Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

U.S. education’s problems lie in teachers’ union

American schools are failing to prepare students for the industrialized and international world. Obama recognizes the issue and former president Bush attempted to overhaul the education system with his unpopular “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB).

There are many proposals to fix the system, including voucher schools, more money and standardized testing, such as NCLB. None of these solutions seem to fix the problem of uneducated students. The solution is to disintegrate or restructure the teacher’s union so schools can remove unqualified teachers.

In voucher schools, the government gives a check for each student in an area to attend a school of choice. Vouchers create competition, where like corporations, schools improve under customer demand.

The voucher system, despite popular support from politicians and parents, showed no substantial improvement between voucher students and public educated students according to a Washington D.C. study. Unlike the corporate world, it seems competitiveness between voucher schools do not improve students’ quality of work. (American School Board Journal).

Money also won’t fix the problem. In the past 20 years America has nearly doubled its investment in the youth, factoring inflation, yet test scores are flat. If money was the problem, the education system would already be fixed (Heritage Foundation).

Standardized testing encourages teaching to a specific subjective test rather than teaching the core subjects of reading, writing and mathematics.

The problem lies in the bureaucracy, administration and especially the union.

Those from private high schools   claim that a teacher who under-performs simply does not work the next year.

However, it is not as easy to pardon these types of teachers in the public education system because of the union. There are extreme examples in the New York Public School District, where it took about six years to fire a teacher who had sent suspicious sexual e-mails to a high school student (ABCnews.com).

Only once the union is gone, or reformedcan students can come first rather than the teacher’s invincible job security.

There are no other jobs in America that pay for mediocrity. People are laid off if they do not meet standards.   Education jobs pay the same amount if teachers perform or are negligent.

Another problem afflicting America’s schools is the politicizing of content by the government. Everything from graduation requirements to English as a second language courses to talented and gifted programs try to distinguish students into different groups.

This comes from the union, since government tries to establish guidelines for teaching, but the teachers lack input on the content taught.

There is no need to divide students. It promotes conformity within the groups and might hinder student’s education. Not that I am against any of these programs, since some programs such as the Learning Resource Centers (LRC) have worked wonders. How do these programs benefit the average student?

They simply do not. The average student is lost in the system of unqualified teachers. In letting this happen, we fail to recognize the purpose of schools, to educate all students fairly. Schools now seem more concerned with looking better on paper than ever, and students suffer as a result.

Schools need to remember to teach life skills, not how to pass a subjective standardized test or highlight a few special programs to parents that alienate most of the students.

In order to fix America’s education of its future citizens, parents, students and government need to remember who comes first: the students. We, as a nation, need to push for the recognition of under-performing teachers. The way to accomplish that is through the destruction or reorganization of the union.

View Comments (14)
More to Discover

Comments (14)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • C

    CMApr 25, 2011 at 2:17 pm

  • C

    Cheuy_LeuyDec 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Who is Bryant Fong? An undecided major? The problem of so many like him that think they are experts over people directly involved with schools…Take the hint from Putin…”some cows go moo in the morning, yours should keep quiet…”

  • M

    MJMNov 20, 2010 at 2:06 am


    I’m glad to see that you are directing your attention, and the campus’, toward the education debate, which I believe should be at the forefront of national consciousness. A great deal has been said in recent years about the U.S. education system, from TIME magazine covers to the Oct. 30 WSJ front-page article on Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty’s efforts to reform the DC public schools. Thus I am disappointed that your article fails to bring in any new perspective, or indeed, particularly coherent argumentation pertinent to this subject.

    You are a weekly student columnist in a student newspaper, so I would suggest you offer more of THAT perspective to your readers—in this way, you may be able to diversify this debate. Perhaps discuss your bad experiences with the public school system, how it is affecting a younger sibling, or your mentee in Walla Walla. We can all go to our favorite e-accessible pundits and news sources (see some below) to read the arguments you present here, so consider making your column more unique.

    • http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303362404575580221511231074.html

    • http://www.good.is/category/education/

    • http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/7/14/does-teach-for-america-improve-the-teaching-profession?scp=1&sq=room%20for%20debate%20%22teach%20for%20america%22&st=cse

  • J

    JamesNov 13, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    The problem is standardized testing, lawsuits and kids who don’t want to learn. Not everyone is going to be good at everything. If someone is good at math have them take more math etc. Telling kids they have to be great at everything is absurd. Get rid of the lawsuits so schools can do their job without being sued. Get rid of the kids who don’t care so their not disrupting the kids who do. Make high school more like college. If you disruptive your gone. If you don’t care you’ll fail. Overall the WASL or whatever they have wont accomplish anything in the long run.

