Teachers’ Unions Declining? Really?

Just about all the teachers–and administrators–in my district belong to one teachers’ union or another. We do this because we are scared. If we should be sued by some litigious parent whose child has somehow been offended–or if indeed there is a legitimate suit against us, heaven forbid–we pay our dues so we’re covered legally.

The dues are expensive, almost $50 a month, a high price to pay on most teacher salaries.  But we do it, even though our votes in the organization count for almost nothing. We all know it and we all do it anyway.

Despite this almost universal acceptance of unions within the profession, at least in my state, I would agree that there’s a knee-jerk popular disaffection with unions.

I was at an artist reception during the summer and one of the rather famous artists held forth thus:

“Those d—n teachers unions keep those older teachers in place. There’s no way to get rid of these bad teachers and make room for the [good] young ones. We need to get rid of teacher unions so we can bring in better teachers.”

I really like this artist but he’s wrong about this. There’s no formula about age to teaching excellence. I’m an older teacher; I admit it, but I’m a very good teacher. The younger teachers I know are often good, sometimes not. Good teaching doesn’t correlate with how old you are.

I disagree with a culture of fear that makes it necessary for me to fork out $50 a month for union dues, but I don’t disagree with the idea of unions. To my mind, they protect teachers from litigation, not from being fired.

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