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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:05 PM
Original message
Some Thoughts on Teacher Union Bashing
Teacher union bashing is part of an aggressive effort in the United States to discredit two institutional groups, with the aim of privatizing everything in our country in the interest of corporate profits. Those two groups are labor unions and public servants.

Public servants must be targeted by this movement because they are the public face of government, which must be routinely stereotyped as too incompetent to accomplish anything of value. Labor unions must be targeted because they are one of primary enemies in the corporate classs war against ordinary Americans. Get labor unions out of the way, and that leaves corporations pretty much free to dictate wages, benefits, and working conditions in their quest for ever greater profits.


The war against teachers unions

A recent article in The Nation, Beyond Silver Bullets The Problems Facing American Education Demand Solutions, Not Slogans, by Pedro Nuguera and Randi Weingarten, touch on the war against teacher unions (though they dont call it by that name):

A manifesto by Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, published in the Washington Post in October, said, The glacial process for removing an incompetent teacherhas left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future. Similarly, articles in Newsweek and Time have singled out teachers unions as the scourge of public schools. The movie Waiting for Superman even suggested that it is because of teachers unions that American students lag behind their peers in other countries.

The article then goes on to note that there is no evidence for negative effects of teacher unions on public education:

Consider this: in states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, where public schools are heavily unionized, students earn the highest scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the standardized exam known as the nations report card. In contrast, students in states such as Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, which have few if any teachers union members and virtually no union contracts, have the lowest NAEP scores. Whats more, in almost all the nations that outperform the United States in education, teachers are unionized and teaching is a respected profession.


On our dire need for government programs with strong worker protections

There are many reasons why a wide variety of services should be provided primarily by government rather than by the private sector. I discuss some of those reasons in detail in this post. Here I will stress just one, which is probably the most important: the elimination of the profit motive. Our government is founded upon the principle that ALL government employees, even including the President of the United States, work in the service of the citizens of our country. Making a profit is not the issue. The purpose of all government work is to serve our fellow citizens at least in theory.

Right wing ideologues hate that philosophy. They believe (or say they believe) that everything operates best according to the principles of the so-called free market, which means that the profit motive is the best means of ensuring that government work or any other work is of the highest quality, efficiency, and effectiveness.

The profit motive has a valid place in society. But when it comes to essential services for which competition tends to be stymied through the creation of effective monopolies, the profit motive is absolutely destructive of the goal of providing decent services. We see that principle at work with the health insurance industry which routinely denies payment for necessary medical care in their quest for profits. We see it at work with the financial industry, which threw us into our worst economic crisis since the Great Depression with their widespread irresponsible gambling and selling of financial products that were so complex that nobody could understand them. And we see it with the prison industry, which lobbies our government for ever harsher and more frequent prison sentences which they use in a multitude of ways, including the use of slave labor, to amass great profits. People who cant see the inherent conflict of interest between public service and the profit motive need to open their eyes.


Conflict of interest at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

I see that conflict of interest frequently at the FDA, where I work as an epidemiologist. The FDA is supposed to regulate a variety of products, including foods, drugs, medical devices, and vaccines, in the cause of ensuring safety for American consumers. The problem is that lobbyists for the corporations that manufacture these products have gotten their grubby fingers into the pockets of our elected representatives. This results in pressure on the FDA from Congress to go easy on those who we are supposed to regulate, thus resulting in severe conflicts of interest, which might be better termed simply corruption. The problem was described in a letter that FDA whistleblowers wrote to Congress:

Serious misconduct by managers of the FDA at the Center for Medical Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) is interfering with our responsibility to ensure the safety and effectiveness of medical devices for the American public and with FDA's mission to protect and promote the health of all Americans. Managers at CDRH have failed to follow the laws, rules, regulations and Agency Guidance They have corrupted the scientific review of medical devices. This misconduct reaches the highest levels of CDRH management

There is extensive documentary evidence that managers at CDRH have corrupted and interfered with the scientific review of medical devices. While managers can disagree with FDA experts, they cannot (legally, that is) order, force or otherwise coerce FDA experts to change their scientific judgments, opinions, conclusions or recommendations. Managers at CDRH with no scientific or medical expertise in medical devices, or any clinical experience in the practice of medicine have ignored serious safety and effectiveness concerns of FDA experts

To avoid accountability, these managers at CDRH have ordered, intimidated and coerced FDA experts to modify their scientific reviews, conclusions and recommendations in violation of the law

This kind of thing pervades our every day work, even after scandals such as that noted above have been exposed. For example, one of the primary means of evaluating our work is by how quickly we approve the products we are supposed to regulate. Our public mission is not supposed to be to approve the products we regulate. It is supposed to be to evaluate them and then make science-based decisions on whether or not they should be approved. The fact that the top levels of FDA management cant see that evaluating our work on how quickly we approve products creates an inherent conflict of interest that is destructive to our mission of regulating these products says a lot about how the private sector has insinuated itself and corrupted the workings of our government.


