Everyone is an expert on education. It's one of the great sources of frustration and joy about my job.The latest critic of American education is billionaire Steve Jobs. Jobs offered this insight :
"I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way," Jobs said."This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy."
Jobs' basic argument is that schools hire bad teachers and that they can't be replaced because of union policies. What might surprise you is that, to some extent, I agree with him. It does seem crazy that a person can achieve tenure after three years, and I have no doubt that many union leaders are more interested in protecting teachers than in protecting quality education. Unfortunately, that's as far as Jobs argument goes in terms of making sense. He argues that principals need to be able to hire and fire quality people, ignoring that principals and school administrators are often the cause of the problem, and among the least qualified people working in schools . What sounds like a common sense solution, giving principals more power, ignores their frequent lack of qualification and the simple fact that they HIRED the bad teachers that Jobs condemns. Doesn't that suggest they might not be very skilled at evaulating employees?
Jobs' easy answer is just sloganeering, but one that is occuring in enough places to cause concern. Rather than focusing on systemic inequity, violence, family structure, or the host of social ills that are contributing to failures in American education, let's blame the unions. No one likes them anyway. It's not a hard sell to a public that is desperately looking for answers. Personally, I am tired of teachers blaming everyone but ourselves for problems in education. We do need to take a long, hard look at our methods, effort, and technique, but if Jobs and other critics of education truly wanted to elevate this debate to a place where we can work on real improvement, they need to offer a little more sophisticated insight than "Unions bad!"