Item description for The War Against Hope: How Teachers' Unions Hurt Children, Hinder Teachers, and Endanger Public Education by Rod Paige...
Overview In this expose of union politicking and corruption, former Bush administration Secretary of Education Rod Paige also explains how parents, teachers, school boards, and local businesses can work together for reform to build a better education system for our children and the future of America.
Something is terribly wrong with America's public school system.
For decades, we have seen test scores slide or stagnate (today fewer than twenty percent of our nation's twelfth graders are proficient in math, and our students rank near the bottom in science and math among the industrialized nations of the world) and achievement gaps persist or widen.
So who's responsible for the ongoing failure of our education system? In "The War Against Hope," former Secretary of Education Rod Paige pulls no punches in his critical analysis of America's crisis in the classroom. Without question, the greatest impediment to meaningful school reform is the enormous, self-aggrandizing power wielded by the teachers' unions.
In this vital, well-documented book, Paige takes an unflinching look at the power-hungry union leaders who have consistently placed their ambitions ahead of the needs of the teachers and the students whom they claim to serve. He also traces the history of the National Education Association (NEA) from its humble beginnings as an advocate of education excellence to its early radicalization by left-wing ideology.
"The War Against Hope" is a disturbing account of the corruption, greed, and skewed values that have assaulted our schools, betrayed our teachers, and forsaken our children for far too long.
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Studio: Thomas Nelson
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.56" Width: 6.41" Height: 0.87" Weight: 0.96 lbs.
Release Date Mar 1, 2007
Publisher Thomas Nelson
ISBN 159555002X ISBN13 9781595550026
Reviews - What do customers think about The War Against Hope: How Teachers' Unions Hurt Children, Hinder Teachers, and Endanger Public Education?
Correct on Some Points, Misleading On Others Jul 29, 2007
I am a veteran public school teacher and read this entire captivating book in one sitting. Paige does make some valid arguments about the corrupt, anti-child actions of teachers unions. Some of his frustrations I share 100%. First of all, I agree that unions make it very difficult for school districts to fire blatantly incompetent teachers. I know that because being a teacher myself, I have had to work with some of these teachers. They are a cancer on our profession and make us all look bad. For example, a few years ago, I taught in a classroom next to a teacher who would scream and yell at her 3rd grade children (mostly Hispanic) that they were "stupid and lazy." One day, we could hear her yelling such vicious things at her students that even a few of my own 5th grade students started crying. In tears, one girl asked me why that teacher "was allowed to treat little kids that way" and if I could go next door and ask her to stop. This teacher would also have some of the very lowest test scores in the district year after year after year, therefore bringing down the academic ranking of our entire school. Everyone, including the principal, knew how horrible this teacher was, but the principal refused to do anything because she knew that the union would protect this teacher 100% and that therefore any attempt to discipline her would be a futile waste of time and effort.
I also agree with Paige that because of union contracts, there is very little incentive, apart from a teacher's own conscience, to go "above and beyond" to help the students learn. The teacher pay scale applies to every single teacher, regardless of his/her competence or effectiveness, and is based only on seniority and continuing education units. Therefore, the veteran 30-year teacher who does the bare minimum will usually make at least TWICE as much as the new teacher down the hall who comes to work early, stays late, works hard, and does a darn good job teaching the kids. Paige cites research which claims that a teacher's effectiveness declines after he/she has been on the job for five years. If this claim is accurate, it is probably due to the fact that a teacher's salary does not correlate even one bit to how good that teacher is. Once a teacher has been in the system for a while, he/she begins to realize this and as a result, there is a decline in motivation to perform the job well.
However, I do take issue with Paige on some points. First of all, it appears that he wants to make teachers unions the "scapegoat" and implies that these unions are the main cause (if not the sole cause) for low academic achievement. However, although teachers unions should bear some of the responsibility, they are by no means the only ones at fault. In fact, one reason why we need a union is to protect us from incompetent administrators in our school districts. The elimination of tenure would allow a principal to arbitrarily dismiss a teacher for any reason, even if that teacher is the most skilled and competent in the school. Such reasons might include something as trivial as a mere personality conflict or the adminstrator's own personal and subjective opinions about the teacher's performance. Teachers would be afraid to "blow the whistle" on a corrupt principal or administrator for fear of being fired. I can tell you that it would be very difficult for me to give my full attention to teaching the children if I were consistently worrying in the back of my head whether or not I would have a job the next year to pay my bills and support my own kids. Still, the fact remains that tenure does protect some pretty LOUSY teachers, but completely eliminating it would be even more disastrous for our students. I would also suggest that in my exprience, tenure and unions are not the only reasons why so many incompetent teachers remain in the clasroom. Often, the school principal is also to blame by not properly documenting a teacher's deficiencies, as well as top school district administrators who will not support principals who choose to take steps to have an incompetent teacher dismissed.
