Listen to Teachers?

Re: Here’s an idea for rich school reformers: Listen to teachers, The News Tribune, 3-11-12

Patricia Drake is certainly correct in her summary statement that “We can do better”. Other than that, there are several issues with the positions she takes in her article.

Siding with the Washington Education Association (WEA) President Mary Lindquist against Nick Hanauer, the “millionaire… theorizing from behind locked doors of high-rise buildings”, Mrs. Drake seeks to dismiss his reform agenda as inferior to her 44 years as an educator. She bemoans the fact that she has no voice when compared to the millionaire, and yet, if education reform were going to come from the WEA and the over 53,000 teachers they represent, and the millions of dollars they have to spend from teacher’s union dues on influencing public policy, shouldn’t it have happened by now? They’ve certainly had enough time!

Mrs. Drake then asserts that we need to become like the Euro-socialist Finland, a country the size of Montana with about 1.6% of the population of the U.S. I suspect something will be lost in translation when attempting to transform our system into theirs. I could be wrong.

Mrs. Drake then goes on to point out the school principal as the next most influential factor, and their need to build a more “positive” environment. Then it’s “administrative support”, then it’s “workplace conditions”, then it’s  the cost of “standardized tests”. Sounds like the usual laundry list of union complaints. “We can do better”, but there’s really nothing new there. I’d use the word “innovative”, but every time a bureaucrat sneezes, it’s proclaimed “innovative”.

Mr. Hanauer’s reform agenda, while far from innovative, is certainly better than anything coming out of Olympia. I would like to suggest that the WEA, Washington State legislators, teachers, and civic leaders look up the word “innovate”. To quote a famous movie line, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”