Randi’s got some explaining to do
Emmy Pusateri | Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I want to applaud the Office of the President for choosing such an important topic for the Notre Dame Forum. Our public school system is failing millions of students each year and no solution can be found until a discussion including current leaders and future innovators is held. The massive inequity in schools all across America is prohibiting low-income and minority students from functioning as self-sustaining individuals. More than that, our country is falling in international rankings and we are losing billions of dollars each year in lost wages and taxes. The crisis in American education will paralyze our country economically and socially if something is not done immediately.
Last spring, the Forum’s precursor event, The System, brought together individuals who were wholly committed to changing the face of American education for good. I was then confused when I read that Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, would be speaking as part of the Forum 2011. I recognize that to understand an issue, both sides must be heard out. But why host a discussion on positive change and “reimagining schools” if the largest opponent will continue to halt that progress and conversation?
Unions are not an entirely bad concept, as teachers are still extremely underappreciated and overworked. However today, unions protect ineffective teachers and make it difficult for districts to implement changes to improve the quality of teaching. In no other profession is it acceptable to keep someone around who doesn’t do his or her job. Unions also halt serious efforts at reform for logistical reasons. How does this benefit the kids?
Teachers’ unions place the importance of their members over the needs of children. But who is advocating for the children? Who is lobbying to make sure their rights are being protected? I welcome Weingarten because I think it’s about time the conversation about education came to Notre Dame. I hope students are ready to ask the tough questions, and I hope Weingarten is ready to answer them.