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Teacher Recommended

A number of the yard signs for politicians in my neighborhood in Montgomery County, Maryland boast the endorsement, "Teacher Recommended." That means that the candidate has been endorsed by the Montgomery County Education Association, the teacher’s union.

These signs are very useful. As I walk around the neighborhood with my children, I point out the signs and explain that I will be voting against these candidates because teacher recommended is not the same thing as parent recommended or student recommended. In fact, the goals of teachers and teachers’ unions often conflict with the goals of parents and students. Parents (and even sometimes students) want teachers to work hard at educating their children. Many teachers want to work hard. But they also like not working hard sometimes. And the unions frequently (always?) oppose changes in educational policy that might make them work harder. The unions support pay raises for teachers unconnected to performance, something many parents would favor. There is always a tension between employee and employer, no matter how dedicated the employee. That is why we pay people and monitor performance. We don’t just assume that the level of effort and care is the same regardless of the incentives in place.

I explain to my children that the signs try and exploit a confusion we might have between teachers and education. We’re supposed to assume that a candidate that is teacher recommended is pro-education. But the more accurate assumption is that a candidate that is teacher recommended is simply pro-teacher. Being pro-teacher does not make you pro-education and alas, can often be a sign of being anti-education when the goals of teachers and parents conflict as they inevitably do.