America’s Education Politics: A Crass and Explicit Example

As if we didn’t have enough examples of the highly politicized nature of American educational reform, along comes another illustration that reaches new lows for crassness and audacity. Jonah Edelman is a leader of Stand for Children, a well-known and influential educational reform movement based in Oregon. The “grassroots child advocacy organization” is said to be “non-partisan”, but it’s clear that the organization is stridently anti-union. In fact, it appears that busting teacher unions is its central mission, something that is sure to please corporate benefactors like Bill Gates and the Walton family. In a recent panel discussion caught on YouTube, Edelman brags about his union-busting strategy in Illinois. It’s really quite breath-taking if you listen closely: he’s explaining the steps for the almost complete emasculation of the teacher’s union in that state. Also infuriating is the anti-union stance by Democratic politicians, and the weakness of teacher union leadership.

The YouTube post caused a great sensation amongst commentators, and even Edelman felt compelled to send an apology to the blogger who originally posted the video, but the damage was done – and reality was made clear(er). Thankfully, some Stand for Children volunteers are taking note of the corporate agenda that now dominates the “reform” movement, though it’s unclear what positive effects will follow from their awakening.

I find the American hysteria over teachers and their unions to be almost unintelligible. America teacher unions are some of the weakest in that country, and teacher pay is relatively poor compared to the rest of the Western world. It’s also well established that children in countries with strong teacher unions and strong pay do much better on standardized international tests. So is this about education, or is it merely the latest phase in the drive to destroy America’s unions? Do the kids really come first, or are teachers the next air traffic controllers?

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