On the effect of teacher unions on public education

The above discussion indicates why it is so important that civil servants have strong job protection, in the form of civil service protections and effective labor unions. That doesnt mean that they shouldnt be fired for failure to do their job effectively. What I mean is that it is crucial that those who provide essential public services have protection against arbitrary repression. Those protections are what allowed the FDA whistleblowers to complain to Congress about corruption at the FDA. Our society needs those protections because without them essential public services are easy prey for corporate greed. Essential public services must be provided for the people and by the people that is, by government, not for private profit.

That is why whenever I read about teacher union bashing I smell a rat. This isnt about reform, as claimed by the right-wingers who bash unions and routinely stereotype government as being the problem, not the solution. Its about eliminating our remaining bulwarks against corporate control of essential services such as education. Teachers who do their teaching work through private corporations may have the best of intentions. But what about when their teaching goals conflict with their employers desire to make a profit? What if those teachers who care most about providing quality education get weeded out of privatized education systems because their goals for their students conflict with the profit motive?

So when I read the above cited article by Nuguera and Weingarten, about high scores on our nations report card for two states (Minnesota and Massachusetts) that are characterized by a heavily unionized school system, I found that very instructive. But citing a small handful of states doesnt really make the point. Maybe those states are exceptions to a more general rule. Maybe they were cherry picked by the authors to make a point. Its impossible to tell unless one evaluates the issue in terms of all 50 U.S. states.


The correlation between teacher unionization and scores on our nations report card

To assess the correlation, by state, between teacher unionization and scores on the NAEP, I compared 2009 NAEP scores by state with 2007-2008 data on percent unionization of public schools:

% unionization 0-20%: 12 states; average NAEP score 236.2
% unionization 20-90%: 14 states; average NAEP score 238.2
% unionization 90-100%: 24 states; average NAEP score 242.8

The odds of getting that strong of a correlation between percent unionization and NEAP score by chance alone is about 6000 to 1 against.

Another way to assess the correlation is to calculate a correlation coefficient using linear regression analysis. That provides a correlation coefficient of 0.48. The odds against getting that strong of a correlation by chance are in the same neighborhood as the first calculation, described above.

In conclusion, there is a strong and highly statistically significant correlation between percent unionization and NAEP score. It is a positive correlation. That is the opposite of what one would expect from listening to the privatization lobbyists, who always claim that teacher unions rob our children of quality education by forcing our public education system to retain incompetent teachers. It is possible that there are other variables that influence the calculated associations between percent unionization and NAEP score. If that is the case, it is possible that the associations may not be as strong as they appear. But certainly this data provides no evidence whatsoever that teacher unions have a negative effect on educating our children.


Conclusion

Not only is there no evidence for the claim of the corporate privatization lobbyists that teacher unions hinder the education of our children, but analysis of test scores in the 50 U.S. states suggest precisely the opposite: The more unionized the state the better its test scores. It is not surprising that the corporate privatizers are wrong. They dont get paid their fat salaries for telling the truth. They get paid on the basis of how convincingly they can tow the corporate line.

Perhaps a reason for better test scores in the highly unionized states is that tenured teachers who belong to unions, having better job security than those who do not, have more freedom to teach their students in accordance with the principles theyve acquired through many long years of teaching. Or maybe its because unionized teachers on average have more experience than non-unionized teachers. Whatever the exact reason, the main point is that there is no evidence whatsoever to support the argument that unionization of teachers is bad for our children.

Education of our children is an essential service. It is essential for the long-term welfare of our country, as well as the welfare of our countrys children. Like health care, our prison system, our police, our military, and many other kinds of essential public services, public education of our children should not be left to the good graces of private for-profit corporations. Everyone knows or should know that the number one goal of any for-profit corporation is to make a profit. The first priority is NOT the education of our children. Nuguera and Weingarten conclude that the starting point for education reform in our country should be:

substantive and constructive debate. Any such effort must engage parents as partners in the educational process and enlist the broad public and key social institutions (including foundations, hospitals, churches and nonprofits). Only through such partnerships can children be assured access to social workers, psychologists, healthcare, mentors and the other forms of social and emotional support that are known to be vital to healthy development. Most important, we must take steps to ensure that the public remains part of public education. This includes building transparency into the way schools are financed and managed, and engaging in open discussion and debate about what it will take to ensure that all students receive the education they need and deserve.

And in the cause of constructive debate, dont let the privatizers get away with their lies. Challenge them to document their assertions. Unverified assertions and lies have no role in constructive debate.
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Kingofalldems Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:07 PM
Response to Original message
1. I know republicans want to destroy unions
So it is very disturbing to see some so-called Democrats helping them.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:09 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. What are you talking about? How am I helping them?
Edited on Tue Dec-28-10 08:09 PM by Time for change
Did you read the post?
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Kingofalldems Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:13 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Cool it, I didn't mean you
I meant Democratic politicians and Cabinet Member(s) who are enablers for the repubs.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:14 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Sorry
I guess I must be in a paranoid mood.
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upi402 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:37 PM
Response to Reply #4
8. You're not paranoid -they really ARE out to get us
:toast:

Even Clinton gave us NAFTA, GATT, and the Telecommunications Act. Of course, we know what Obama has done to us (I hope).
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madfloridian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 09:00 PM
Response to Reply #4
11. Join the club...me too.
Paranoid that is.

