TGA Podcast: Episode 144

After 2 weeks off, TGA is back, baby! We cover a huge range of topics, from Evangelicals trying desperately to reconcile science and faith, to Muslims in Indonesia doing a little ‘house cleaning’. Be sure not to miss out on the links below for my movie and book recommendations for this week.

Recommendations:
The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home
Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
Waiting for Superman

Comments (16)

  • avatar

    Sterling Knight

    What happened to the old player?

  • avatar

    Justin

    Nice. I missed TGA podcast 🙁

  • avatar

    Dan

    *sends electric shock to your balls*

  • avatar

    Douglas Ittner

    Way to do absolutely no research when you talk shit about teachers. First off, teachers aren’t given tenure automatically, they get a recommendation after good performance and allowed to apply. Any school district offering tenure after two years is the exception, not the rule.

    You might want to check your stats before bitching about unions. The states with higher union membership also have better student performance than those states that have low or no teacher union membership. So where you go the notion that unions and contract negotiations is the problem is beyond me. Perhaps someone who only knows only one adjective is rather bitter about teachers, but tell me, do you honestly think that taking away a teacher’s health care, pensions and cutting their salary is really going to improve the education situation? Seems your only “facts” you base it on is a movie you watched. Perhaps you better spend a bit more time in university before puking such utter, ignorant bullshit upon the people.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    read this article. No one is talking about taking people’s benefits away. But not being able to fire bad teachers is a huge problem that isn’t going away.
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/31/090831fa_fact_brill

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    “Tenure guarantees teachers with more than three years’ seniority a job for life, unless, like those in the Rubber Room, they are charged with an offense and lose in the arduous arbitration hearing.

  • avatar

    godlessirish

    Podcast not appearing in iTunes subscription. 🙁

  • avatar

    godlessirish

    Podcast appearing in iTunes subscription. 🙂

  • avatar

    Ryan Holzem

    Point well taken, but getting rid of tenure would remove the check that protects the teacher from the whims of the public/parents. Kind of like when a group of religious parents attempt to remove a teacher that merely taught evolution. The answer to bad teachers is a better tenure track process that is more sheltered from corruption. However, we have to keep in mind that this process still wouldn’t be perfect. In the U.S, and probably the root of Douglas’ anger, is that tenure, among other superficial claims is used as a strawman to alter public opinion and subsequently tear down teacher’s unions and to eliminate teacher’s benefits (check out Wisconsin’s recent battle). Hell, these type of strawman arguments are used for all unions and everyone has there anecdote to support these unjustified, mostly untrue (or misdirected) claims.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Protection from the whims of parents is not enough to justify the 100 million dollars New York spends trying to fire bad teachers.

  • avatar

    Douglas Ittner

    Ah, so you are in favor of breaking labor contracts that both parties agreed to. Or is it that you think a teacher should be fired at will regardless of the facts of the case. Brilliant, guilty before proven innocent. Lovely legal system you have there.

    Keep in mind the union contract protects good teachers as well as bad ones. I know you don’t know much about the issue but there have been many cases where people have tried to fire teachers because they don’t like the fact they’re Atheists (clearly you advocate having them fired, I don’t know what you have against Atheists these days).

    Take for example the case of Richard Mullens. Despite being well-like by the students the school took issue, called him an Atheist and a liberal and wanted him fired. The principle and the school board all happened to be from the same church and wanted this guy gone. In Texas it’s illegal to have teacher’s form a union (despite the US Constitution apparently) so he had nobody to. So Texas doesn’t have the union blocking the firing of “bad teachers” so why does Texas rank last when it comes to education and has to cut the education budget because of financial problems?

    Sorry bub, but you are clearly clueless on the entire issue (and NY doesn’t spend 100 million a year trying to fire bad teachers).

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Hey dude, if you’re going to try and spin your facts, how about providing some proof. Here’s the New York Times reporting the 100 million figure spent on bad teachers. Try reading it:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/nyregion/16rubber.html

  • avatar

    Douglas Ittner

    First off “dude” New York isn’t the only place with teachers so let’s not try overgeneralizing. Second, read your own damn article:
    “As the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, has increased efforts to get rid of teachers the city deems ineffective, the number of teachers in rubber rooms has grown. There are now about 550, costing the city $30 million a year.”

    $30 million isn’t $100 million and having a teacher go through the review process doesn’t instantly mean they are bad teachers.

    Since you’ve appeared to check all reason at the door you probably failed to realize there are school boards all throughout the nation. You never supported your position that unions are the result of poor teacher performance. Since all you have done for your “research” is one poor documentary and apparently a Google search for an article that supports your position (by focusing on one city of a nation of thousands of cities, nice selective bias), you might like to check out the nation as a whole. I might as well add your original argument was about teacher performance, not the complaint that getting rid of teachers is so expensive so your NY Times article is quite irrelevant.

