Our friends over at Openfile (yay! someone on the local media scene is even newer than we are!) published some gratuitous union-bashing commentary by education consultant Paul W. Bennett yesterday. Bennett says public schools aren’t doing enough to integrate modern technology in the classroom, especially the things kids are most fond of, like Facebook and smartphones.
The guilty parties, according to Bennett, don’t seem to be the school board or the Department of Education, both of whom have technology integration programs he apparently disapproves of. Nope, it’s the big bad Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union, a “powerful organization representing 9,800 teachers” that holds “invisible influence” over the way technology is (not) implemented in schools.
Bennett backs up this accusation with…um, nothing. He links to a long, general anti-union report by the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies which mentions the word “technology” exactly once (I ctrl-F’ed it), and then references the union’s recent collective agreement, which he claims “put[s] teachers ahead of kids in the system.“
There are no quotes from anyone at the NSTU, no link to any news articles, press releases, position papers, nothing. But you know, unions are bad. And as every parent knows, teachers as a breed are very selfish people, never giving up lunch hours or after-school time to coach teams, direct musicals, run clubs, give extra help, or talk to kids and their parents about their problems.
Improvements could certainly be made in the way technology is used in many classrooms – use varies by subject and by individual teacher. But although kids of course need to learn to navigate the high-tech world around them, sometimes the last thing I want to do is stick them in front of a computer screen for yet another hour of the day.
Want kids to learn better? Want them to gain the life skills like critical thinking and problem-solving, essential for mastering all that new technology (much of which will be obsolete by the time any curriculum gets around to absorbing it)? Then give teachers smaller classes and the time and resources to do our jobs well (like they do in Finland) - the kind of things teachers' unions are known to fight for.