teaching the truth! Jana read my link there is more scientific evidence for the biblical six day creation then evolution. The union is leading people to communism and tyranny."

Posted by Pablo, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm


You might be right but I like my bet better. I think I have a better chance of being a better person sitting in church reading the bible and reflecting on how to treat people versus a lot of other things. My only point is that following the words of the bible and treating others well is a good thing and we need much more of it. I do not think striving to be a good person and treat others well by going to church is delusional at all.

Posted by Chris, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 6, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Hey Pabs,

Some opinions are better than others. Some are derived from independent thought and reflection that places an empowered self in a one-to-one relationship not only with biblical texts but with other texts which are far superior to the bible. Give me Plato's Republic, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind or any of about three or four dozen other texts any time over a book that teaches intellectual enslavement beneath the authoritarian staff of a sheep herder who presides over a gullible flock. Haven't read them you say? Didn't think so.

You want to dwell on evil in the world? You might start by considering all the good christians who want to exact old testament vengence against liberals, socialists, athiests, gays, women who won't submit themselves to a state-enforced pregnancy, and, with quote 'reader' unquote, those wicked and godless teachers and their unions. You want to dwell on BS? Try reading the Book of Revelations.

Fact is, I don't think much of your god. On my view, he isn't much of a communicator. Look how far he got with satan, for example, and what was with that anyway? Couldn't reason out a settlement, but instead had to banish him for evermore? What possibly could satan have done to warrant that sentence? Maybe a little jealousy at work there? But this guy in heaven who was unable to communicate with one of his angels expects me to follow his lead? Like I say, there are far superior texts in this world, and I'd rather follow my own lead than give blind deference to your god. And I'll hold up my ability to think and act in a moral manner against yours any day of the week. It's the 21th century, Pabs, god has been dead for a long time, replaced by free individuals who resort to scientific fact and deductive argument as the basis for judgment and action. You're not even a fraction removed from kneeling down before a totem pole in your backyard or believing that boogymen inhabit your closet. Thank goodness that blinded, vengeful folks like yourself, 'reader', and 'Off with their heads!' Stacey aren't determining who is teaching our children.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 6, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

It is unfortunate how simple concern for parts of a system recognized by experts as having issues gets classified as "vengeful" by others. As I wrote above, I'm not here advocating for the complete removal of job protections. I explained how tenure is a kind of job protection that has a very real positive impact on an organizational goal. I'm just trying to point out that there's a balance to be struck and currently the balance is weighted in favor of the producers (teachers) to the detriment of the consumers (students). Chris can go look up how seniority-based layoffs have a very real negative impact on an organizational goal.

If that makes me vengeful to Chris, I'll gladly play Satan to Chris's God.

Posted by joe, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 7, 2011 at 10:57 am

Teachers and students should not be forced into a flawed economic model as 'producers' and 'consumers'. Teachers have been hired to teach our children, and we want to provide teachers every opportunity to excel at their tasks. An abstract and demonstrably problematic economic model should not be imposed upon the teacher-student relationship. For many reasons, teachers should not be expected to perform in a competitive, dog-eat-dog environment; such an environment does not produce good teaching but instead encourages strategic short-cutting, back-stabbing, kiss-upping, and all other manner of unfortunate human behavior that is not conducive to good teaching.

We have long since moved beyond the Fordist assembly-line model of time-motion studies that treat employees as trained and expendable circus animals. Unions have helped immensely in this regard. Teachers unions, specifically, are necessary. I have spelled out above some of the many reasons why they are necessary. Another worthwhile factor to note is that school administrators are structurally situated such that they often don't care so much about students learning, but rather get rewarded for things like cost-cutting, pleasing the loudest parents, and pleasing whatever politicos are currently in office. Remove the unions, and all sorts of dysfunctional havoc will prevail in the classroom.

More specifically, this is also why teachers' unions almost without exception endorse a seniority model. Yes, it can be unfortunate and sometimes unfair for those last hired who then become first to be laid off. Of course, given the importance of education, no teachers should be getting laid off. But when lay-offs are deemed necessary by the powers at large, the least harmful way has been to lay-off the most recently hired. They tend to be younger, often without families yet, and without having settled into a lifestyle such that they would unduly suffer as a consequence of being laid off. But perhaps even more importantly, as teachers unions rightly have noted, a lay-off formula based upon some other criteria opens up a pandora's box that removes teachers from their primary tasks of educating our children as it turns them into political animals who are only out for themselves. This kind of pandora's box works against teachers collaborating with one another in helpful ways. Instead of concentrating on students, teachers would be attempting to please whomever is responsible for making lay-off decisions. Teachers' unions, like most other institutions, are imperfect; but I think they have correctly thought through this issue.