    Since you are strictly focusing on unions your claim is there is a negative correctional relationship between union membership and school performance. First a study by the Harvard Educational Review which refutes your claim:
    http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ617440&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ617440

    And an article in the Washington Post which takes on your claim by reviewing data from NAEP which shows that states with higher union membership perform better than those with less or no union membership:
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/how-states-with-no-teacher-uni.html

    Your argument that the cost of firing teachers is really high is really irrelevant since you haven’t demonstrated that lowering the cost would somehow improve student performance. I don’t even see how that factor would even relate. The data shows your initial claim has no merit and trying to focus on one city in an entire nation reveals an illogical selective bias.

    So try again “dude”.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Don’t create a false dichotomy that one is either For Unions or Against Unions. I never implied this, although you sure tried to do it for me. I said the need to renegotiate is real. Tenure is messed. The inability to fire teachers is messed. You want to maintain the status quo out of fear. It may not be entirely unjustified (considering how organized conservatives are), but if you want to talk facts, then please explain how a country that spends more money on Education that any other industrialized nation has such a low literacy, math scores, etc. (in the state of New Jersey, the average spent on a student is over $200,000), this despite the teacher’s salary being relatively low.

    Unions don’t just protect teachers, but administrators, corrupt bureaucracies, etc. The public school system in America needs to change, and that can’t happen the way many unions are structured.

    BTW, doing better doesn’t mean doing well. Your report card as a nation is a disgrace, and I can understand why. No one is willing to take accountability in your nation, and this extends further than simply education. Continue to believe that your system isn’t broken.

    P.S. While it’s true that not all teachers up for review are bad, i’d wager 20 bucks that a random sampling would be quite appalling.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    also, the survey you pointed to has no peer review (which is typically not a good sign), and can’t be seen without a subscription. As the Washington post “guest blog article” (which makes these opinions about as educated as mine) isn’t really all that inspired (it’s basically trying to undermine the efforts of the reforms in DC). I’m not suggesting I have all the answers on the topic, but you’ve got to do better than that, bud.

  • avatar

    Douglas Ittner

    Ignoring your multiple red herrings as you reveal your desperation. On your show you blamed the test scores on the unions. The data shows that states with higher union membership have higher test scores, so in desperation you throw out one red herring (it costs a lot for the review process for firing). You cherry pick data that suits your needs (New York City data, one school boards standards for tenure) and ignore the rest. Now you compare the nation’s results to other nations which utterly defeats your claim since the other nations you compare America to have higher union membership. Then you throw out the red herring of cost again, all in an effort to distance yourself from the claim you clearly can’t support.

    As for your charge that the statistical data isn’t peer reviewed, well, it’s statistics based on national test scores, what is there to peer review? Is the process of adding up scores and dividing them up by the number of students so utterly difficult that multiple researchers need to run the same data through the computers? Is the process of looking at union membership and the number of employed teachers in public school a difficult mathematical challenge? Clearly you’re lashing out in desperation and digging yourself a deeper hole.

    Despite Montreal having quite decent libraries I’ll post the conclusion of the study you dismissed without reading:
    “They find a significant and positive relationship: that is, the presence of teacher unions appears to be linked to stronger state performance on these exams. These findings challenge the position that teacher unions depress student academic performance, and in so doing invite further empirical scholarship on this topic from a range of academic disciplines.

    Our finding that teacher unions are positively linked to state average SAT and ACT scores prompts the question of why. Clearly, our study challenges the “rent-seeking” view outlined earlier, which envisions teacher unions at odds with what parents desire from schooling, namely, the educational advancement of their children. The zero-sum orientation that permeates much research on unions and assumes that worker gains inevitably result in production losses appears misguided, at least with respect to teacher unions. Still, our data cannot distinguish among the previously outlined explanations for the positive relationship between unions and state-level SAT and ACT scores. However, in supplementary analyses (available from the authors), we were able to test one possibility: that teacher unions are positively related to lower average class size (i.e., student-teacher ratios), higher per ca¬pita expenditures on education (adjusting for interstate variation in the cost of living), and higher salary (also adjusting for cost of living) . Although these variables are linked to state SAT and ACT scores, their inclusion in our models did not significantly reduce the effect of teacher unionization. Other mechanism (s) (i.e., better working conditions; greater worker autonomy, security, and dignity; improved administration; better training of teachers; greater levels of faculty professionalism) must be at work here. Future scholarship should be directed at unraveling why teacher unions appear to favor¬ably influence academic outcomes.

    Finally, this study cannot tell us if there is an overall net benefit of teacher unions, at least with respect to cost effectiveness. Because we examined the link between teacher unions and productivity but not costs, we cannot gauge whether the higher test scores are enough to offset the purportedly higher costs of unionization. Whether there is a net benefit of teacher unions hinges not only on the impact of teacher unions on economic (and non¬economic) costs, but also on the specific costs deemed acceptable (by the public, policymakers, or academe) for a unit increase in educational productivity — an assessment for which consensus may be difficult to reach. Moreover, even if, through some mechanism, unionization raises test scores, teacher unions may be a relatively inefficient vehicle of educational reform: for example, states might raise scores more with an identical investment in school infrastructure, additional teacher training, or special programs.”

    Funny charge that I’m the one who has to do better since you have presented absolutely nothing to support your initial claim. Thanks for the argument from ignorance but it’s not up to me to disprove the claims you make. I feel like I’m debating a creationist.

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