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From Publishers Weekly
"The problem with America's government school system is socialism. The solution is capitalism-the introduction of a free market." This provocative theme, stated explicitly by CBS Marketwatch columnist Brimelow, aptly sums up the premise of this lengthy opinion piece on what's wrong with American schooling and how to fix it. The real villains in the government educational scam, according to Brimelow, are the unions, with their bloated bureaucracies, political maneuvering and teacher protection rackets. Brimelow's prescriptions go further than suggesting we simply get rid of unions. His remedies run along predictable ideological lines: turn education over to market forces, hand over responsibility for teacher education to private firms instead of universities and abolish the U.S. Department of Education. Competition, in this paradigm, will solve all of education's problems. For politicians seeking ammunition in the war on public education, Brimelow shares plenty of anecdotes highlighting what he sees as the excesses of teacher unions. Unfortunately, his text suffers from selective use of research and unnecessary teacher bashing (e.g., he opens the book with a commentary on how extraordinarily fat teachers are) to make the point. He can also be hypocritical, as when he accuses union spokespeople of hyperbole when warning against vouchers, merit pay and other conservative proposals for school reform, yet engages in much of the same, detracting from what might otherwise be a welcome addition to the national conversation on education.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Brimelow's Alien Nation (1995), decrying massive immigration to the U.S., made all the multiculturalists diss him, and now he lambastes the National Education Association, the nation's biggest union and, he argues, the most self-serving in the interests of its officers and staff, who see to it they make double whatever they get for teachers. According to Brimelow, the union vacuums up money with legislated agency fees for nonmember teachers and exclusive bargaining rights in most states, and local and state affiliates turn over all surpluses to the national. He claims the union buys politicians like no other lobby and that they are almost exclusively Democrats, despite surveys suggesting a third of NEA members are Republicans. It co-opts every reform it can't crush, and Brimelow shows it maneuvering to own the voucher movement if it can't kill it. In a concluding wish list for curbing the NEA, Brimelow aims high because he feels that it, like the Soviet Union (its institutional inspiration, he thinks), may suddenly collapse. Rougher reading than Alien Nation but just as bracing. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
America is the richest nation in history, but ask young American students from whom their country won its independence, and the answers include Japan, China, and Canada. For decades our education standards have paled in comparison with those of other industrial and even Third World countries, while education costs have risen inexorably. The fact that our schools are in shambles has been the subject of endless debate, and the explanations have run the gamut: teachers are underpaid; students are undisciplined; teaching methods are wrong. But until now, no one has persuasively identified the root problem: the teacher unions.
It is no coincidence that the thirty-year decline in U.S. K-12 education, and the simultaneous surge in education spending, began at the same time that the modern teacher unions were created. Today, the biggest union in the country is the National Education Association, which has nearly 3 million members. Its agenda is not to provide better teaching in schools; it is to provide more money and benefits for teachers -- and, above all, for itself. It accomplishes this through collective bargaining muscle and by buying political influence. Even worse, the unions want to turn curriculum, textbooks, and grading standards into bargaining chips in labor negotiations.
In this devastating critique, Peter Brimelow exposes the teacher unions for what they are: a political and economic monopoly that is choking the education system, like the "trusts" that put a stranglehold on American business a hundred years ago. Until the unions are held accountable, and public schools opened up to market forces, no education reform, no matter how worthy, will succeed. It is time, Brimelow convincingly argues, to bust the Teacher Trust.
The Worm in the Apple paints an alarming picture of the bureaucratic parasite that has taken hold of our schools. It issues a clarion call to rescue students, parents, taxpayers and, not least, teachers -- from its grip.
About the Author
Peter Brimelow, who has two children in public school, is the editor of VDARE.COM, a senior fellow with the Pacific Research Institute, and a columnist for CBS MarketWatch. A financial journalist, he has written extensively about the NEA and the economics of education in Forbes and Fortune. The author of Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster, he has contributed to the Wall Street Journal the New York Times, and the Washington Post.