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Stossel strikes again

Posted by Richard on January 14, 2006

I just watched ABC 20/20’s new John Stossel special, "Stupid in America," and I’m just blown away. John Stossel is a national treasure. His libertarian series of ABC News specials are probably the most significant television documentaries ever, and this one may be his most important. I want every parent in America to see this hour of television.

Go read the story linked above; it provides a pretty good overview of the show’s contents and main points. What it can’t do is provide the emotional impact of watching the video. The footage of desperate Washington, D.C. parents and kids in a gym watching a lottery drawing, overcome with joy and relief when they’re selected for a spot in a charter school, left me in tears.

The images of sanctimonious teachers insisting that competition is wrong "for schools and for people" and that "there are no bad teachers" and that public schools are "getting better by leaps and bounds" left me fantasizing acts of violence. If you’ve got a really strong stomach, go to ABC’s Message Boards and read some of the arrogant, condescending, defensive, hate-filled comments and flat-out lies by union teachers.

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2 Responses to “Stossel strikes again”

  1. Chris said

    There are those who mischaracterize many as being “anti-education.” This label is inaccurately conveyed, as it should be labeled “pro-education reform”. So to use “anti-education.” and denominate those is misinforming.

    The “War on Public Education” is a straw man. There has never been such a war. Any time spent defending against it is time that diverts much-needed time and energy away from the real issues. If there’s no war, then what’s the fuss? Who are these imaginary soldiers? They are simply observers, who pointedly remind us of the many facets of public education which can use serious reform. They however, are very interested in the views and observations of intelligent peers who can contribute to the debate in a constructive way. Part of the debate is calling a spade a spade, shining a light on egregious examples of the misdeeds of public educators, their union, administrators, and aspects of the system itself.

    Yes, there are many public schools where excellence is part of the daily culture, where students are given the best chances to lead productive lives after graduation. There are countless public educators who nobly fight the good fight against ignorance and poverty, and who, despite terrible obstacles, defeat these foes daily.

    It should not be offensive to truly dedicated teachers and administration to point out the ugly truth where it may lie. These blemishes aren’t just isolated in a system that is by far mostly good; they are endemic. Some examples of serious issues, in need of reform: teacher unions, political activism, teacher certification, mediocrity, opposition to competition, home schooling opposition, zero tolerance, and lack of accountability.

    There are four kinds of teachers and administrators staffing public schools. First, there are dedicated teachers and administrators who are effective. Second, there are dedicated folks who aren’t. Third, there are people for whom “it’s just a job,” lastly, and most seriously, there are incompetent teachers and administrators.

    Members of the first group should take no offense at any criticisms of the other three groups; they should be leading the charge for reform. The second group, (due to curriculum or techniques), can be retrained, the third group needs to be weeded out, and last group need to be fired, period.

    These reforms along with tax credits and free market choice will provide the best environment. True competition can cure most of these ills.

    Don’t fall for the ‘We are Great!’ mantra.

  2. Anonymous said

    Thanks, Chris! I think you’re right about the four kinds of teachers and administrators, and about how the first group should be leading the charge.

    I think Stossel’s main point is what you said — “True competition can cure most of these ills.” People’s beliefs and intentions don’t matter nearly as much as the incentive structure. You want true reform? Don’t try to change people’s minds (except as necessary to change public policy) — change the incentives they face.

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