Paige also suggests that teacher pay should be tied with student academic performance measures (i.e. standardized tests). This suggestion is based on a deeply flawed assumption that if students are performing at a high level academically, their teacher must be outstanding, and that if students are failing, the teacher must be lousy. The idea of "merit pay" would end up harming the very students it aims in theory to protect. If merit pay ever became a reality, most of the nation's best teachers would flock to school districts in affluent suburban neighborhoods that have the highest test scores. The students in low income areas, the ones who need good teachers the most, would be stuck with whatever is "left over." This is the inevitable result of a system that would penalize an outstanding teacher just because that teacher works in a school with high poverty or with students still learning English as a second language, while at the same time handsomely rewarding a terrible teacher who is lucky enough to teach in an affluent district with more socioeconomically privileged students who would still ace the standardized tests even if they had been taught by a fruitfly!
There are really no easy answers regarding these issues, but for Paige to place the blame squarely on teachers unions misses the point and ignores many other factors that have contributed to the failure of many of our public schools. Nonetheless, the book is well written, correct on many points (whether teachers or their unions like it or not), and very insightful. It is definitely worth the read for anyone holding a stake in the education of our children.
The Ball Is in the Union's Court Jun 26, 2007
I have written many critiques of articles and books, but this book had my head swirling. I was a teacher and union building rep (at the same time) for many years and although I did not agree with everything the union did (who does?) I was never aware of the union's practices and history that Paige reports.
I have always considered a union necessary because of the practices and working conditions foisted on teachers by principals and district staffers (for the superintendent and board). Even though I walked picket lines and encouraged fellow teachers to join with full membership, I never protected an obviously-incompetent or racist teacher. In fact, I encouraged the principal to deal with him or her--to the consternation of my union Higher-Up. (You see, we teachers don't always blindly follow the union...or the administrators.)
One repeating problem in my school and district was caused by the upper-level administration placing on teachers the burden of one educational fad after another--all (to my knowledge) ending in failure and the waste of millions of the taxpayers' dollars.
And just like some teachers pass students along with no justification, so do some teacher college professors pass potential teachers who immediately or eventually fail our students, the community and the nation.
As Paige would seem to agree, I think teachers' unions should be only a business entity dealing with working conditions and pay. Leave the curriculum up to the superintendent (not that he or she has done a great job), or, as in charter schools, up to the local school.
Yes, I have once or twice been the subject of union harassment by one or more of the union's "blind" followers, but I was tough enough to handle it. And I didn't consider this treatment pervasive. Paige has revealed many negative practices by teachers' unions that need to be answered by them. But, remember, unions do not hire teachers (even if a certain board may be in a union's pocket, as Paige reports), so blame the boards of education, the administrator and curriculum developers at the administration headquarters.
I am not in sympathy with the idea--pushed by Paige--that teachers should receive merit or performance pay for a job well done. In my own classes I had students who learned much faster than others--and all of my students were poor enough to have a lunch subsidy. I worked very hard to get results, but a teacher in an area where most students are on level can get the same results or better and not have to put in the hours and effort I did, and he or she may receive merit pay, but not me. So, additional pay based on test scores (measured against a standard) is not fair to teachers.
Let me explain further. I say hire only quality teachers and check that quality not by how the students meet a standard, but how much progress the students have made toward that standard. If--and I'm not exaggerating here, especially for big-city schools--50 to 75 percent of my 8th graders enter my class not knowing their times tables (which means their math is hardly above grade 3) and they leave my room testing at the end of grade 6, they have made around 3 years of progress in one year! Yet, they are still 2 years behind being ready to move into grade 9. This means, they don't meet the acceptable standard for math. And I don't deserve performance pay. This is what I know and it is what teachers' unions know. "Merit" pay is a theory in the field of teaching youngsters. If it's put into practice and schools still don't improve performance that much (meaning some teachers may be fired), what are we to do, given that teaching has one of the greatest turn-over rates of any profession? The reality is that up to 50% of new teachers leave the profession within five years. I think supporters of performance pay are barking up the wrong tree.
If one is wondering if teachers need unions, one needs only read of the history of U.S. teaching to get an answer. (See my book, MT. HOREB: THE LITTLE WHITE SCHOOLHOUSE ON LITTLE DEER CREEK to get a short history; then check the bibliography.) We can't go back to the days when teachers were basically educational missionaries: Paige lauds those teachers that spend their days, nights and weekends (yes, cell-phone available) "serving" their students and indicating that this is what he thinks is a good example of dedication.
