Wednesday, December 01, 2010

On Teachers' Unions (and Public Education)

I recently posted a comment to an article entitled, Debate: Are Teachers’ Unions the Problem—or the Answer? (Adler, 2010, March 19, Newsweek Online) and I wanted share the post with readers of The Vantage Point with my invitation to join the debate:
The teachers’ unions are not really the problem (or solution) in my view. The problem is that the format of secondary education has not changed for one hundred years. At some point during the 21st century (and the sooner the better), society will need to consider the economic efficiencies afforded by alternative education. For example, society will soon witness the arrival of “3rd-grade-in-a-box” education technology that will far surpass the teaching effectiveness of traditional “bricks and mortar” schools. Imagine if every child in America could be mailed an education program developed by subject matter experts that effectively replaced sending one’s children to the school bus (which costs money), then on to their homerooms (we have already wasted an hour of each student’s time just getting to school), then on to several sessions of classes taking place in a school building throughout the day (including the costs of the building, maintenance, heating, air conditioning, security, insurance, and so forth), then back to their school buses (more student time and public money out the window), and finally to return home. At some point, this model for public education will be rejected by progressive families who will elect the “3rd-grade-in-a-box” alternative and keep their children home except to socialize and play sports with children in their neighborhood. The cost savings of moving public education from “bricks and mortar” to “boxed delivery” formats could be tens to hundreds of trillions of dollars over time. If teachers’ unions are against moving education forward with the emerging technology, then yes, they are part of the problem. However, the existence of teachers’ unions is not really the issue in my mind. Society needs to seek economic efficiencies from all public services, and secondary education is ripe for technological reform in the near future. Thank you for the opportunity to comment...
Source: Adler, J (2010, March 19), Debate: Are Teachers’ Unions the Problem—or the Answer? Newsweek Online.

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