Talking more lately with teachers and admins still in the system here, seeking them out and calling them. They are in shock. They can't speak out or they get in trouble.

I blame Arne Duncan et al for this toxic atmosphere.

Thanks for the post.
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Smarmie Doofus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 09:17 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. And whom do we thank for Arne Duncan?
>>>I blame Arne Duncan et al for this toxic atmosphere.>>>>>


Do NOT say it.
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chervilant Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 12:02 AM
Response to Reply #3
18. Unfortunately,
there are quite a number of DUers who have swallowed this corporate ruse, and many have jumped on the bandwagon to bash teachers and vilify teacher's unions.

I have been struggling to become a teacher for the past three years, through the accelerated teacher certification process here in Texas. I've experienced a number of administrators whose primary concerns are the ubiquitous standardized tests (the TAKS here), and the ridiculous constraints imposed by NCLB (now RTTT}. Glaringly absent is any real regard for our students, because students don't decide whether their school is an 'acceptable' or 'recognized' campus (thus, safe from the harsh consequences imposed by NCLB--now RTTT).

I grant you there are 'bad' teachers, just as there are 'bad' doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. Unarguably, however, administrators have the strategies required to remove such teachers. In fact, the specious argument that 'bad teachers' are the reason public education is failing is a big red herring promulgated by the corporate megalomaniacs who intend to privatize teaching--and any other public service that might provide them further opportunities to expand their wealth and power.

I very much appreciate your post, Time for change. I hope you've been following madfloridian's brilliant work on this topic.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 06:15 AM
Response to Reply #18
19. Thank you
Yes, I'm familiar with madfloridian's extensive work on this issue, and I've learned a great deal from it. One more very good reason to be very upset with the situation we find ourselves in today.
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proud2BlibKansan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:15 PM
Response to Original message
5. Strongly recommended
Thank you so much for all this great research.

This is about profit. That's it in a nutshell. Destroy the public schools and take the unions down along with the schools. Then swoop in to 'save' our schools and our children by establishing charter schools, which are a great investment for Wall Streeters with money to burn already.

Positively disgusting. Any Democrat who supports this crap is supporting the downfall of our democratic society. When we deprive our kids of a quality education, we are attacking democracy.

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vi5 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:16 PM
Response to Original message
6. "Teachers who hit kids" is the new...
"6 months to get a hip replacement" and is to the education debate what that trope was to the healthcare discussion.

No matter how many facts or whatever you throw at someone, when they resort to the example of schools "being able to fire a teacher who hits kids" you know that they have no fucking idea what they are talking about. Same thing with people who busted out the "hip surgery" stupidity. It's a talking point, based off of a miniscule, minute percentage of cases, trumped up to be the epitome of the problem.
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chimpymustgo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 11:09 AM
Response to Reply #6
40. Rhee: Teachers fired for having sex with students

January 23, 2010 - 4:09pm

WASHINGTON - D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee says some of the 266 teachers who were laid off last fall either had sex with students or hit them.
Rhee would not get into specifics with "Fast Company" magazine, but did say that one teacher missed 78 days of school.

George Parker, president of the Washington Teachers Union, tells WTOP the chancellor owes the teachers an apology.

"It is an unfortunate and dangerous statement to paint all these teachers as child abusers is simply not true. She owes the teachers an apology. It is simply not the case. We are not aware of any cases of teachers being charged with sexual assault. it is reckless and damages the reputations of a lot of teachers -- it's just not true."

Rhee made the statements in response to union claims that she made up a budget crisis to get rid of older teachers. She and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty announced the firings as part of a $43.9 million budget shortfall.

"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school," Rhee told the magazine. "Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?"

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray tells WTOP he's stunned by what Rhee told Fast Company, and wants her to explain why this information is just coming out.

-edit-

http://www.wtop.com/?nid=25&sid=1871149

****************
Rhee set the stage for this. She is a dangerous, vicious woman. T

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MichiganVote Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:34 PM
Response to Original message
7. K&R
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DeadEyeDyck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:39 PM
Response to Original message
9. Damn dude. You should get tenur just for writing this
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maryf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 08:46 PM
Response to Original message
10. thanks.
k&r
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Smarmie Doofus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 09:06 PM
Response to Original message
12. "The more unionized the state the better its test scores."
Thanks. Most non-teachers don't realize this. The corporate media encourages them not to do so.


Most "reformers" do, but don't care.


For their willful indifference, they will write it 500 times.



