I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, July 31, 2011


If this video is any indication, the level of discourse at Reason Magazine is lower than the level found at Highlights Magazine:

Was the clip from "Good Will Hunting" supposed to be funny? Ironic? Seriously, WTF?

The fact is Damon is spot on: fear is a very bad motivation for anyone to do anything, and it's really pathetic this woman automatically gravitates toward it as the framework for her question on tenure.

The fact is that tenure protects taxpayers and children far more than it protects teachers. Tenure is the last firewall that keeps schools from becoming cronyism shops; eliminate tenure, and you inject political patronage into every school. This is so obvious even a libertarian should understand it.

The cameraman: "10% of teachers are bad." He just makes that up. Seriously. This is how America argues now, ladies and gentlemen.

The notion, by the way, that First Grade teachers don't have to worry about academic freedom is condescending and ignorant. First Grade teachers are choosing literature for their students all the time that express values: tolerance, respect, dignity, LOGIC, etc. There are a lot of crazy parents out there who may not like it when a First Grade teacher reads a story about how dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago, seeing how they believe that dinosaurs and cavemen lived at the same time. Some of those parents are politically powerful.

If that's not an issue of academic freedom, I don't know what is.

The thing that strikes me hardest about this clip is how strong the answers are to these inane, loaded questions. The rhetoric of corporate reform is so weak that when any sort of common sense and compassion is applied, it turns it to dust.

I'm glad Reason made this clip. If they think they "won," it's just further proof of how out of touch they really are.

UPDATE: Bruce Baker reminds us that Reason is anything but...


Joseph Kelly said...

How in the world did this "Reporter" get a microphone! What a bombastic disservice she is doing except to illustrate how poorly our teaching profession is perceived!

Duke said...

JK, I actually think this is good. The people who made this vid think they "won." They think they clip from Good Will Hunting is funny.

They are clueless. If they keep this up, they are bound to lose.

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

Can we expect anything less from the folks that believe John Galt and Howard Rourke are historical figures? Always remember that the Reason cult, like their hero Rand, never escaped their petulant selfish teenager stage.

Also, some of the biggest funders of the corporate ed-reform cabal believe the Flintstones were a documentary too.

Anonymous said...

Right, it's taxpayers and children who are being protected here: http://articles.latimes.com/print/2009/may/03/local/me-teachers3

Teacher Mom said...

I LOVED how each interviewee shut her down with REASON and facts. I honestly thought she was being purposefully provocative (Stephen Colbert style) to elicit those responses, but apparently I was wrong and she really was that much of a shill.

Anonymous said...

Each interviewee? Including the airheaded person who said that we should spend a billion dollars per child? (As if that much money even exists).

Duke said...

Anon #1 - The Tampa story is about one guy - ONE - who is a bad teacher who hasn't been fired. Do you really think eliminating tenure will solve this? Suppose he was a school board member's nephew?

Everyone agrees the hearings need to be fast-tracked so these obvious cretins can be fired. Even the unions agree.

But eliminating a protection for taxpayers that has helped keep our schools from becoming patronage factories on the basis of a very few cases? Gimme a break.

BTW, the story cites a study but says nothing about who did it or methodology. So that stat is meaningless.

As for the LAT story - here's a quote:

"Cynthia Acerno was a last-minute hire at an elementary magnet school in the San Diego Unified School District, according to a summary of her case by a review commission. Though known for being strict, the district veteran had had no previous problems.

But "vocal, politically well-connected" parents accused her of being a "menace," and started unfounded rumors that she was screaming at children, drinking and using drugs, the panel found. Some pulled their children from her class.

"The case against her was a cocktail of hearsay on hearsay with an ill-will chaser," the panel commented in its ruling in favor of Acerno, who could not be reached for comment. ". . . Many of these scurrilous and damaging things were said in front of the children of this class by parents. This was shameful.""

Hence, tenure.

Also: Doctors lose their license through peer review, yes? Lawyers are disbarred by other lawyers. Why not teachers?

