In spite of the fact that the Republican Party has decided on a strategy of lock-step obstructionists (as opposed to co-negotiators of national policy), President Obama has decided to take on one of its bedrock constituents, the teachers’ unions and other education organizations, on matters of education.
His education policy that he announced recently included planks on accountability testing and merit pay that teachers’ organizations have successfully opposed for years.
Earlier in the week I complained about two organizations – the Catholic Church and the Muslim leaders who run Saudi Arabia – for adopting rules, not because they are in the public interest, but because they serve to benefit the organization. In doing so, I also pointed out that these are human characteristics that do not require a belief in God.
Teachers’ organizations also fit this pattern – adopting rules that are harmful to others because the organization itself benefits those rules. It does not do so as a matter of a conspiracy. Instead, it follows a similar pattern of self-deception.
Whereas the religious groups above propose the fiction that, “These rules whereby individuals sacrifice their interests for the sake of the organization actually serve a higher purpose – that is God,” many teachers’ organizations promulgate the myth, “These policies that actually benefit the Union at a significant cost to others actually serve a higher purpose – the children.”
The most destructive of these myths is the myth of class size – that the best way to serve the interests of children is to have fewer children in a class. Fewer children per class means more teachers. More teachers means a larger union. A larger union means more economic power in the hands of union leaders.
However, take a serious look at what is implied by the principle of smaller class sizes.
Assume that you are going to create a brand new school. As long as we are entertaining a fantasy, let’s make it a free-thought school – a Camp Quest boarding school where students will not have to endure being told by their government and their teachers that moral worth and good citizenship require a belief in God.
We are going to have 3000 students in our school. If we assume a class size of 30 students per class, this means that we are going to need to hire 100 teachers. We place our advertisements, we hold our interviews, and we give our job offers.
If we are in any way competent and responsible in our hiring process we are going to hire the best 100 teachers who are willing to accept whatever we offer in terms of salary, benefits, and the like.
Note: Many studies on class size ignore the feature that adding class size means adding lower-quality teachers. Their study groups are made of teachers randomly drawn out of the teacher pool, rather than drawing the worst teachers out of the teacher pool.
Now, somebody comes along and says that, instead of 30 students per class we should have 20 students per class.
This means we are going to have to hire another 50 teachers.
Assuming that we are at all competent in our hiring process, we are going to have to hire 50 teachers who are not as good as the 100 teachers we actually hired. Furthermore, we are going to then transfer students away from teachers who have an average rank of 50 (out of our original 100 teachers), and give them teachers with an average rank of 125 (of our new staff of 150 teachers).
Finally, not only are we going to transfer a third of our students from better teachers to worse teachers, we are going to pay a substantial amount of money to do so. If we assume that we were going to pay each teacher $50,000 (regardless of merit), our budget for teaching has just jumped from $5 million to $7.5 million.
This does not include the extra cost to build additional classrooms and to buy classroom-specific (as opposed to student-specific) equipment and employee benefits.
But, let’s look on the bright side, the teachers’ organization would have 50 members it would not have otherwise had.
I want to repeat, this argument does not imply that the teachers’ organization is made up of people who are knowingly spreading lies for the sake of promoting their own interests regardless of who suffers. The teachers’ organization is made up of people who are as good at deceiving themselves as they are at deceiving others into believing that what is good for the Union is good for the students.
As I have said, this is a human failing. It is not a failing of the Saudi Arabian Muslims specifically, or of the Catholic Church, or of teachers’ organizations. As atheist organizations gain in power, we expect that their leaders, also, will confuse what benefits the leaders of the organization with what is right, and become proponents of evil policies themselves.