The Parent Trigger, Imaginative Educators, and Self-Interest

Recently I had had a blog exchange with prominent education activist Bruno Behrend both here and at Chicago Boyz. While I have Bruno’s attention, I thought it would be interesting to go through some of his recent work, and see how it fits into my perspective.

Because Bruno’s talked a lot about the “parent trigger” (allow charter schools to form in a district when a majority of parents in a district support it), I decided to add my own voice to an dialog that Bruno had with Jay Mathews.

Jay criticized the idea, writing:

The job must start not with us parents, but with imaginative educators like Meier who are willing to stick with their ideas and their school for the long haul. Even if by some miracle we trigger a change in our local school, when our kids grow too old for that place we are gone. The parent trigger people will then have to explain their admirable but unworkable idea to a whole new group of us, just as confused and even less certain we have time for this.

Bruno took exception to this:

Here Mathews not only reveals his distrust of one of the deepest of societal relationships—parent to child—but also that he has adapted selfishness as his criteria for personal involvement, just as have self-interested teachers unions and establishment buzzards.

Jay’s talk about “imaginative educators” sounds like it was written on another planet, or at least another time.

The teaching profession in the United States has been lobotomized. We pay for a a sub-standard teaching cadre, and that’s exactly what we get:

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In fairness, while I agree with Bruno that “self-interested teachers unions” are a problem, everyone is self-interested. Teachers, publishers, parents, employers, States, and Districts all want something.

The problem with teachers unions is not that they are self-interested.

The problem is that teachers unions are incompetent.

Teachers unions do not understand education and are not empathetic to other stakeholders.

That is why they are not longer the platform on which the future of American education depends.