Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More flailing from the Globe on education

I'm indebted to Mark Bail for pointing out another Boston Globe attempt to rationalize its hostility to labor organization in education. Unsurprisingly, what we have is an emotion commanding an army of words, all of which are marching around the page in search of an idea. The sole theme about the Globe's "coverage" of union organization in public education is that something is going wrong, and it must somehow be the unions' fault. Last summer the Globe talked about middle shcools. This year, it's pilot schools and/or Teach for America, depending on the paragraph you read. Here's an early line from the editorial:

But no collaborative spirit is evident in the union’s resistance to bringing the acclaimed Teach for America program to Boston or creating more pilot schools.

Anyone familiar with the modus operandi of the modern media probably is already noticing a favorite technique -- slip in a favorable adjective with no substantiation. Just who is "acclaiming" Teach for America is never specified. The person speaking so well of the program, our anonymous Globe writer, wants you to accept on face-value the greatness of a program that will make you a teacher in just five weeks of training! Never mind that an "accelerated" college-based program for college graduates comprises a full year of courses, with enough credits to get you halfway to a master's degree. TfA can do it in five weeks. Idealism is a necessary, but hardly sufficient quality of good teaching, and heaven forbid teaching professionals are less than eager to see their qualified colleagues turned out the door in favor of an Insta-Teacher.

The editorial isn't about Teach for America, of course, but rather about the handiest club of the day with which to beat labor, which for a couple paragraphs is Teach for America. Having gotten no mileage out of its first claim, the Globe turns to another, pilot schools. In fact, we quickly learn that this is op-ed isn't about Teach for America, but, um, pilot schools. Or something...

In 1994, the BTU and the Boston Public Schools agreed to establish pilot schools, flexible but still unionized schools that were meant to be the system’s response to independent, nonunionized, charter schools. When that reform bogged down because of union concerns about the number of unpaid hours teachers were putting in at pilots, the city granted the BTU concessions in a 2006 pact aimed at resolving that issue.Despite that, however, the BTU leadership unsubtly discouraged efforts to convert traditional schools to pilots.

So we are once again told to take on faith the Globe's opinion that the teacher's union was making things difficult for the city three years ago (this time about pilot schools), so we should be angry about labor rights today. It seems that this writer believed that two half-points would equal one supported claim. It does not.

Regardless, the writer pushes on. (This op-ed is worth reading, only to get an approximate sense of what an op-ed must look like early in the editing process). The Globe apparently feels that it has succeed in its mission of making its readers angry about...well I'm not sure what. But they should be angry, and the readers should be anti-labor and pro Thomas Menino and the school committee. After flailing around long enough to fill the empty space on the op-ed page, the writer goes for his/her coup de grĂ¢ce:

So here’s a word of advice to the BTU. If you want to be treated like a partner in school-improvement efforts, you have to show that you’re a willing partner.

Considering that the Globe's corporate parent is trying to balance its poorly managed books on the back of its own union, it's no surprise that labor is a bad guy in its pages. However, the editorial staff of the Globe is ostensibly able to write a column that makes a central point and backs it up with evidence, and on that score this column fails. There is a theme -- unions bad! -- but no claim upon which to hang that theme, much less evidence to back up the claim.

And I'm sure that's the fault of the teacher's unions, too.

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