So, too, with some form of testing as criteria for success. For those deeply involved in academia, there is the realization that 'good teaching' is an elusive descriptor. Some students and their parents who moan and complain about a certain teacher, for example, may, upon reflection, five or ten years down the line recognize that that teacher was the best teacher they had ever had. They simply hadn't realized it early on. Further, we do not have a test that is sensitive enough to measure all aspects of a teacher's complex role in students' lives; nor are there tests that can take into account such factors as parental involvement or administrative support or degree of collegial cooperation. Teachers' unions I think rightly are wary of placing any such imperfect testing mechanism into the hands of administrators or politicos whose agendas may not be in either teachers' or students' best interests. All sorts of abuses, worse -- probably much worse -- than those we currently see, are likely. As a former academic administrator I have to tell you that most administrator types have the bottom line goal of personal advancement and success. This often puts their interests at odds with (creative, risk-taking) teachers and their students. And most of us are aware of the kinds of agendas politicians may have. All too often, they want to please a voting public, which sometimes is a virtue of course, but when it involves stepping into the ranks of trained, well-intentioned, hard-working professionals (teachers) it can be entirely counterproductive.

Mine I think is a real-world analysis that argues against applying some simple, abstract 19th century economic model to real people. Our children and their teachers do not deserve being so intruded upon.

Posted by Janna, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Janna is a registered user.


Great post!

Posted by Janna, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Janna is a registered user.

Really Pablo? You have a better chance being a good person by going to church? With as much violence over religion as there has been over the years, I find that hard to believe. My goodness comes from empathy and what my parents have taught me. Whether you believe it or not, religion openly promotes fear of punishment. I don't see how that's better than just being a good person because it's the right thing to be. Church is fine if you like it, but don't try to act like you do it because you want to. Ultimately, fear is the motivator.

Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 7, 2011 at 6:24 pm


You and your family still living on public assistance or is your husband back at work while you pound the keys here? If you are public assistance I would think you would be more thankful to those of us who feel christian charity like we do for you.

Posted by Chris, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 8, 2011 at 1:11 am

Hey Taxpayer,
Where is the christian charity in that kind of comment? Your remark simply emphasizes how religious people are mean. By the way, public assistance doesn't have anything to do with christian charity. So, lack of anything genuinely contributive to the discussion, plus a good deal of religiously based meanness, equals symbolic violence towards someone you THINK you've correctly identified, and some rather obvious wrongheadedness to boot. Nice! You must be a truly sweet person.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 8, 2011 at 1:14 am

Stacey is a registered user.


I'm not arguing for whether unions should exist or not; just pointing to areas where it has been recognized that some structural changes should be made which tip the scales more in favor of students.

I appreciate your perspective, but you seem to repeat the usual mantras such as teachers turning into power-hungry dog-eat-dogs that won't work together because they'll have to compete. I believe such mantras won't stand up to critical examination. The ability to work well within a team is an essential component to organizational success in other industries and comprises one of the many criteria by which employees are usually evaluated. The perception of a dog-eat-dog world can perhaps come from anecdotes about higher managerial levels where the stakes are higher yet even there, a good team is crucial. My own experience at "rank and file" level in a private company with no union, where mentoring coworkers and working as a team was not considered extraordinary, suggests to me that that claim is not really based in any real world facts but in fear of the unknown. I recognize that determining quality in teaching can be an imprecise exercise, especially without teachers' own (not teachers' union) input on what they see is valuable. I haven't suggested that student tests form the only basis of evaluation (just projecting the current national dialog on your idea of me?). Thinking Man is taught that he has a moral obligation to investigate, examine, and attempt to understand what makes something beneficial in order to extend that to benefit of all humanity. Attempts to dismiss such activity because of fear of the unknown are always suspect. Thankfully there are those who have been attempting to discover how to improve teaching and we benefit from their research through staff development.

The claim that unions form a safeguard against unfortunate human behavior is not borne out by practice. It can be shown that the rules asked for and supported by unions actually end up protecting those who display the extreme of those unfortunate behaviors (and we can point to some rather terrible examples of such behaviors throughout the history of unions). One only has to look at recent history in UTLA. A recent example of the idea of unions asking for something that can give more protection for those with unfortunate behavior is where CTA has pushed to take away a district's right to fire a teacher for egregiously bad behavior by trying to require a State-level committee to make the ultimate determination on employment status. While there may be good intentions behind the hindrance of the ability of an administrator to arbitrarily fire teachers, such maximization of that hindrance is a "shortcoming" that is unnecessary and does not deserve to be tolerated as merely an artifact of the system. The majority of teachers do not need such extreme protection in order to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities, there's already a system that frustrates this administrative power, and the amount of work involved on an administrator's part to even get to that point in the process means that the balance between the interests of students and the interests of teachers is tipped in the employee's favor.

