To the Editor:
Susan Moore Johnson is correct about early-career teachers when she writes in her recent Commentary that “many are not even sure they need a union” (“Union Leaders and the Generational Divide”, March 10, 2010). They do not. Educators need a professional association that is truly student-focused. They do not need a bloated union bureaucracy that promotes outdated systems of evaluation and compensation and protects poor teachers.
It is clear why this “new configuration” of teachers “challenges the very concept of unionism.” Unionism does not promote professionalism. Unions are often focused on political influence and funding controversial issues unrelated to the classroom. New teachers, and many experienced ones, recognize that the labor-union model is not providing them with the support they need. Instead of being served by their unions, teachers simply supply funding for those organizations to further an agenda that is not primarily about student success.
A professional 21st-century teacher wants an association that encourages its members to place the needs of children above the interests of adults. My organization was founded for professional educators, and provides the benefits and protections that teachers want without the baggage of an outdated union. We serve teachers who set high standards for themselves and their students, and we recognize that our primary responsibility is to provide the best education for students.
As for the unions, the generational and philosophical divides that exist among their members will only continue to grow. Abraham Lincoln famously said that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Nothing could be truer.
Association of American Educators
Mission Viejo, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 2010 edition of Education Week as Unions’ Outdated Systems And Bloated Bureaucracy