Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

[Susan notes: These letters speak up for student and teacher voice.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re Teachers on the Defensive, by Frank Bruni (column, Aug. 19):

There is no question that teacher bashing, not just union bashing, has become a preoccupation for many, especially those with a vested financial interest in seeing to it that the education of our children is turned over to for-profit schools.

Most unfortunately, Democrats as well as Republicans are now pushing an agenda that calls for more charter schools and vouchers, greater standardized testing, teachers being evaluated based on student test scores and an end to tenure and seniority. No data suggest that schools based on the “reformer” practices have greater success than the vilified public schools when the playing fields are level, but that seems to matter little.

We need to give real educators a voice, along with parents and other community constituencies, in a collaborative effort that truly improves schools in need. That’s the way it’s done in Finland, a paragon of educational success, where top-down management is shunned and where almost all of the teachers are unionized.


Plainview, N.Y., Aug. 19, 2012

The writer is a retired public high school assistant principal.

To the Editor:

What happened to education being the great equalizer?

President Obama’s Race to the Top program pits states, schools and teachers in a race against one another from different starting positions. Teachers are blamed for the “failures” of our education system, despite students and teachers being set up for failure to begin with. Every school’s breakfast program, library, athletic facility and the like must be funded comparably if we genuinely want to improve education.

When the politicization and polarization of education ends and films like “Won’t Back Down” no longer misconstrue the state of our education system, then maybe we will focus on those who really matter: the students.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said, “Students know what’s working and not working in schools before anyone else.” It’s time to listen to the students. It’s time to actually put students first.


Great Neck, N.Y., Aug. 19, 2012

The writer is a student organizer for Student Voice.

To the Editor:

Good teachers need unions, too.

I was an award-winning teacher, and by that I mean that my students won writing awards and scholarships with my guidance. I worked for 39 years in a super school district: great kids, supportive parents, reasonable administrators. However, sometimes parents blamed me for their children’s shortcomings. One dad could not accept his daughter’s laziness and blamed me for her failing grades; some parents felt it was cruel to correct grammar in students’ writing, that it would squash self-esteem.

All these complaints go right to the top, and if I hadn’t had my union representative by my side at meetings, I might have gotten fired years ago. My union protected me from threatening parents and made it possible for me to have what I consider an unusually successful career.


Media, Pa., Aug. 20, 2012

Multiple authors

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.