The Straw Men of Educational Reform

Opponents of true educational reform (the teachers’ unions and their left wing allies) seem to have only one form of weapon – straw men. You would think that in the course of earning all those Masters degrees and PhD’s, these folks would have learned that “the straw man” is a classic fallacy.

Wednesday’s Daily Times provides an editorial that infers proponents of merit pay want to base such a proposal on raw test scores. STRAW MAN. Proponents of merit pay for teachers want OBJECTIVE criteria for the award of merit pay. One common proposal is to use IMPROVEMENT in test scores as one measure. There is a big difference.

More Straw Men Below the Fold

As the Daily Times notes with its clever burlap and silk analogy, merit pay based on test scores would not be fair:

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It (merit pay based on raw test scores) sounds plausible. But it isn’t, not if it’s tied to test scores — and especially not if it’s calculated by comparing one class’s test scores to another. That would be like comparing the work of two seamstresses, one of whom is handed a bolt of burlap and the other, a bolt of fine silk. Each is told to make a dress; compensation will be
based on which dress is more attractive. Assuming similar experience and sewing ability, in nearly every such instance the teacher who was handed the bolt of silk will receive the higher compensation. How could burlap ever compete with silk?

However, if a teacher increases the test scores of a failing class by 20% then we can infer that this teacher has done an excellent job – even if the class’s overall performance is below average.

Eric Luedtke over at Free State Politics builds another STRAW MAN. Luedtke claims that I argue:

…a few quick things (merit pay, ending teacher tenure, charter schools) will magically fix education, and calling teachers unions socialist. Because calling the other side names makes you right.

True to leftist form. Sorry, Eric – PROGRESSIVE. It’s still a rose by any other name.

First I specifically claim that reform needs to INCLUDE merit pay, abolition of tenure and school choice (not exclusive to charter schools). As for calling the NEA and the MSTA socialist, I make no apologies there. The NEA has pursued a decidedly leftist agenda for as long as I can remember. As Mark Newgent so ably points out, labeling the NEA as leftist – if not Marxist – is accurate.

During the course of its history the NEA has called for using the public schools to dismantle our free market economy and for the social engineering of our children. The organization has been an apologist for Communist spies, saboteurs and agitators. They have argued that teachers who lie, both about their credentials and their teaching content, are OK as long as they are pursuing a “politically correct” (read leftist) agenda. In other words, the ends justify the means if you are promoting a leftist agenda.

Personally, I have no problem with the NEA being a left-wing, if not Communist, organization. I just want them to stand up and admit what they are. This is the root of Luedtke’s STRAW MAN of “calling names”.

People like Luedtke realize that the vast majority of Americans will not tolerate their children being indoctrinated by a bunch of Marxists. If the NEA, and their affiliates confessed to their true ideology, the school choice movement would grow 100 fold – overnight.

Of course we can’t have any of that. The NEA is the nation’s largest labor union. They are also one of the largest contributors to “progressive” candidates like Barack Hussein Obama.

We should also note that, while Luedtke and his fellow travelers in the NEA and MSTA decry the abolition of tenure they don’t make a credible effort in defending it. Tenure in public education is nothing more than civil service protection which protects bad teachers and administrators. It’s not about academic freedom. There is no academic freedom in public education, nor should there be. Universities have gone so far off the reservation that their arguments for academic freedom are fast losing support.

They also seem loathe to discuss school choice. Why? Despite every effort to undermine school choice, parents still flock to it at every opportunity. The NEA and their satellites cite studies and claim that school choice is not effective. If that is so, why do so many parents want their children in charter schools or wish to receive vouchers?

Teachers of the world UNITE! Stand up. Tell America what your union’s true agenda is. Don’t build little straw men.

A Special Thanks to Mark Newgent for his well researched and written piece regarding Eric Luedtke’s piece in FSP.

cross posted at Delmarva Dealings

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