Q: Do Teachers Unions Have a Positive Influence on the Educational System?

By Chase, Bob; Lieberman, Myron | Insight on the News, October 21, 1996 | Go to article overview

Q: Do Teachers Unions Have a Positive Influence on the Educational System?


Chase, Bob, Lieberman, Myron, Insight on the News


Yes: Teachers unions are leading the fight for innovation and investment in public education.

Teachers are hardly strangers to spitballs. But the nasty wad hurled at us by Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole in his speech at the GOP convention marks a new level of escalation. "If education were a war, you [teachers] would be losing it," he said. "If it were a business, you would be driving it into bankruptcy."

Will the spitball stick?

As a junior-high-school teacher for 25 years, I would be obliged to give Dole a failing grade for not doing his homework. (I'd also give him detention for picking fights, but that is a separate issue.) What are the facts about teachers unions and their influence on American education?

If you listen to the relentless drumbeat from critics, you get a pretty frightening picture indeed: America's schools are controlled by the National Education Association, or NEA, whose teacher-members are protected by the Teflon of tenure. These teachers care about paychecks, not children. According to Phyllis Schlafly, director of the pro-life group Eagle Forum, they are following the NEA's wishes "to teach children not to be patriotic" and "to advocate explicit training in incest." What's more, if you believe the latest fund-raising letter signed by Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America, the NEA seeks "to inject rank immorality and godlessness into our nation's classrooms."

Whew! Is there a more telling measure of the shortcomings of American education than that some people actually believe this nonsense?

Are teachers and their unions really the new evil empire? Or are they, as I believe, dedicated men and women who strive mightily to make public education work in an era of stark social and economic challenges?

Ironically, the answer lies partly in the work of William Bennett, one of the campaign advisers who urged Dole to attack the NEA. Several years ago, Bennett published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled "Quantifying America's Decline." The article cited an array of truly shocking statistics to document the decay of American society between 1960 and 1992, including: a 419 percent increase in out-of-wedlock births; a quadrupling of the divorce rate; a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes; an increased average in daily TV viewing from five to seven hours.

Is it possible that these trends, with their profoundly negative consequences for children, also have affected the ability of American kids to learn in school? Indeed, is it possible that the positive gains in student achievement during the last decade--despite the surrounding social decay--are cause for praising teachers rather than demonizing them?

Notwithstanding the media's fixation on underperforming inner-city schools, the last decade has been a time of significant improvements in U.S. public education. In 1983, a mere 13 percent of high-school students completed a core block of rigorous academic course work recommended by the Department of Education; by 1992, 47 percent did--and the percentage is rising steadily. In addition, between 1982 and 1992, the math and science scores of 17-year-olds on the benchmark National Assessment of Education Progress increased by 9 and 11 points, respectively. This roughly is the equivalent of an additional year of learning in high school.

For true believers, the evil influence of teachers unions is an article of faith. But for those who prefer empirical data to hunches, let's look at the record. As it happens, there are 16 states in the United States that do not have collective-bargaining statutes governing public-school employees. In seven of those states, there virtually is no collective bargaining by public schools employees. In short, no teachers

unions. It hardly is a coincidence that these seven states -- all but one, West Virginia, located in the South -- have been notorious for their underfunded education systems and for their low standing in national rankings of student achievement. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Q: Do Teachers Unions Have a Positive Influence on the Educational System?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.