Gary Olberman, an effective advocate for progressive democratic education, shared an article from Forbes entitled "Why I Support the Teachers Unions." One of many lines from the article that caught my attention:
- Once they take away job security and collective bargaining rights, what’s to stop them from taking away pay, benefits, and everything else?"
Though I'm unsure about the demonization of "choice." I think choice has been redefined, inappropriately, by some sectors within our society, as a method to privatise public education. But what if we reclaimed choice as an expression of democracy?
For example, why not advocate for teacher-led public schools that offer a variety of choices in terms of curricula, instructional strategies, community partnership, etc.? One-size curriculum for all, where all students have to be tested on the same day, doesn't give teachers or students much choice about how or what or where they learn.
At the school level, effective teachers can provide choices for individuals within any particular curriculum. Yes, we will study "cells as building blocks," but what are the myriad of ways that well-supported teachers can help engaged students choose how they develop, or experience, that scientific understanding?
And we've got to give teachers choice in the schools they serve. In the larger districts, such as Philadelphia's, teachers are assigned without any consideration of "best match" to a specific community. Students, parents and teachers should be able to interview prospective teacher candidates and then choose those that are best aligned with that community's pedagogical approach -- all in the name of democracy.
We've got to develop the capacity of our schools to make smart choices that maximize individual freedom while also honoring collective equality (if not equity). And if we can't trust our teacher leaders to do this, then we have a serious problem.