Teaching Profession

Audience Debate Puts Unions in Spotlight

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 19, 2010 1 min read

Well, this is interesting. Intelligence Squared U.S., the originator of a live debate series that’s aired on NPR and on Bloomberg television, recently had folks like AFT president Randi Weingarten and scholar Terry Moe, a critic of unions, go head to head over this resolution: “Don’t Blame Teachers’ Unions for Our Failing Schools.”

The program consists of a debate by several panelists, some who support the resolution at hand and others who don’t. The audience’s reaction is polled both before and after the debate, and compared to see which “side” made the most compelling case.

You can see a transcript with the polling results here, but in essence, most of the voters listed as “undecided” before the debate ended up voting against the resolution, meaning they felt unions should be blamed for failing schools. I wonder what that says about ESEA reauthorization, given that unions are so far the major opponents of the plan put forward by the administration.

Weingarten’s participation here seems curious, because the question itself sort of presupposes that unions are the major variable in school success. Surely everyone can agree that, while unions are important, there are many other factors affecting our troubled schools.

Maybe we ARE getting a step closer to Survivor: The Rubber Room edition.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.