Friday, January 20, 2012

Buying The Lie

These are the stakes.  This is what we have to deal with.  The public education narrative has been high-jacked and an increasingly large proportion of the public believes the lie.  This is just a small example, but a recent report about school budget struggles in Albemarle County, Virginia provoked the following reader comment:

The U.S. spends more per child and more per capita on education than any other country. Yet we rank any where from 14th to 25th out of 75 countries in math, reading and science according to the International Student Assesment report. So, apparently throwing more money at the issue is not the answer. The money NEVER makes it to the children and the teachers who deserve it, just the beauracrats in the front office and the teachers unions.

I know this isn't NYC, D.C., or Chicago.   And the "Charlottesville Newsplex" is just a small media outfit serving a small city that could hardly claim to have a suburb.  These facts make the story even more important.  Across the nation, the public opinion is swayed by the loudest and most prominent voices that are selling the public this idea that public education is failing because of bad teachers and unions.

I don't know where the statistics quoted come from, but the "teachers unions" comment stands out the most in this geographic area.  1) Virginia is a right to work state- there is no "teachers union."  2) The supposed "teacher union" here is funded by teacher contributions, not county budget. 3) I can't speak with certainty, but it would surprise me if even half of the teachers in our county (and Virginia) even belong to the "teacher union."

Yet somehow, in little Albemarle County, an run of the mill media consumer believes that our budget shortfall is somehow tied to the problem of "teachers unions."

I don't know how familiar some of our readers are with Virginia, but growing up in southwest Virginia furniture and textile country in the 1970's and 80's, Union was a dirty word-- to employees and factory owners alike.  Unions exert little to no influence on Virginia politics, business, and society.  If that's true in the private sector, imagine what it means for the public.  I'm not taking a pro or anti union stance here, that's just how it is in Virginia.

I'm disturbed by how easily this comment reflects a public perception, colored by national media coverage, that unions are a part of the problem even when they are COMPLETELY UNRELATED to the problem at hand.  It doesn't matter which side of the reform debate is winning online.  In real life, the debate is nearly over, and America is buying the lie.

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