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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 11:03 PM
Response to Reply #12
16. The richer a state the more unionized its teacher force (and labor force in general)
That cuts both ways.
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defendandprotect Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 10:35 PM
Response to Original message
14. How is it that the right wing demonizers go so unrecognized, so unchallenged ....
by the majority of the population --

Do they not see it?

Everyone and everything is to be demonized and exploited for the benefit of the

few elites/right wing corporates who profit by it --!!

Nature, natural resources, animal life -- and even human beings according to various

myths of "inferiority" ....

Gender, sexual orientation, creed, color --

They pretty much condemn the entire natural world ... but we rarely take notice that

this is the few violent among us which we have over hundreds of thousands of years

failed to find a way to control!!

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 01:56 PM
Response to Reply #14
48. I believe it's because of their control of the media
Way too many Americans only believe things if they hear it from so-called "mainstream media" (aka corporate media). Anyone who disagrees with the "facts" or interpretations of what is reported by the corporate media is labeled a "conspiracy theorist".

Once belief in the infallibility of the "mainstream media" becomes exposed enough to the light of day, that belief will rapidly decline. The emperor will have been seen to have no clothes, and their control over us will greatly diminish.
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defendandprotect Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 06:10 PM
Response to Reply #48
56. Believe you're right and trust it will one day happen .....
until then, we have citizens sitting in front of their TVs confident that

should anything be really wrong the news reader will let them know!!



:)
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nashville_brook Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 10:41 PM
Response to Original message
15. k and r
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-28-10 11:09 PM
Response to Original message
17. When the head of the Washington Teachers' Union went on the radio
he talked for a long time about the importance of these jobs in the community and the stability they brought to the community, etc. After 20 minutes the largely anti-charter, anti-Rhee host of the show even called him on the fact that in that time he hadn't mentioned students once. Not once. He explained that it was his job to advocate for teachers.

Well, fine. It is. And I believe in union labor, and I think teachers should be able to unionize if they want. But an organization whose job is avowedly to advocate for teachers suddenly gets (from me at least) the same level of distrust of an organization whose job it is avowedly to advocate for its shareholders' returns.

Why are we in a situation where the head of the Washington Teachers' Union will say with a straight face that 95% of the teachers in DCPS should be evaluated as "excellent"? Why are about half of the under-40-year-old professional teachers I know trying to start charter schools? (And if you say it's because they're out of a quick buck and not dedicated to the interests of students, well, that's really not it.)

We need unions, especially for teachers, but simply being a union doesn't mean that as-constituted it's part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

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Reader Rabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 08:15 AM
Response to Reply #17
20. Advocating for teachers *is* advocating for students.
It baffles me that people don't see this fundamental connection. Any human being who is being treated with respect and having their basic and professional needs met is going to have a lot more inner and outer resources to deal with fellow human beings in a productive manner.

And bringing stability to a community? How is that *not* helping kids?
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 08:28 AM
Response to Reply #20
23. This advocacy lately is taking the form of claiming
that no teacher can be held responsible for their students' mastery of the subject being taught.

OK, fine; I've taught and tutored enough to get the logic behind that claim. But then, if no teacher can reliably improve their students' performance, why is it so important to have well-paid, well-trained teachers? What's the point of spending years learning pedagogy and mastering your subject if you aren't actually going to do any better than anybody else at getting the students to learn the subject?
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adigal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 10:46 AM
Response to Reply #23
38. Who has said that?? I think they might have meant a foundation is needed
How can you teach algebra if the kids don't know their times tables? How can you teach British Literature if the kids cannot read? That is what is meant, I think. And, yes, teachers should be educated in their fields and in Methodology. My best graduate school teacher taught the Methods of Teaching English. I had been teaching 10 years already, in both Catholic and public schools, and he transformed my teaching. What an amazing class!! I am so thankful I had the opportunity to learn from him!
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YvonneCa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #23
44. I have yet to see a teacher here post...
...that they don't want to be accountable.
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Still a Democrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 08:15 AM
Response to Reply #17
21. And have you ever had a look at a teacher's contract?
The one I saw talked at great length about pay, benefits, working conditions, when teachers are required to be in the building, etc. Not a word to be found about guaranteeing anything in the system that improves education of the kids.

When I see posts here about education, they're mostly about unions and teacher pay and benefits. The vitriol directed at Obama usually concerns potential loss of compensation, not poorer levels of education.

I agree with your sentiments on the right to organize and unions, but in the public education arena we're off the rails.
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Tatiana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 08:37 AM
Response to Reply #21
24. I've negotiated four contracts.
Things we bargain that benefit our students:

-class size
-availability of textbooks and curricular materials
-adequate support for special education students (including hiring a 1 on 1 aide, if necessary to meet the needs of a student)
-maintenance of enrichment/gifted programs for students

Pay and benefits are only a few of the basic goals of any union. The vitriol I hear directed at Obama from educators is that he is clearly receiving bad advice that is reinforcing a damaging education policy. There is not a single thing in RTTT that directly benefits students. It is all about rewarding states that weaken unions and assist in destroying public schools in favor of charters.