Anon #2 - Have you not heard of hyperbole? She was making a point; she didn't mean it literally. Duh.

Anonymous said...

Some bits from the LA Times story that you left out:

1. The guy who told a high school kid to kill himself, but kept his job.

2. The fact that principals usually don't even bother trying to get rid of a horrible teacher, because it's so expensive.

3. "The district wanted to fire a high school teacher who kept a stash of pornography, marijuana and vials with cocaine residue at school, but a commission balked, suggesting that firing was too harsh."

4. "L.A. Unified officials were also unsuccessful in firing a male middle school teacher spotted lying on top of a female colleague in the metal shop, saying the district did not prove that the two were having sex."

5. "The district fared no better in its case against elementary school special education teacher Gloria Hsi, despite allegations that included poor judgment, failing to report child abuse, yelling at and insulting children, planning lessons inadequately and failing to supervise her class."

6. "Loftis, 74, failed to give directions to students, assigned homework that wasn't at the appropriate grade level and provided such inadequate supervision that students pulled down their pants or harmed one another by fighting or throwing things. One child allegedly broke a tooth, another was hit in the head after being pushed off a chair, a third struck by a backpack. The commission, however, sided with Loftis."

7. "Joseph Walker, a former principal of Grant High School in Van Nuys, was sued by a special education teacher whom he tried to dismiss for alleged repeated sexual harassment. A civil jury sided with Walker -- but the review commission decided the teacher shouldn't be fired. The case, now in the courts, has dragged on seven years."

Anonymous said...

But right, it's all for the taxpayers and the children that these abusive teachers are kept in the classroom.

Duke said...

Did you not read what I said? Seriously?

Everyone agrees we need to speed up and simplify the process. NO ONE DISPUTES THIS. Everyone agrees these people - if the facts are true - shouldn't be teaching.

But you won't answer my basic point: if you get rid of tenure, you will still run the risk of these abuses - and it will probably get worse, because the abusers will be political cronies.

Tenure protects taxpayers, children, and teachers. It takes the politics out of schools. It is vital and necessary. If you can give me another system shown to work as well or better, I'm all for it.

Instead, you give me anecdotes and snark.

Anonymous said...

Speeding up and simplifying doesn't do anything about the problem here: the very notion of "innocent until proven guilty." Speed it up all you want, and you'll still have review boards or commissions saying, "But it hasn't really been proven that he molested that student, and besides it might have been consensual."

Innocent until proven guilty is a great standard to have before sending someone off to jail, I agree. But we shouldn't have to meet such a high burden of proof before we can get rid of bad or abusive teachers.

I don't know what you've seen that makes you so cynical about everyone within the school system, such that you think making it easier to fire bad or abusive teachers will backfire and end up making things worse for everyone. If our principals and supers are THAT bad, we need to fire them all.

Anonymous said...

Still not sure if this video is an attempt at comedy/satire or not -- The questions asked by the "reporter" are so bad and so ill-informed that I'm thinking that it has to be a joke. Her only apparent qualifications are 1) Good looking, and 2) Willing to wear a low-cut shirt; she sure has no clue about the educational issues she is questioning. Joke? Authentic? Argh!

Anonymous said...

I think it's great to have celebs defending teachers--but let's all strive for a "G" rating.

Duke said...

Wow - you Reason guys are almost as paranoid as the T@x Foundation. I'm flattered you've spent so much time at my little lemonade stand.

"Speeding up and simplifying" is EXACTLY addressing the problem. Look at your examples: they are all about how a bad teacher couldn't be removed fast enough. Well, let's make that happen - but blaming tenure itself is just stupid. And you still avoid the central issue: how do you protect taxpayers and students from turning teaching jobs into crony positions?

How easily you dismiss "innocent before proven guilty." People died for that idea, you know.

What makes me so cynical? Oh, maybe the REAL WORLD:


And the very day we post about all this here:


No, not all principals and supers are this bad. But the problem really comes from politicized school boards - if you had any idea how schools are run, you'd know this. We need to keep politics out of schools - tenure is designed to do exactly that.

