While in the Las Vegas airport preparing to come home, a traveler sitting at a table next to my wife and I realized we were teachers and launched into quite a debate. I like debates but not rants. He stated (at length) that unions are the root cause of education’s failings (and I disagree as I have stated before), and he then proceeded to make quite a few assumptions about educators and education in general.
However, my biggest beef with his comments were his notions that only when schools compete will they be successful. I have written in papers in college and had talks about capitalism where I contend that when capitalism is accepted, so is a tacit acceptance that some will never have enough (i.e. poverty is guaranteed for some). Since everything is about competition, not everyone can win. And I don’t like a system which guarantees some don’t succeed (at what point is enough profit earned, especially to the detriment of others?). I’m under no illusion that failures will be eliminated, but I don’t want to guarantee failures. My fellow traveler is a businessman. It’s what he knows.
My other major contention with my fellow traveler’s ideas is one I hear often: “We need to have an accountability system for educators [to measure teachers against one another], but I don’t know what we should use.” To me, this is the non-solution solution. “I know what is needed to solve education’s problems, but don’t know what it is” is what seems to be said. It’s easy to propose a solution without having any details to support it and without having any way to do it.
I think people feel they know the anwers to education’s problems because everyone has gone to school.