The Richmond Times-Dispatch
The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education
The Weekly Standard; Washington; Mar 24, 2003; Jonathan Leaf;
The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education by Peter Brimelow (HarperCollins, 320 pp., $24.95).
Education these days, someone once declared, is "casting false pearls before real swine." Why are contemporary students so poor? In The Worm in the Apple, journalist Peter Brimelow makes the case that teachers' unions have hijacked our education system and, increasingly, our legislative organs as well. Brimelow acknowledges that some public schools still function with competence-but that achievement is sporadic and realized only through ever rising spending. Declining schools, he says, reflect sclerotic socialism compounded by out-of-control trade-unionism.
Brimelow is a punchy writer with a compelling, natural voice. His argument in The Worm in the Apple isn't novel, but the weight of new and damning examples makes the book important. He cites, for instance, repeated occasions on which teachers' unions have taken over the school boards responsible for negotiating their contracts. He shows the virtual impossibility of firing incompetent, lazy, and recalcitrant teachers. He reveals the ways in which union clout compels useless staffing. He documents the billions of dollars unions have spent on campaigns against school choice and reform of requirements for starting teachers-and the billions the unions make from dubious insurance schemes for their members.
A nation's fate derives at least as much from its schools as from its armies. Why, Brimelow asks, do we allow this scandal to persist?
Copyright Weekly Standard Mar 24, 2003