Monday, July 14, 2008

Kahlenberg on Shanker: He's Baaack

Vera Pavone and I reviewed Kahlenberg's "Tough Liberal" for New Politics and you can download a pdf or click on the link at the top of the sidebar on the right. We focused on the education reform aspect of Shanker's policies and how it has been destructive of teacher unionism. We reminded people that his book was funded by the likes of Eli Broad, who has been in the forefront of blaming teacher unions for education failure.

That the AFT and UFT has widely promoted Kahlenberg should be a clue as to where they are ideologically.

In How the Left Can Avoid a New Education War, Kahlenberg continues his theme by offering a middle ground between what could be termed the Richard Rothstein and Klein/Sharpton view of education:

....a major new fight has broken out between competing factions in the liberal education-policy community. One group argues that poverty should not be used as an excuse for failure and sees teacher unions as a major obstacle to promoting equity through education reform. The other group says education reform by itself cannot close the achievement gap between rich and poor and black and white without addressing larger economic inequalities in society. The battle, which can broadly be characterized as one between portions of the civil-rights community and teacher unions, is a movie we've seen before -- most explosively in the New York City teacher strikes of the 1960s -- and it doesn't end well. Sen. Barack Obama should follow the lead of legendary teacher-union leader Albert Shanker and recognize that both sides in the debate need to bend.

Kahlenberg raises the old "we should hold students accountable" argument. You know - hold them back. Maybe water boarding. Or shoot them.

But what about holding government and the business community accountable?

When he says Shanker never said unions should be blamed, he leaves out the fact that by going along with the accountability movement without ever talking about conditions - like the words "class size" have been banished from just about anything Kahlenberg writes - just as they were from much of Shanker's later writings - the AFT and UFT have abandoned the fight for the funding needed to truly have an impact. Read "Tough Liberal" and you will see that Shanker had no such compunctions about unlimited funding for defense budgets and wars.

He says Shanker wanted the unions to fight for better health care. But Shanker put real energy into fighting for merit pay and a standards and accountability movement that without other aspects in place, distract us from a progressive ed reform movement.

I'll leave it to Susan Ohanian's comments below to nail where this gang is coming from. But beware the empty words emanating from the final day of the AFT convention in Chicago and follow the Broad, Rotherham, Haycock, Romer, Klein, Clinton, Sharpton, Weingarten alliance. (Wars of words between Klein and Weingarten are just that - words.)

How the Left Can Avoid a New Education War

Richard D. Kahlenberg
American Prospect 2008-07-09

Ohanian Comment:
When people are in the pockets of corporate raiders, it doesn't matter whether they call themselves liberals or conservatives in matters of education policy. As I have pointed out before, with great foreboding, these so-called liberals/progressives at The Center for American Progress
wrote Barack Obama's education policy a few years back. Here's more, if you can stand it. And more. Take a look at whom Kahlenberg calls "sensible education reformers": Andrew Rothertham, Kati Haycock, and Roy Romer. And then there's the oddity of labeling teacher unions as "left" and "liberal." The whole emphasis on "bad teachers" is a red herring. Yes, there are some inadequate and even "bad" teachers, but what is rarely acknowledged these days is that they are so far outnumbered by the good ones. . . or at least there were until teachers started following the scripts shipped in from Reading First.

Russo also had a comment on the Kahlenberg piece at TWIE:

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