Reform tenure? Sure. Eliminate it? You'll get cronyism on a level you've never seen, bro. Ever hear of Tammany Hall? (If you have, thank a history teacher) Get ready for an abuse of governmental power I would have thought you Glibertarians would run from screaming.

By the way: if you knew anything about this issue, you'd know that tenure is not a gift: it is EARNED. 40% of teachers in NJ do not get tenure after their first three years in the job.

Yes, some people slip through. We can remove them. It's easier than removing the Randian masters-of-the-universe who screw up companies and then take golden parachutes worth millions of dollars after tanking the national economy.

Where's your righteous indignation about that?

Duke said...

Oh, yeah, and this:


Anonymous said...

"Look at your examples: they are all about how a bad teacher couldn't be removed fast enough."

No, they're not. They're about how a bad teacher couldn't be removed AT ALL, regardless of how long the process took. If the bad teacher was allowed to stay after a process that took one month or after a process that took 5 years -- that's irrelevant.

"And you still avoid the central issue: how do you protect taxpayers and students from turning teaching jobs into crony positions?"

Gee, I don't know, maybe the same way that we avoid it in every other aspect of the government's operations. Other government employees don't have tenure, yet we somehow are able to manage it. Maybe civil service rules or something like that.

But assume that you're right: eliminating tenure would mean that some bad principals, supers, or school boards do bad things.

Now prove to me that that problem is WORSE than leaving abusers and incompetents in the classroom forever, which is what we do today.

Duke said...

You gave examples of allegedly bad teachers who were not prosecuted to your satisfaction by the tenure system. In my reading, the main issue is that the cases could not expeditiously investigated and adjudicated.

The time is quite relevant, because everyone deserves due process, yet that needs to be balanced with the needs of students.

What you need to understand is that some cases are not going to go the way you or I want them to. That is the very nature of due process. But I contend, given my examples from NYC, Elizabeth, and other places, that the outcome from eliminating due process would be far, far worse.

By the way - I can't and won't prove to you that leaving incompetents in the classroom is WORSE, because - as I have stated repeatedly - I don't want that. I want real tenure reform: a cap on the time for tenure hearings and adjudication by fair, outside authorities. You're the one who wants to radically change a system that has protected schools, taxpayers, students, and teachers for a century: the burden of proof is on you.

Civil service protections are important, but as I explained in my post, there are academic freedom issues even for elementary teachers. Civil service doesn't protect taxpayers and students nearly as well as tenure.

But let's suppose it did: aren't those protections merely about due process as well? Or do you want to have all of these issues sorted out in court? Talk about dragging things out...

I admire your tenacity here, but I'm going to be a gracious host and give you the last word, which I'm sure you'll take.

Anonymous said...

"You gave examples of allegedly bad teachers who were not prosecuted to your satisfaction by the tenure system. In my reading, the main issue is that the cases could not expeditiously investigated and adjudicated."

You're not getting what I'm saying. I gave you a list of cases in which TWO problems were occurring:

1. The cases took too long and were too expensive.

2. The cases ended up with BAD teachers being left in the classroom, because the review board was so biased in favor of letting teachers slide.

You're offering to fix problem 1. That's generous of you. Now we'd just get to have short proceedings that rule in favor of BAD teachers and leave them in the classroom to ruin hundreds or thousands of kids' educations.

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

You know, I wrote a short piece in the spring defending him against HuffPost 'liberals' that were angry he wasn't aboard Obama's school privatization gravy train. They were actually as bad as the reactionary Reason Randites.

Thank you Matt Damon! Let's replace RTTT with the Zinn Education Project

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

Didn't Anonymous Randite Troll proclaim the impossibility of terminating teachers with due process protection?

LAUSD fired 56 tenured teachers in 2010-11 school year

Apparently the real world doesn't align with their right-wing fantasies.