Bruno: More "Divide And Conquer," Please
Rick Hess had a great post last week pointing out that even if you think your debate opponents are wrong about an issue, that doesn't necessarily mean they're being unreasonable. He defends the strategic value of respecting your opponents' points of view because "[e]mpathy is ultimately the difference between cage-busters who implode amidst endless battles and those who, studying their Sun-Tzu, operate with determination and deliberation."
Hess illustrates the idea by describing why veteran teachers drive union opposition to compensation and seniority reform when those things might be to the benefit of less-veteran members. As it happens, that's the sort of difficulty Sun-Tzu addressed directly in The Art of War: "If [your enemy's] forces are united, separate them." And this raises the question - at least in my mind - of why reformers haven't adopted a divide-and-conquer strategy more frequently.
The overall merits of the particular reform aside, if it's true that younger teachers would be more open to, say, seniority reform, why not appeal directly to them and appease many of the veterans by exempting them and giving them some additional carrot? Not only would this be the Sun-Tzu-approved method, it's exactly the tactic politicians take all the time when attempting "reforms" of social security, Medicare, etc. It's not usually the most efficient thing to do in policy terms, but it seems to be effective and acceptable politics.
Indeed, my general sense is that reformers have had some of their biggest successes implementing their agenda when they manage to carve up the potential opposition this way: think about Michelle Rhee's negotiations with the DC teachers union in 2010. So why don't we see more divide-and-conquer strategies in the education reform wars? - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)