October 17, 2007
The Left And Sacred Unions
I had meant to write about McMegan's classy parting shot against the teachers unions in her post admitting that a conservative publication spiked her article because she was insufficiently admiring of the Laffer Curve. "The Laffer Curve and the supply siders pushing it," she wrote, "seem to be the teacher's unions of the right," which apparently means you can't criticize the teacher's unions on the left. Sadly, it seems that the only possible path to intellectual honesty is to be a libertarian, existing far from either party, and fully freed from all manner of orthodoxies and fervently-held beliefs. Or something.
As I said, I was going to write that post, showing that all sorts of people criticize teacher's unions in the pages of large, liberal magazines, but then Matt wrote it, so now I don't have to. To add a few, more recent, examples to Matt's list, though, here's Dana criticizing the teacher's unions for opposing bonuses based on location. Here she is advocating merit pay and weakened tenure protections. Here's Scott Lemieux saying that if there were a deal were liberals "get literally everything we want on education policy as long as [Megan] gets to bust the unions...I'd take it." Scott still contributes to our magazine. Dana is a full-time employee of it.
Indeed, it often seems that there's nothing safer in Democratic circles than criticizing the teacher's unions. Just about every Democrat in the media establishment makes it their favored point of heterodoxy. Indeed, it's gotten so bad that when you ask otherwise smart people what to do on education, they begin waxing rhapsodic over merit pay and ending tenure protections, solutions that, whatever their individual merits, show no sign of being near proportionate to the problems. What they are supposed to be is dangerous to advocate. The only problem is that they're nothing of the sort, and McMegan's attempt to end her story of intimidation with a pox-on-both-your-houses jab at the Democrats is simply false.
October 17, 2007 | Permalink
Here's Scott Lemieux saying that if there were a deal were liberals "get literally everything we want on education policy as long as [Megan] gets to bust the unions...I'd take it."
I think Yglesias is saying it and Lemieux is agreeing with it.
Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Oct 17, 2007 10:10:53 AM
Unions exist for the benefit of the members. The teachers are the members.....not the children.
Posted by: El Viajero | Oct 17, 2007 10:16:42 AM
That sounds like a fortune cookie.
Posted by: Ezra | Oct 17, 2007 10:24:22 AM
Unions exist for the benefit of the members.
... in bed!
Posted by: Tyro | Oct 17, 2007 10:34:10 AM
"...it's gotten so bad that when you ask otherwise smart people what to do on education, they begin waxing rhapsodic over merit pay and ending tenure protections"
And it all continues to ignore the one most important aspect of teaching--the students. You can't make kids learn; it's impossible. Where students do not receive family and community support for academic achievement, most of them are not going to work at academics.
I live in, and was raised in, what's considered the bad part of my city. I'm African-American. I've watched this all of my adult life. I'm 59, so I've seen it for a while now.
If they truly want to know what to do on education, tell them to start with students. Start with community and family. Until that happens, no amount of union busting or rejecting tenure will change anything.
And isn't that what we're seeing, after all these years of talking about it?
Posted by: zak822 | Oct 17, 2007 10:35:51 AM
I don't think you are comparing the right things.
The teacher's unions may be beaten up on by some Democratic pundits, but I am not aware of a Democratic office-holder from a Democratic stronghold who is willing to go against the teacher's unions.
Posted by: SamChevre | Oct 17, 2007 10:42:10 AM
I can't quite figure out what there is that makes Matt, Brian or yourself read Megan's blather - except possibly that there's the same attraction as reading Ann Althouse crash and burn at every turn.
It's not like McArdle speaks for or to any substantial portion of the electorate. Non-sequitur follows non-sequitur.
What is the world missing about McArdle that they need to know, except that she's a waste of reader time?
Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Oct 17, 2007 10:48:23 AM
I am not aware of a Democratic office-holder from a Democratic stronghold who is willing to go against the teacher's unions.
