Sunday, August 19, 2012

Teachers Unions and the state of American Education

A movie premiering next month, called "Won't Back  Down,"  tells the story of a mother who took on officials to try to improve her daughter's school system. A teachers union figures prominently as an adversary to her efforts.
The school district that produced most of the students who went to the California State University I taught at for 28 years was the Los Angeles Unified School District. It upset me that I had to teach college seniors what a verb was in a class called "Writing for the Media." I wondered how students could proceed that far without learning basic grammar.
When failing my class prevented students from graduating I was appalled to be the last stop on the road to failure (because obtaining a degree in communications and not knowing what a verb was, was a ticket to unemployment).
I found out the University writing exit exam was being judged holistically. An English teacher told me if he could figure out what they were trying to say he would pass them.
But out of all  this there was one saving remnant. Those students who had been bused to Palisades High School, and had Rose Gilbert as a teacher, had a wonderful use of the language. Already in her 70s she tutored UCLA athletes and gave money for scholarships to UCLA.
My stepdaughter had her as her English teacher and was in awe at her ability to teach English. But Mrs. Gilbert, and another English teacher at Palisades, were the only ones mentioned by students when I complimented their writing.
I wondered what some of the other union members, protected by tenure, were doing in their classes. Then I decided I didn't want to know.

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