More Evidence that Teacher Unions = The Tobacco Institute

Events this week help provide more support for my argument that the teacher unions are rapidly turning into the Tobacco Institute.  The defeat (again) of the unions in Wisconsin and the article by Paul Peterson, William Howell, and Marty West showing the sharply declining popularity of teacher unions — even among teachers — support this post I wrote almost 3 years ago:

I want to add a little to my post the other day about how the teacher unions lie and so should not be treated as credible players in policy discussions.

The unions don’t have to lie.  The NEA didn’t have to falsely claim that the DC voucher program “yielded no evidence of positive impact on student achievement.”  They could have said something about the effects not being large or that there are other harms to vouchers that are greater than the benefits.  A pattern of lying fundamentally undermines the credibility of the teacher unions so that they will increasingly be shunned in policy discussions and lose in policy debates.

You may think that the unions are so powerful that they can just lie and get away with it, but you’d be wrong.  Remember the fate of the tobacco industry.  They created the Tobacco Institute, which produced “research” claiming to be unable to find links between smoking and cancer.

The tobacco companies didn’t have to do this.  They could have just said that people should be free to choose whether they smoke or not regardless of health risks.  They didn’t have to lie about health effects, they could have just said that it was none of the public’s business whether people chose to smoke or not.

At the time it was conventional political wisdom that the Tobacco Institute could get away with lying because the tobacco lobby was so powerful and rich that they could do almost anything.  But eventually lying destroys one’s credibility in a way that no amount of money can restore.  And the teacher unions may suffer the same fate as the Tobacco Institute.  They may seem all-powerful right now, but over time it is hard to sustain dumb ideas, especially when lying.

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10 Responses to More Evidence that Teacher Unions = The Tobacco Institute

  1. George Mitchell says:

    Jay,

    Howard Fuller and I did a study, with Michael Hartmann, in the 1990s of the Milwaukee teacher contract. We concluded that bargaining had been negative vis a vis educational outcomes. We assumed there was NO WAY bargaining could be curtailed so we argued instead that it should occur in public. Our hope was that more sunshine would temper the bad effects. While we documented the negative impact quite well, we obviously were dead wrong about the prospects for reducing the role of bargaining. Yesterday’s monumental election in Wisconsin follows several years of declining influence on the part of teacher unions. I both welcome it and certainly did not see it coming. Your insights of a few years back are now becoming conventional wisdom.

  2. People with a legislatively created monopoly and access to OPM tend to behave as if they have no accountability. Because they really don’t as long as they curry the favor of political superiors.

    Accreditation in education works the same way.

    Jay-you really should read my latest post on accreditation and education, both K-12 and higher ed http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/is-accreditation-the-enforcer-for-unescos-vision-of-solidarity/

    See you in July in Gainesville! Hope it is as good as that Mary Mac’s breakfast.

  3. Dave Saba says:

    We were working on legislation for alternative certification in Missouri and the democrat on the ed committee wanted it to work so St. Louis could get decent teachers. The union fought us and she asked for a compromise – take out elementary and she would vote for it. She asked the union to write the amendment. They wrote it saying that the bill would allow teachers through alternative certification unless they were primary or secondary – eliminating all teachers. She introduced it without reading and was so furiously embarrassed she screamed at the idiot. It is like they can’t help themselves. After the gun is emptied they reload to continue shooting their feet.

  4. GGW says:

    You wrote: “If I woke up tomorrow and decided that vouchers made no sense, I would be perfectly free to do so without penalty. My position as a tenured professor does not depend at all on my believing that something is true.”

    Isn’t it a bit more complicated than that? Your position would not change, but your *brand* as a scholar would change, right? Significantly.

    Would you perceive this, and the changed relationships with many colleagues, as a penalty? Possibly/Probably.

    For Ravitch, the adoration of her new crowd seems to be very satisfying for her. But she seems like an outlier.

    • I suppose there is always some price to be paid for witching positions, at least psychologically. My point is that the price for me is very low relative to employees of the teacher unions or other advocacy groups.

  5. [...] Campbell Brown’s recent dust up with AFT President Randi Weingarten, Jay Greene says, . . . the teacher unions are finally being treated as the special interest group they are rather than as credible players in the discussion over the merits of various education policies. [...]

  6. [...] . .  the teacher unions are finally being treated as the special interest group they are rather than as credible players in the discussion over the merits of various education policies. [...]

  7. [...] Campbell Brown’s recent dust up with AFT President Randi Weingarten, Jay Greene says, . . . the teacher unions are finally being treated as the special interest group they are rather than as credible players in the discussion over the merits of various education [...]

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