Teachers worked their asses off to help get Obama elected and we've been slapped in the face... not just in the overall attack upon our profession, upon ideas like tenure and reasonable class size. Now we have to take orders from people like Arne Duncan and Bill Gates who've never dealt with the conditions they seek to remedy. There is no teacher that will tell you our education system is perfect. We clearly need to work on improving our education system. But scapegoating teachers is not the way to do it.
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 09:09 AM
Response to Reply #24
27. It's a lot of things. But what exactly are we casting blame about?
Blaming everything on teachers is as intellectually lazy as saying 95% of DCPS teachers should be rated "excellent". (What does "excellent" even mean in that case? If educational theory stubbornly insists student performance can be ranked by percentile and that the distribution will be Gaussian, whatever the data points, why doesn't that apply to teachers?)

Everybody's looking for someone to blame, but people are more vague about what we're going to blame them for. Our increasing graduation rate? Our 50-year-low level of school violence? The decreasing gap between white and minority students (with the notable exception of Native American/Aleutian students, and this absolutely should not be overlooked IMO)? The exceptional gains female students have made in the past 30 years, so that they now beat males in educational attainment nationwide? (This would be a problem if it were males losing ground; it hasn't been. Though I'm open to the idea of working to now bring male students up to the level females are at as long as it's not at the expense of the gains females have made.)

Nationally, at least, schools of all sorts are doing better than they have done in our history, and a "blame" attitude is probably the wrong way to look at this.
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Tatiana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 10:27 AM
Response to Reply #27
36. That is a very good question.
Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee seem to feel that student failure can be attributed toward the inability to fire "bad" teachers.

We should all have the common goal of equipping our students to be competitive and successful in their future goals... whatever they may be.

The question is how do we get there?

I don't think we get there with a bunch of TFAs. I think we get there with a group of professionally-compensated, knowledgeable, educated people.

I don't think we get there by enriching testing companies and turning our kids into testing machines. I think we have one formal standardized assessment per year and use informal assessments and portfolios to measure how well our students are learning.

I'd rather we look at school within a school concepts as a model for turning around so-called "failing schools" instead of throwing money at charters that will be no more successful than the regular public school.

There are so many creative solutions we could implement to help our students learn. As an instructor, if my students are not learning, I first look at myself. I'm more than willing to accept responsibility if I've failed to do my job adequately and more than willing to look at other strategies to remedy the problem. But when I have students who attend 40% of the time, is their failure really my fault? When I have students who are battling drug addictions and/or on probation, is their failure to pass a standardized test really my fault? When I call parents who refuse to meet with their child and me to discuss their student's progress at a convenient time for them, when that student doesn't exhibit any effort in the classroom, is their failure really my fault? This is a reality in most urban public schools. That's the sort of thing these so-called "performance" measures don't take into account.

Bottom line: the ham-handed blaming of teachers is not helpful.
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Still a Democrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 09:10 AM
Response to Reply #24
28. All but the second could be seen as beneficial to teachers' working conditions
The elephant in the room, at least in our state, is the level of pay and benefits that are challenging the systems' finances. Every dollar that goes there doesn't go to textbooks, etc.

The only time we get a large turnout by teachers or other employees at board meetings is when things like contracts or privatization are on the agenda.
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Tatiana Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 10:05 AM
Response to Reply #28
35. Do you not understand how these things improve the quality of students' education?
Do you not understand how these things improve the quality of students' education?

class size

My first year teaching, I had 31 students (started off with 34). Among those 31 students were FOUR students with IEPs that were to be included in the regular education classroom. I requested a teacher's aide and was denied. To make a long story short, I did the best I could with those students and they met standards on their alternative assessment exam, but I knew that our school had done those students a disservice as well as my other regular ed kids. In a classroom with students at 5 different reading levels, it gets hard to meet everyone's needs. If I had received the TA, I would have been better able to use small groups to facilitate instruction and incorporate activities from some of the more advanced students (who tend to get bored and tune out if they are not challenged or actively engaged). After that first year is when I got involved in the union. My class size last year was 25 and our class honestly had a fantastic year. All but one of my students met or exceeded state standards (not that I think the ISAT is a true measure of what a student has learned). Most important, I really had the opportunity to engage all of my students and push them to think critically (with some fantastic results on their final projects).

adequate support for special education students (including hiring a 1 on 1 aide, if necessary to meet the needs of a student)

I think I covered this above, but I will reiterate that if we have students with special needs and/or disabilities, we need to provide the appropriate level of support in order for those students to be successful. There was no way a teacher with 27 other kids can provide the level of support that a learning disabled student requires. We are talking about intensive one-on-one literacy instruction including guided reading. If I didn't give a damn about those kids, I'd say "Oh well" and continue to swipe in and out each day. But the fact is, teachers do care about those students and their success. They do care a great deal about ensuring those students have the tools they need to achieve their goals and dreams. I never requested that teacher's aide for my own benefit. I wanted those students to receive the support we were required by law to give them.

maintenance of enrichment/gifted programs for students

I don't teach gifted or enrichment, but I believe these programs are important to our students. As I indicated before, if a student is not engaged or challenged, they tend to tune out. At my first school, some of the students with the most discipline referrals also happened to have some of the highest ACT scores. They got bored and started getting into trouble. We have to have programs and instruction that meets the needs of those students too. Sometimes this is possible in a regular classroom but sometimes students are so advanced that self-contained classrooms are a better fit. I have seen too many students who had a potential bright future ahead of themselves end up in the juvenile or criminal justice system. Do these programs benefit me personally? No. But fewer students on the street and fewer students in our justice system benefit society.

