Friday, February 05, 2010

Just Blame the Unions

As much as I admire the New York Post for its courageous and politically incorrect editoral stand on the existential threat to our nation from militant Islam, I am sick to death of its bashing municipal unions in general and teachers and their unions in particular. (Full Disclosure: I teach in the New York City public schools and am a member of the United Federation of Teachers, the union that represents New York City public school teachers.) To read the Post, the city's unions are the new Jews. There is no ill or misfortune affecting the city that its unions are not responsible for. Transit fares about to rise? Never mind the waste and inefficiency in the system. Forget that its top executives get to work in chauffeured limousines, although their workplace is eminently accessible by subway. Just blame the hard-working transit workers and Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents them. Health care a mess? Never mind the city closing hospitals in the face of an aging population in need of health care more than ever. It's the ridiculously underpaid health care workers and the unions which represent them. Children don't learn? Must be the lazy and incompetent teachers and the UFT, that all-powerful teachers' union that owns and operates the legislature in Albany. Sounds like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

Sometimes I wonder if the Post's columnists and editorial writers read their own paper. Take some short blurbs in yesterday's paper and read between the lines. It is not uncommon for teachers in New York City to have side jobs and even side businesses. Such teachers must hew to stringent conflict-of-interest regulations. If not for moonlighting public school teachers, many yeshivot would have a tough time getting qualified secular teachers. A teacher who is also a licensed attorney with a priviate law practice is quite unusual, but not unheard-of. It appears that one such teacher, Alan Rosenfeld, has been languishing in a teacher reassignment center, commonly known as a "rubber room," since 2001. Teachers brought up on disciplinary charges are sent to rubber rooms while they await adjudication of their cases before arbitrators. Unless they are accused of crimes they draw full pay and benefits. According to columnist Andrea Peyser, this poor soul was accused of "leering at the rear ends of junior-high girls." No inappropriate touching, mind you. Nothng like what goes on in yeshivot all over the city. Just "leering." Well, would you want a teacher who spent the whole period writing on and talking to the board? We're supposed to interact with our students. That includes looking at them. What's the difference between looking and leering? That depends on who you ask. The same columnist incredulously states that the accused teacher was "cleared to teach." Ms. Peyser, that's what disciplinary hearings are for. Teachers have unions to protect them from being fired on some administrator's whim. We are entitled to due process. Charges have to be substantiated. That's what disciplinary hearings are for. If the administration fails to substantiate the charges at a hearing, the teacher is cleared to teach. A letter to the editor has the same teacher doing more than looking or "leering." He made "sexist comments" to students. Remember Lawrence Summers? The president of Harvard University? He was forced out for suggesting that there might possibly be biological differences between men and women that affect their aptitude for math and science. Politically incorrect statements should not be a firing offense, and this teacher was cleared to teach after a hearing. A news story in the same issue tells how Kenneth Feinberg, President Obama's executive-pay czar, is looking at ways to streamline the process of getting rid of bad teachers. Buried in the story we find the person that engaged him - none other than Randi Weingarten, ex-president of the UFT and now the head of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the national teacher's union. Well, well. I thought that teachers' unions were interested only in protecting the jobs of bad teachers. The same story accuses poor Mr. Rosenfeld of making "sexual advances" at students. Leering, sexist comments, sexual advances. . . . Columnists, editorial writers and people who write letters to the editor usually do not have to substantiate their charges. Neither do bloggers. Fortunately for the principles this nation was founded on, administrators seeking to fire public school teachers do.

Now a word of advice from a veteran teacher. This may be news to you, but teachers are not plaster saints. They are human. Some of us are healthy, in shape and able to function without benefit of little blue pills. Many of our female students deliberately dress provocatively, and when they do so we look. How can it be otherwise? Are we made out of stone? Many of our educational woes would disappear if only parents would be parents and not pals. If you don't want your daughter's teachers to leer at her rear end, do not send her to school dressed in a manner that calls attention to her rear end, or to any other body part that may be leered at. Let her instead call attention to her brains and her achievements.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting post. I would love to follow you on twitter.

Mon Feb 15, 11:19:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zev Stern said...

I don't "tweet" (Do I look like I do?). But you can subscribe to the RSS feed or some other method Blogspot might have of subscribing to my blog.

Tue Feb 16, 11:35:00 AM EST  

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