  • N

    NancyApr 19, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I am first rebutting Bryant’s comments about teaching being the only field in which you can do a lousy job and not get fired. Look into the civil service arena, and you will see blatant examples of this.

    More importantly, it is not unions or teachers, IT IS MONEY, but more importantly it is the management of that money. Over 30 years ago my state approved a state lottery, after reassurance that the proceeds would go directly to education – and they did. What we weren’t told in advance was that education funding that had been coming from the state’s general fund, was REDUCED by the amount the lottery put it – so the schools got no extra money. It certainly explains why college educated public school teachers have to buy supplies out of their own pockets. But where that enormous pile of lottery cash go?

    Schools do not need more tests and more regulations. They need appropriate funding, and fiscally responsibly school boards.

    With more responsible funding, the school system would be able to focus on all levels of intelligence. The Leave No Child Behind Act caters to students that cannot comprehend the basics, and gears the entire classroom in that direction. While these students must be helped, it should not become a detriment to geniuses who, in public schools, are considered smart enough to teach themselves. It is the perpetration for many years of this misconception that has reduced students’ scores: “the chain only being as strong as its weakest link.” By teaching down to all students, we have made geniuses the weak link, ignoring that sector of our student population that could grow up and make positive changes.

  • B

    BryantMar 26, 2009 at 8:40 pm


    The current solutions are outlined in the beginning,yet America still does not seem to educate their students. Increased funding does not work. In Oregon, Washington’s neighbor –

    * In 1990s Oregon’s cost per student based on fall enrollment went from $5,195 to $7,357.
    * In same period, Oregon’s national ranking based on per student expenditures fell from 15th to 20th.

    and also from the article – increased spending has not improved America’s education system. This does not equate to more advocacy for standardized testing, but increased awareness of where the money for students is going to. The way to account for student progress is not solely through standardized testing, but recognizing the teachers who simply do not preform. This can be evaluated through student comments and principal teacher evaluations.


  • R

    Russ Caditz-PeckMar 26, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Fong, Richardson, Newton – It’s time to fund our education system, not “raze it”. Yes, we must improve the quality of schools for kids. Yet no matter how angry we are, you offer oversimple solutions that miss the main point. I went to public schools here in Washington state. Last time I checked, we’re 46th in the nation in class size and 45th in per-pupil spending. This is root of the problem.

    Bob Richardson – You seem to think privatized school system is the way to go. You also argue for more high-stakes standardized testing. Why is it that the private schools you understandably admire do NOT require these tests to graduate?

    Because teaching to a test does not teach students the skill-set they will need to succeed in the real world. Instead, private schools put their time and $$$ into small class sizes and ample resources for students.

    As a Whitman student, I now see that a good education is expensive – my tuition bill is pretty good evidence. As a nation, we now spend over $2 billion dollars administering/prepping students for the tests you advocate. If a kid can’t read or do simple math, he shouldn’t graduate. But it doesn’t take years of test prep/testing to figure out if a student is failing. Any teacher or supervisor can test the child’s basics – just like one-size fits all test does – quickly and easily. Let’s teach kids the basics (math/science/English) and hold them accountable, but spend less time and money on testing and more on the students themselves. You might like the sound of accountability through testing, but this is an oversimple solution. For more on this, I recommend “The Paradox of High Stakes Testing” published last year.


  • R

    Ronald NewtonMar 19, 2009 at 12:13 am

    After two boys and a daughter the experience of public schools and undergraduate college. I know that money didn’t work, prestige has not worked, unions for teachers has not worked. Politics has not worked. Let us raze the system and begin again after we can agree as to what the new educational system will be. Also what the new educational methodology will be and how are we going to measure it!

    The current system reminds me of the Nazi society of World War II days.

  • B

    Bob RichardsonMar 14, 2009 at 5:02 am

    This commentary is right on the money in its depiction of the harmful affects of teacher’s unions on the quality of education and the long term problem of poor teachers in the classroom. Teaching is my second career and in the eleven years I have been in classrooms, I would estimate that 70 to 80 percent of the teachers with whom I have come into contact simply do not know the subject matter they teach, are not happy being a teacher, and only stay in the profession because of job security. In the charter school in which I teach, it matters not how long you’ve been there; rather your effectiveness (subjective as this process might be) is what determines contract offers the following year. Where Mr. Fong is wrong is his condemnation of standardized tests. First of all, it is absolutely impossible to teach to a test that you’ve never seen before — so that constant mantra of the left is both egregoius and tiring. Second, the tests are not subjective; they objectively measure standards a student should have met in core subjects and skills by a specific point of time. Without standardized tests, measuring the effectiveness of education in general returns to chaotic state of unaccountability where teachers teach touchy-feely subject matter which students find somewhat fun but has nothing to do with preparing them for their futures — unless they get the same touchy-feely curriculum throughout the rest of their education and become teachers.