Again, I want to reiterate that the majority of teachers do a damn fine job with the tools they have. We had a school board President who would constantly rail against our union and all the "demands" we wanted. I politely invited the man to spend a whole school day in my classroom. By the end of the day, he was apologizing and thanking me. Now, he visits a couple of different classrooms in various schools every month to actually see what teachers are dealing with and what is going on in the classroom. I wish everyone who railed against teachers and their unions was required to spend a couple of days in a classroom and see first-hand what it takes to educate our students.
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Still a Democrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 11:32 AM
Response to Reply #35
42. Certainly all can
My point was they happen to improve teacher quality of work life as well.
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adigal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 10:43 AM
Response to Reply #28
37. If you want good teachers, you have to pay
One of the best math teachers in our poorer school district left and went to teach in Westchester County, NY, because they paid 30K more for the same step. She was making 50K in the year 1997, and Westchester was going to pay her 80K. I now work further upstate and with 16 years experience, and a Masters degree, I make 52K. I had to move for my husband's health, otherwise I would never have left my old district, where I was getting paid more at the time.

You get what you pay for. Two new teachers could be hired for one experienced teacher, but generally, the experienced teacher is more seasoned, and has learned a lot in his/her years in the classroom that translate to good teaching practices. Not all, of course, but generally, in my experience.
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Still a Democrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 11:34 AM
Response to Reply #37
43. We have ten graduates here for each opening
My experience is different than yours - we have found the majority of time, the teachers earlier in their career seem more engaged, personable, and liked by the students.

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Smarmie Doofus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 09:15 AM
Response to Reply #24
31. +1. Especially for this:
-availability of textbooks and curricular materials
-adequate support for special education students (including hiring a 1 on 1 aide, if necessary to meet the needs of a student)

Two areas in which fraud is legendary.
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proud2BlibKansan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 02:02 PM
Response to Reply #24
49. Planning time also
We've had two strikes here that were a result of lack of planning time. Now it's a big item in our contract.

Teachers can't teach if they can't plan. And a well planned lesson is what's best for kids.
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 02:55 PM
Response to Reply #49
51. That is huge, and I've seen a few attempts to get around that by buying curricula
and materials.

"You don't need to plan; the nice folks at EduCorp did that for you!"

So you wind up with a bunch of binders and CD-ROMs that nobody uses, and teachers doing their own planning anyways, just not getting paid for it.
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proud2BlibKansan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-30-10 12:15 PM
Response to Reply #51
59. Good teachers always plan
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Still a Democrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-30-10 12:34 PM
Response to Reply #49
61. Which means less class time and larger class sizes n/t
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 12:38 PM
Response to Reply #21
47. Of course I have, since I work under a contract.
My contract also specifies how my performance will be evaluated, and it specifies compliance with district and site admin's decisions regarding instructional methodology and classroom management.

In other words, it's not the union nor the teachers deciding on programs, policy, curriculum, scheduling, and other things related to school "improvement" and "reform."

It IS the teachers, and the teachers' unions, fighting for working conditions that are more likely to foster student success.
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Still a Democrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-30-10 12:39 PM
Response to Reply #47
62. They fight for higher pay and benefits, let's be honest
and it's not just for the lofty goal of student achievement, but personal gain. Every dollar for pay or benefits is a dollar that doesn't go to textbooks, equipment, etc.

I don't blame anyone for wanting to make more money - but let's be forthright enough to acknowledge the demand for greater compensation isn't always totally rooted in a desire to increase student performance.
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-30-10 01:47 PM
Response to Reply #62
63. Of course they fight for higher pay and benefits.
There's certainly nothing wrong with that. That's part of what a union does; fights for decent wages, benefits, and working conditions. This nation's workers have been better off with unions. It costs a fortune to get the Masters and pay for all the tests just to get the initial teaching license, not to mention giving up the day job, for those of us that had to work to put ourselves through school, and going without pay for 2 terms while we did student teaching.

Then there are the continuing professional development, the continuing college courses, and sometimes the continuing exams we have to take and pay for to renew that license. That comes out of our pockets.