And for some interesting and moving labor songs (union history) get the lively CD "Classic Labor Songs."
I agree with Paige that for the sake of the students, and the nation, teacher union power needs to change. How those changes can be crafted to the benefit of all does need to be hammered out. Paige gives some of his ideas for improvement. How are the unions going to react? How are parents going to react? His book is against teachers' unions (of course, he will protest that, mildly)--though he does rightly praise a few union "mavericks," as he calls them. He says (after much criticism) that he thinks most teachers are praiseworthy, except that they are not quite so because of their blind allegiance to their unions who, he says, blinded them. He thinks he has strongly presented his evidence, now let the strong unions counter.
Let's hope this sorry state of affairs is soon corrected. It's not practical to think we can throw the babies (some unions, boards, teachers, teachers' colleges and even parents) out with the bath water (techniques for change), but let's do change the diapers (some present philosophies).
A Non-Workbook, Non-Textbook Approach to Teaching Language Arts: Grades 4 Through 8 and Up
take back our schools May 7, 2007
This book did an excellent job uncovering the danger our public schools are experiencing.It is a must read for all Americans.We must force our elected officials to address the teachers unions and make teachers accountable.The education system should reward excellent teachers and extract bad ones.The time is now.Encourage good business people to run for school boards.The system has to be changed to secure America's future.
I hope this is read by everyone who pays taxes to fund our public schools Apr 24, 2007
This topic is so heated that it is easy for each side to accuse the other of bad faith and to make accusations that do not have substance. Let me say right out that I believe that nearly all classroom teachers are dedicated people who care about their students and most are good at what they do. Some are excellent and some are incompetent, but this is something that is known by everyone about people who work in every field of endeavor. Also, I am NOT against labor unions.
I do think they are most often brought about by bad employers, but there are also unions who are brought about by politics. And it is the mix of politics and union economic power that is as toxic as the mix of big business and politics. Each situation hurts society by stifling competition and moving the purpose of the organization from producing what it was created to do to providing jobs or economic rents for parties with the political power. Both are bad things and should be fought against, strenuously.
Neither is Rod Paige, the author of this book, attacking teachers or even unions in general. What he is against is that in our present educational system, the unions have linked their identity as the classroom teachers when they are something apart from them even while representing them. The unions have not only tremendous political power to stifle reform, they also have often hand picked and gotten elected the board that is supposed to negotiate with the unions in setting the rules and signing the contracts. How can this be good? And if the kids aren't learning, what is the use of providing jobs for the teachers in the first place? It would be similar to create a car factory that could not build proper cars, but all the energy went into issues surround those building the cars (that weren't being built well) instead of facing squarely why the cars were coming off the line in such poor condition. Obviously, in the real world such a company would face competition and, if it couldn't fix its problems, would simply go out of business. However, for some reason we feel we cannot allow competition to improve the quality of education our children receive. This craziness isn't the fault of the teachers, but of the system that empowers the unions to block meaningful reform and competition.
This is an excellent book that should be read by everyone interested in the power of the teacher's unions and how they behave in preventing meaningful change or even experimentation in trying to find a better way for educating our children.
Let me say again, I am PRO TEACHER. I think they need to be paid fairly. However, we have school systems to educate OUR children. They do not belong to society. They belong to us. We pay the tax dollars that fund the schools. We should have almost complete say in how our school systems are run, how they are funded, and the curriculum taught. Yet, we do not. This book can help you understand who has that power, how they got it, and why we can't seem to get it back. The author points out that when people are crying out for more funding, as they always do, they are really saying they are out of meaningful ideas. Money never fixes anything. That is true.
Here is a little thought experiment. People say we need to pay teachers more to get improvement by getting the best teachers. But when we raise teacher pay, do we get rid of the existing teachers and hire in new and better teachers at the new higher pay? Of course not! We just pay the existing people more. How does that get us better teachers? If you go to McDonalds and pay $2 more for a Big Mac, does it become a better hamburger? No. It is exactly the same. It doesn't change simply because you pay more for it. You would need to go to a place that serves better hamburgers at the higher price to get a better burger.
As long as the same people occupy their places they are not going to improve over increased salaries. There may be things we can do with infrastructure that can help. But simply stuffing the teachers' pockets or hiring more administrators (heaven forfend) will not educate our children more effectively.
The idea that we exist simply to provide tax dollars and do the bidding of the present education establishment while they make all the decisions about curriculum and get their advantages made into laws further disenfranchising those who should be in control of the school districts is obscene to me. But you will have to decide for yourself. This book can present you with great information about the present situation.