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Thompson: Why Some Teachers Embrace "Astroturf" Organizations

ModeltRichard Colvin's "Taking Back Teaching" in Education Next quotes policy analyst Julia Koppich, who says, “the new generation of teachers aren’t collectivists, they’re pretty much individualists. They don’t understand unions. And the unions don’t understand them.” I am not sure that the misunderstanding between unions and teachers who have been on the job long enough to find the restrooms is that deep.  But, Koppich's point is well-taken.

Colvin also cites Brad Jupp, a former union leader and an adviser to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who says that teachers who join groups like E4E  want "personal efficacy."  Similarly Evan Stone, the E4E co-founder explains of his own experience, “Inside our classrooms we had so much autonomy and control, and outside we had no control or influence in the school, the district, or beyond.”

The solution, of course, would be for young teachers to work with veterans to restore the professional autonomy of all teachers, so that we can better influence schools and districts. All educators who value their own individuality should help other teachers who have been turned into "widgets" by high-stakes testing. But, E4E demands the opposite.  Instead, that "astroturf" organization drew "a line in the sand" requiring their members to support its positions on issues ranging from value-added evaluations to school choice and merit pay. 

So, which is it? Are its co-founders, Stone and Syndey Morris "tired of being treated as subjects of change, instead of as partners in transforming the education system.” Or, do they want to exercise their own personal efficacy by helping the billionaires seeking to micromanage teachers? Do Stone and Morris have a problem with turning teachers into cogs in a Model T assembly line or do they just want to be inside the Henry Ford-style cadre who run the operation?-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via


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Colvin and others who are paid by the "reform" sector have to stretch and contort to make it look like there are teachers to support their sector, because that's what they're paid for.

Sure, there are probably some young teachers who don't get that they too will someday need sane schedules, job security and pensions. Those are a scattering of outliers, and the "reform" sector pays its folks to make it sound like they're a substantial number.

To resort to handy cliches, take it with a grain of salt -- and, as always, follow the money.

Caroline, if I'm being paid by the "reform" sector then I should investigate because the checks must be going to the wrong address. Could you tell me who is supposedly paying me so I can contact them?

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