October 2, 1996

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Vol. 16, Issue 05
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One of the more memorable events associated with my 20-year tenure as the president of the Council for Basic Education was the opportunity in 1983 to address the members of the National Press Club at one of their lunchtime presentations broadcast throughout the country on National Public Radio. With the able assistance of my deputy, Dennis Gray, I decided to entitle the address "Three Assassins of Excellence." The assassins were disparity, minimum-competency testing, and misguided utilitarianism.
Sharon McGreevey teaches 3rd grade at the Menlo Park School in Metuchen, N. J. Ms. McGreevey is a very good teacher. She regards the optimism and enthusiasm that so characteristically energize her 22 8-year-olds as the positive and binding force for her class. So Ms. McGreevey strives to approach all lessons in ways that reflect and build upon the optimism and enthusiasm of the children. It never occurs to her to measure a child in terms of limitations. Indeed, every classroom experience is treated in terms of possibilities and good reason.
When presidential hopeful Bob Dole recently blamed teachers' unions for the failure of American public education, he aimed at capitalizing on their negative public image. The Republican nominee hoped to tap the deep vein of voters' mistrust--the conviction that teachers' unions are self-serving and power-hungry, and that they are chief obstacles to school reform. While there is some justification for this perception--after all, teachers' unions, like trade unions, were created originally as adversaries whose sole purpose was to balance management's unchecked power--Mr. Dole's comments were mean-spirited. More important, he missed the point. The fact is that unions, and the 3 million teachers they represent, must be partners in any reform movement. Marginalizing them is a formula for disaster.
FOUNDATION SUPPORT: Coverage of specific topics in Education Week is supported in part by grants from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CME Group Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of the articles that are underwritten by the foundations. Additional grants in support of Editorial Projects in Education’s data journalism and video capacity come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (Updated 1/1/2017)

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