Finally, there is the outlay of cash out of our pockets for classroom supplies; I have spent $1500 - $2000 a year, every year, since I began. Those are dollars that districts count on not having to spend. Come to that, the entire system counts on teachers putting in extra, unpaid hours. Those contracts specify the number of hours worked in a day; mine says 8. It also specifies all the duties; to get those done, it takes me 9 or 10 hours a day. It's called a "working day." Contractual hours, but the "working day" is what it takes to get the job done, and that term is in the contract, too.

A beginning teacher's salary doesn't begin to compensate for all of that, in comparison to other starting salaries. Our salary, while it grows over time with years in and further education, never reaches what other professionals can look forward to. As a matter of fact, my oldest son quit college after 2 years, took a job in the private sector, and within 3 years was making more money than I ever have. Without the student loans and years invested in both education and working.

I'm grateful that my union works to get me the best salary and working conditions possible, but it's certainly not now, never has been, and never will be what the investment in time, $$, and effort to get and keep the license and serve students deserves.

And yes, we care about the quality of our work. That's why we, and our unions, fight for working conditions that foster success.
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Still a Democrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-30-10 04:11 PM
Response to Reply #63
64. There comes a tipping point
where pay and benefits is out pacing what's necessary to retain a quality staff. That premium then becomes a detriment to the school system, as the ability to invest money in the classroom wanes. Couple that with the cumbersome path to dealing with poor performers and the issue is compounded. The favorable wage structure then can't be leveraged to improve the staff.

This certainly isn't the case everywhere, but in many areas it is.
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-30-10 07:31 PM
Response to Reply #64
65. We haven't reached that tipping point. Not even close.
Unions are not a detriment to the system; nor are the teachers they represent. The path to dealing with poor performers is not cumbersome. It's pretty simple. Unions don't protect poor performers; they protect teachers from being fired without cause, for political purposes. As they should. Ask any teacher; we've all seen teachers in our schools and districts fired for cause, and we support that process. We don't want poor performers dragging us down.

I haven't worked everywhere, but I've worked in both large and small districts, in two different states, across 1200 miles. I've also worked WITH teachers from other states across the nation. I've yet to find a district in which that tipping point was reached.
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Still a Democrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-30-10 08:12 PM
Response to Reply #65
66. How do you know that?
Edited on Thu Dec-30-10 08:13 PM by Still a Democrat
Given your experience is anecdotal, as is mine, it seems in some it has reached the tipping point, others it hasn't. Here it has.

It's quite an involved, difficult process to fire a teacher here. I'm not personally involved, but administrators and board members here tell me this.
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proud2BlibKansan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-31-10 08:46 AM
Response to Reply #66
67. Administrators don't want to take the time to follow directions to fire a teacher
That is my experience. The procedures are laid out and following them is too much work for admins. It's not an involved and difficult process. They just refuse to take the time to do it correctly. It's much easier to transfer the teacher they want to fire to another site and let that teacher become some other admin's problem.
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-31-10 09:46 AM
Response to Reply #66
68. Anecdotal, yes, but with a far greater range, geographically and in time,
and a far greater depth of experience on the front lines. First-hand experience. I'll stand by my point.

Administrators and board members don't always want to have to provide evidence of cause. They'd like to be able to arbitrarily fire people without due process. Why do you think they'd prefer to skirt around due process, and the providing of evidence for the firing?
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Smarmie Doofus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 09:10 AM
Response to Reply #17
29. "*If* they want"??
>>>And I believe in union labor, and I think teachers should be able to unionize if they want.>>>>

Every teacher wants job security. If they don't , I suspect there may be something wrong. Unions, tenure and collective bargaining contracts are the only vehicles known to secure same. If you know of another way... clue me in.


>>>>>Why are about half of the under-40-year-old professional teachers I know trying to start charter schools? >>>>>

Wait til some impertinent teacher asks your charter school buds at a faculty meeting why only XXXX dollars are spent for procuring textbooks when XXXXXXXXXXXXXX are budgeted. ( Hint: in a school with a strong union, this type of dissonance happens all the time. And *SHOULD* Because it protects the interests of the *STUDENTS* as well as the teachers. No?)

Let's see how important union-status and job security is then. ( relax... there is a 95% chance that charter school buds will never be embarrassed thusly; 95% of US charters are union - free..)



>>>>he talked for a long time about the importance of these jobs in the community and the stability they brought to the community, etc. After 20 minutes the largely anti-charter, anti-Rhee host of the show even called him on the fact that in that time he hadn't mentioned students once. Not once. He explained that it was his job to advocate for teachers.>>>>

That IS his job... isn't it? Did the host ASK him any questions about the *students* specifically?

Come on, now.


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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 09:15 AM
Response to Reply #29
30. Yes, "if"
Edited on Wed Dec-29-10 09:16 AM by Recursion
Every teacher wants job security. If they don't , I suspect there may be something wrong. Unions, tenure and collective bargaining contracts are the only vehicles known to secure same. If you know of another way... clue me in.

You and I think that, and have our reasons for thinking that. Other people disagree. Unions are not as popular even with the people they protect as we wish they were. There are issues of corruption (a fact of life), seniority rules really bother a lot of people, the barriers to entry are seen as too high, workers see them as stifling their own innovation, etc. Some people say that their being good at their job is job security.