Barack Obama, endorsing merit pay at an NEA convention.
By and large the NEA wasn't thrilled with NCLB and has been fighting for changes ever since. NCLB was sponsored by Ted Kennedy.
Posted by: SDM | Oct 17, 2007 10:53:46 AM
Kerry also had a plan for introducing merit pay and ending tenure protections.
Posted by: Ezra | Oct 17, 2007 10:58:34 AM
"The only problem is that they're nothing of the sort, and McMegan's attempt to end her story of intimidation with a pox-on-both-your-houses jab at the Democrats is simply false."
I haven't stopped in here in a couple of weeks and what I do find when I do, more of mcmegan's blather treated as though it meant something. And to refute, stuff from the usual sources, Matt, whomever, whomever...
I agree with JimPort. Other than the spectacular althousesque flameout, what's the attraction with mcmegan?
And to, at least momentarily address part of the point, why should democrats "go against" the teacher unions? Just cuz? Because it would make "centrists" happy? Because it would make the media happy? My situational opposition to teahcer unions go back forty years Ezra, that said, I'm a lot less disturbed about teacher's unions than I am about a lot of other special interest groups. Groups, I would point, that can get anything they want from this white house and this congress.
Education is one of the most important issues we have to address in this country but it's certainly not as simple as mcmegan (it would seem that few things are judging by her writing) or just tossing a barb towards teacher's unions.
Posted by: russell | Oct 17, 2007 11:01:39 AM
Just out of curiosity, what exactly are merit pay and tenure-breaking going to accomplish, other than facilitating the establishment of petty administrative tyrranies?
Posted by: Dan | Oct 17, 2007 12:47:45 PM
Another "why keep linking to Megan McArdle?" comment. Her posts demonstrate a long-standing commitment to writing glibly, ignorantly, and along the emotional spectrum from callous to cruel. Meanwhile, we've got real talents like (to grab a few from my RSS list) Barbara O'Brien/Maha, the crew at Lenin's Tomb (for those who want to see what actual leftists look like), Daniel Davies (author of The D-Squared Digest One Minute MBA - Avoiding Projects Pursued By Morons 101, which remains the single best policy guide post I've ever read, I think), the Megan who isn't McArdle, Blue Girl in a Red State (among other good things, an object lesson in what practical state-level politics looks like, a thing more folks need to know)...all of them people who are approaching the world honestly and with things to teach other. It's always possible that Megan McCardle will someday move outside the stalest conventions of the conservative-toadying flavor of libertarianism and express an interest in truth or justice or even compassion, but there's no point in the meantime in linking to yet another recitation of long-since-disproven pablum.
Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Oct 17, 2007 2:26:14 PM
The assault on teachers unions is just another assault on the middle class. Conservatives hate to see anybody have any form of employment security, except those lucky enough to be at the very, very top (the Republican base). The actual policy debates border on the meaningless; its indisputable that SES and parental involvement determine educational outcomes, and teachers can't do anything about either of those variables.
Posted by: Michigander | Oct 17, 2007 4:40:57 PM
The assault on teachers unions is just another assault on the middle class.
Exactly what terrible working conditions or lack of job security did they have that warranted unionization in the first place?
Posted by: El Viajero | Oct 17, 2007 7:44:17 PM
Tyro wins the thread.
Posted by: Petey | Oct 18, 2007 12:41:55 AM
"Exactly what terrible working conditions or lack of job security did they have that warranted unionization in the first place?"
Excellent question. All I hear are crickets chirping from the liberals on this one.
Unions had their place back in the day when companies were forcing 100 hour work weeks, blatantly unsafe conditions, etc. But all that crap was cleared up by and large by the 1950s. Since then, unions have done nothing but add waste and cost to every system they have infiltrated.
We dont need unions anymore. OSHA and the other federal regs have purview over the matters that originally made unions a necessity in the mid 1800s.
Posted by: joe blow | Oct 18, 2007 1:29:06 AM
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