The days of the assembly line are indeed over, yet teachers are still treated as trained and expendable widgets (circus animals, really?) instead of professionals. We can see this reflected in various ways: wherein two teachers on the same step and column cell are paid the same rate regardless of their skills and successes in the classroom, wherein layoffs do not take those skills and successes into account, and wherein the only way to be paid what you're really worth is by making the jump into administration because there's a top "career" limit that employees have to look forward to after many long years. This structure, which continues to be supported by unions (not all, of course), plays a significant role in the coming teacher supply crisis and the difficulty in recruiting top graduates to the field. The education industry cannot compete in the job market for graduates with such outdated "benefits". That isn't a function of the existence of the union, only a function of the structure supported and contributed to by it.

The century that the economic model originates from is irrelevant. It's like saying the Constitution is flawed and abstract because of when it was written. No one is forcing teachers and students into this economic model. It is not a model of time-studies of assembly lines, but of supply and demand. If society does not offer the children to be taught, there is no demand for the teaching position. Traditional schools have only created this demand artificially by virtue of their former monopoly, which is being taken away by the increase in charter schools (which can be union-run too). The principle of putting the consumer ahead of the producer is also more relevant today than it was in the 19th century as the US shifts from a manufacturing economy to a services-oriented economy. You wrote that administrators are not structurally obligated to put children ahead themselves and you appear uncomfortable with that. I only see that as another symptom of the lack of the kind of evaluations that focus on organizational goals and not a flaw in the economic model.

The current structure does deserve to be intruded upon as it excuses more shortcomings than it improves education.

Posted by joe, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Yes, the constitution is flawed and it is abstract. Flawed: note how congress chose not to read about 3/5 of a person in the constitution, despite it being there. Abstract: note over two centuries of law legislated and adjudicated, much of which was necessary because the constitution is too abstract to fit a complex world of everchanging and new problems.

Yes, 19th century classical political economic models are now recognized as flawed, abstract, and outdated. You may find my attempts to sort through some complexities in modern education as tired dogma; i see your views hitched to an intellectual one-trick-pony that pulls a cart of platitudes along ruts of a stunted ideology. Humans are far more complex than capitalist econ model would have us believe. It may be difficult to believe for those who cannot get past the 19th century myths of free markets and laws of supply and demand, and who want to reduce complex agents to producers and consumers. Believe it or not, most teachers do not care whether a 'better' teacher gets paid the same as a 'lesser' teacher. Teachers cannot be reduced to simple economic maximizers as most on the political right seem to be and seem to want teachers to be. If teachers were economic maximizers they would have chosen another profession.

Words about critical thinking ring hollow when there appears to be an obsession with applying a reductionist economic model to all others. I learned from my best teachers to immerse myself in many different, opposed models/theories, to hold them all up critically against one another, and then synthesize when attempting to solve societal problems. This apparent obsession with an outdated 19th century econ model indicates a certain ideational stuntedness, linked more to self-interest than to a search for truth. With teachers, in my experience, altruism trumps self-interest at almost every turn. Cognitive theorists will confirm this; and virtually every one of them over the past century categorizes other-interested/altruism as a higher cognitive level than self-interestedness and econ maximization. This is what divides teachers from that segment of the population that seeks to break their union. Indeed, this is what separates many liberals from conservatives. And, of course, that IS why most teachers are liberals or closely aligned to liberals on a political spectrum.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Stacey is a registered user.


Society is not done any favors by the obfuscation of complexity behind mantras. You've done no such sorting of those complexities of modern education. I saw the glaring omission of supporting statements for several of your assertions and challenged that. Your latest response is still devoid of such explanation. The audience cannot gain an understanding of your reasoning if you continue to spend words on your imaginary picture of me.

No one doubts the altruism of teachers, but would also not attribute such individual qualities to an organization whose primary function is self-interest. Unions exist as entities that safeguard the interests of itself and its members, as I have shown above.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 10, 2011 at 11:58 pm

There she goes again. "I didn't really mean what you've attributed to me. But let me repeat again and again what you are attributing to me." Thanks for you contribution, Joe.

Posted by Janna, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 11, 2011 at 10:21 am

Janna is a registered user.


Good to know you've been following my life. Too bad you didn't stay current. Never been on public assistance, thanks. My husband was collecting unemployment as he was entitled to do since he paid into it for many years. He found a job about six months ago and it's going well, though no health benefits are offered. Any other questions?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 11, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I continue to be amazed at other posters' clairvoyant abilities!

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