Before you object to those arguments, I want to make clear that none of those convince me, but they do convince others. And I don't fool myself into thinking that this is simply because of right-wing propaganda and agitation. Unions do have problems; I judge that their benefits are worth those problems, but others do not. The teachers I know who have or are trying to start charter schools were sick of having to suck up both to district administration and union administration, and wanted a way to get out from under both of them. (Actually, one of them went to work at a union-run charter, though that one offers teachers a lot of the same autonomy that non-union charters do, so I'm not sure where that falls on the spectrum.)
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MattBaggins Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 09:37 AM
Response to Reply #17
33. And Rhee just mouths off about "students" as a method
to get her grubby hands on tax payer dollars.
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 09:44 AM
Response to Reply #33
34. She got $275K per year as chancellor
Not chump change by any means, but pretty reasonable for a bureaucrat running a billion-dollar budget.

And she fired fewer teachers than her predecessor. She was just a loud, obnoxious, grating jackass about it.
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sarcasmo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 08:16 AM
Response to Original message
22. I don't think it's just teachers. Union bashing and Pension bashing go hand in hand these days.
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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 06:03 PM
Response to Reply #22
55. Absolutely
They bash anything that helps workers of any kind.
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Karmadillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 08:48 AM
Response to Original message
25. This is a great post. Thank you.
nt
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Jeffersons Ghost Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 08:52 AM
Response to Original message
26. K&R
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MattBaggins Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 09:35 AM
Response to Original message
32. "robbed millions of children of a real future"
That should be added to the dictionary as the number one example of hyperbole.
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DirkGently Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 11:03 AM
Response to Original message
39. Excellent. nt
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Overseas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 11:15 AM
Response to Original message
41. K&R.
This has been one of the most disappointing moves by our Democratic President. Very depressing to see the pillars of our good government undermined through short-sighted privatization.

That is very Republican.

That is not Democrats moving forward.


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YvonneCa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 11:47 AM
Response to Original message
45. Excellent, thought-provoking post. The very best...
...thing about DU. Thank you.
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 12:32 PM
Response to Original message
46. Thank you.
This is what we should be hearing and reading in the MSM.
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immoderate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 02:06 PM
Response to Original message
50. The hobby of billionaires: what do Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Oprah, Mark Zuckerberg ...
...have in common?
  • More millions than they know what to do with. And
  • No knowledge of education.

With that they have become major movers in this "education reform" scam. I think they see this as altruism in their own minds. I think this is a case of just too much money. (Classic Peter Principle.) Jefferson noted that great wealth could become "a danger to the State."

That's giving them the doubt that they are not part of the world wide fascist conspiracy. But I didn't say they weren't.

Thanks. Good post.

--imm
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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 03:35 PM
Response to Original message
52. K&R!
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Ignis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 03:38 PM
Response to Original message
53. K&R
Great post, TfC. :thumbsup:
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Raksha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 04:35 PM
Response to Original message
54. K & R - So true!
Re "There are many reasons why a wide variety of services should be provided primarily by government rather than by the private sector. I discuss some of those reasons in detail in this post. Here I will stress just one, which is probably the most important: the elimination of the profit motive. Our government is founded upon the principle that ALL government employees, even including the President of the United States, work in the service of the citizens of our country. Making a profit is not the issue. The purpose of all government work is to serve our fellow citizens at least in theory.

Right wing ideologues hate that philosophy. They believe (or say they believe) that everything operates best according to the principles of the so-called free market, which means that the profit motive is the best means of ensuring that government work or any other work is of the highest quality, efficiency, and effectiveness."


Any chance of coming up with a new slogan: "The private sector isn't the solution; the private sector is the problem."

It seems to me that could go viral in no time, because it's obviously more true than Reagan's original. Regardless of how brainwashed most Americans are, they see and feel the truth of it in their everyday lives. There's a limit to how much conditioning can continue to cancel out the truth of their own experience and the experience of their friends and neighbors...isn't there?

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 07:16 PM
Response to Reply #54
58. Yes, it seems that there must be a limit to how long they can let
corporate media conditioning over-rule their own experience.

But clearly that limit is quite high. Nevertheless, it's bound to be exceeded eventually. Let's hope it happens soon - before our country and our world are irreversably destroyed.
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Jakes Progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-29-10 06:12 PM
Response to Original message
57. K&R It's time to call a republican a republican.
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Starry Messenger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-30-10 12:32 PM
Response to Original message
60. Drat, too late to rec.
A hearty thank you anyway TfC.
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Octafish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-31-10 11:14 AM
Response to Original message
69. A good education is the only sure way to end poverty.
That's why the nation's public schools are so decrepit. Plus, it's much easier to rule and lord over a hungry, fearful mob than an educated populace.

Outstanding post, yours, as always, Time for change. Thank you for putting it into words, where it can be used to ... change things for the better.
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