Columnists from our nation’s largest newspapers and magazines love to write about education reform. Even though they apparently know nothing about it, they are very quick to not only propose solutions, but to make it clear that these solutions would work. They imply (or directly state) that the only barriers to implementation are teacher’s unions or people who have too low of expectations for underprivileged kids. I’ve written about this before (link), and will do so again.
COHEN (2/3/09): Do your reading on education and you will find an emerging consensus. Abolish tenure. There are other ways to ensure that teachers are fairly treated without guaranteeing the jobs of the inept. (Cops don’t have tenure, and neither do columnists.) Ensure that the best teachers teach at the most challenging schools and ensure also that they get paid lavishly for doing so.
“Abolish tenure,” Cohen advises, assuring us that columnists lack it. In fact, Cohen has lasted so long at the Post, through so many comical blunders, that his career seems to stand as clear proof that big pundits simply don’t need it. “Ensure that teachers teach at the most challenging schools,” he further lectures Obama—without explaining how we can “ensure” such a thing, especially once we’ve removed their tenure. After all: For decades, “the best teachers” have been leaving urban systems in favor of suburban districts. Question: Might that exodus increase if these “best teachers” are forced to teach in schools they’d rather avoid?Further question: Could Obama possibly deal with a problem like that as part of an emergency measure, one he hopes to complete in two weeks? And by the way: Are “the best teachers” in one school setting necessarily “the best teachers” somewhere else? If Teacher X is great in an upper-end AP program, will he necessarily be “the best” when it comes to teaching low-income kids who are years below grade level? Such questions have never occurred to Cohen—yet he somehow thinks they can be addressed as part of the two-week stimulus effort. Just a guess: Because his columns take fifteen minutes, he may believe that quandries like this can be settled by this time next week.