Sunday, July 26, 2009

why is tully so eager to fire teachers?

indy star columnist matt tully has yet another column up today about how awesome it would be if IPS could fire teachers at whim, without being hampered by pesky union rules. this is at least the third column he's written on this topic in the past month, so clearly this idea is something he's excited about. it's a shame that all these columns are based on faulty assumptions.

tully seems envision a war in our classrooms, with one side consisting of legions of inept, bumbling geriatrics who have somehow managed to hang onto their teaching jobs despite being completely incompetent, and the other side made up of wunderkinds whose unerring brilliance makes them immediately and automatically better teachers than those who have, you know, decades of teaching experience.

tully's first column with this frame in june was based on interviews with superintendent white, so it's no mystery where he got these ideas from. but in his later columns, he no longer has the excuse that he's just lazily repeating what white wanted him to. tully owns this argument now, and in order to advance it, he's using disingenuous arguments.

the disingenuousness starts right in the lead:

From the union hall to the superintendent's office, there is one point on which just about everyone agrees: Indianapolis Public Schools administrators have done an awful job of ridding the district of poor-performing teachers.

really? so if i went to the union hall and asked around, everyone would agree that IPS hasn't fired enough (or the right) teachers? seriously?

at this point, you'd be excused if you put the column down and turned away, your suspension of disbelief shattered. but the real killer comes a few paragraphs later:

Let's be clear: Nobody is rooting for any teacher to be fired. I've spent quite a bit of time in classrooms this year and repeatedly find myself thinking how much we ask of the people charged with educating children. Few people reading this -- and definitely not the person writing this -- face more day-to-day challenges than the average public school teacher.

That said, there are some bad ones. They need to go.

shorter tully: nobody is rooting for teachers to be fired, but when are we going hurry up and fire some damn teachers already?

what editor allowed these two paragraphs to appear side by side? their extreme proximity only highlights the flimsiness of the excuse. tully is transparently and full-throatedly advocating for teachers to be fired. this is his third column fantasizing about teacher firings; his hard-on for teachers getting fired practically leaps off the page.

sure, he doesn't have any particular teacher in mind—i imagine that makes the idea more appealing to him, the thought that nobody he knows would be laid off, just those people, those unnamed mystery teachers who are out there somewhere messing it up for everyone. as captain jack said, it's easier if you don't know their names. but these are real people we're talking about, and the policies tully is advocating would result in them losing their livelihoods. let's not have any pretense here—tully is rooting for teachers to be fired.

it's clear why superintendent white wants to change collective bargaining rules: experienced teachers are more expensive. he wants to fire some and bring in younger, cheaper replacements. that's the way it is in every business, and that's precisely why the seniority rules are there in the first place! the question is: why does tully keep falling for it?

1 comment:

James Briggs Stratton "Doghouse" Riley said...

The bigger question about Tully, I think, is why the union-busting, dump-experienced-teachers-for-cheaper-replacements side of the argument invisible from where he stands? Why is it--and this ain't just Tully--that all the people so convinced that IPS is the product of a horrible genetics experiment mating metro Detroit with Beirut never point a finger at its bloated bureaucracy with its rampant (and possibly criminal) cronyism, and the cult of personality surrounding Dr. Cufflinks?

Here's an experiment for Tully: for the upcoming school year, instead of those docent-guided tours the administration set up for you, get permission to show up briefly, sporadically, and unannounced, and take attendance for school administrators. Let's see if it crests 70%, even granting excused absences.