  • S

    shalbMar 13, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    The thing is, there are always going to be students who don’t want to learn. I went to a high school with the starting freshman class at 1250 and graduate with the largest class at 804 students. The year after only had 500 students graduate even though they started with 1500 freshman. Teachers are also paid by how many students attend class; not how many students pass (which could bring about another set of problems). Even with the gifted program (I was one who was categorized as a gifted student), schools that offer gifted program courses are scarce. My parents would have had to move to another city to send me to a school that had one but they didn’t have that kind of money.

    Pouring more money into education won’t solve the problem. Granted, adequet funding is needed to maintain a decent education system. Blindly throwing money at the problem won’t solve anything (which is what’s being done right now).

    The US needs a grade school system that teaches every student how to do math, how to read, how to write properly and basic scientific knowledge (physics, chemistry and biology). This could be done by the time a child is 14/15. For the next three years, students should be able to continue to hone their skills either for college/university level studies or find a trade school to teach the skills for an industry a student has interests in pursuing (like fixing cars, computer tech support, etc.). Or do something else. But the main point is to create a system where every student is taught the basics of math, science and english and know it with great familiarity.

  • A

    Andrew SpittleMar 12, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I totally agree Russ. You write that, “But as long as we treat teaching as a “labor of love” instead of a viable career option to support a family, we will keep getting crappy people applying.” I think that when you compare teaching to similar professions that require as much schooling its obvious how much the pay for teaching lacks.

    Just think of the teaching *profession* compared to such professions as law, medicine, etc. People who work as lawyers and doctors make far more money than most teachers will ever dream of. If we expect to be able to look up to teachers like we look up to doctors then we need to start paying them as if we valued what they do.

  • R

    Russ CPMar 12, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Wrong on so many points. Why don’t teachers meet your expectations? Maybe because we don’t compensate them to make teaching competitive.

    Yes, there are a lot of crappy teachers. But as long as we treat teaching as a “labor of love” instead of a viable career option to support a family, we will keep getting crappy people applying. Smarter, talented people will compete for those jobs if we make them desirable. Cutting the teachers union cuts the organization that gets teachers benefits and yearly COLA increases. Starting salary in WA for teachers w/ a BA is $30K a year. I could do 9 to 5 social work for that, without all the unpaid hours at home preparing class/grading etc.

    Already there are not enough smart people willing to take a pay cut to teach, and without the unions even less. Until we fix this, the applicant pool will be mediocre at best, and our schools will remain crowded to get rid of all the crappy teachers.

    Second, your point against “graduation requirements to English as a second language courses to talented and gifted programs” is just weird. Here you are arguing for a meritocracy, but you don’t want to give talented, hard-working students honors classes? You don’t want graduation requirements, which ensure students actually take science/math necessary for America to compete in the global economy? You want ESL students to be enrolled in all classes with native speakers, slowing down the pace and presenting an impossible task to the teachers?…What?? And then you blame this on unions…..What????

    Teaching is not a great job right now. This is not helped by right-wing propositions to dismantle the union. I appreciate your intellectual honesty regarding No Child Left Behind, but that’s the only positive I see here…end rant 🙂

  • V

    VioMar 12, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Nabt – Don’t throw baby out with bath water. What you pointed out is bad upper level management for the educational system. That’s has nothing to do with the teachers’ union.

  • N

    NabtMar 12, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    I agree. The current public education system is analogous to some of our behemoth corporations, e.g., General Motors It’s buried so deep in bureaucracy and protocols which are outdated and inefficient. Worse is that these organizations fail to understand the changes and improvements necessary to re-invent themselves to better serve the customers, or the students in case for public education system. I recognize there are occasional pockets of jewels in the pile, or courageous, responsive and caring educators. But in general the public education system is due for a big over-haul. In my hometown, student population is on decline, the superintendent is trimming teaching FTE but the district office staff is expanding. Seems to me this district superintendent like most other public school system is focus more on getting whatever federal money is available rather than ensuring a sound education for students.