The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education
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“A stunning indictment!” — John Stossell, ABC News

“Peter Brimelow demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that the teacher unions, through their control of the government education monopoly, are the major source of

The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education

the gross deficiencies in our government school system. He makes a persuasive case that real education reform requires introducing competition through vouchers and other means and eliminating the legal privileges that are the major source of the unions’ enormous political and economic power.”

– Milton Friedman, Nobel Economics Laureate


Peter Brimelow (click here for mildly flattering photograph) is President of the Center For American Unity, a Senior Fellow of the Pacific Research Institute and an editor of VDARE.COM(which focuses on issues raised in his immigration policy book and has NOTHING to do with education.) A career financial journalist, Brimelow is also a columnist writing about arcane investment questions for CBS MarketWatch - archived here. His work for Forbes Magazine is erratically archived here.

email Peter Brimelow [email protected]

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  • Peter Brimelow Reviews Reviews: Izzy Lyman Interview Peter Brimelow writes: Purely journalistically, this is an excellent interview covering much ground very efficiently. Izzy Lyman's Homeschooling Revolution blog is a real power, judging from the number of visitors that VDARE.COM gets from it. Internet 1, Established Media 0 (not for the first time). We're trying to persuade her to write for us!

  • Peter Brimelow Reviews Reviews:'s Chris Arabia Peter Brimelow comments: A friendly review from David Horowitz's webzine - a veteran of the Ed Wars, and a reason why the NEA and the whole Educrat Blob is toast: the opposition is organized. (Unlike immigration reform, but it's coming). Chris echoes the general feeling that my style is too flip. My reaction: (a) this is a very BORING (compared to immigration) subject. It needs some levity. (b) my diversity-is-strength immigrant view: British journalists think American journalists are earnest bores. (c) they (the teacher reps at the NEA National Assembly) ARE fat!!!    But maybe I'm wrong...

  • Peter Brimelow Reviews the Washington Post's Jay Matthews (Again, More Critically) Peter Brimelow comments: there's a startling difference between the Washington Post's Jay Matthews in print (here), on the web, and especially in person at the Cato Institute. My theory: there's an inner circle effect in much intellectual activity, and outsiders are not welcome, particularly when they want to talk about something new  i.e. law and economics rather than pedagogy, especially in the snootiest sanctums - e.g. the hallowed pages of the Washington Post print edition. Similarly, my book on Canadian politics was never reviewed by the main U.S. Canadian studies journal, although it has actually turned out to be right on all the major trends. Grade: N/A, because this isn't a review but a polite evasion - and, hey, because Jay was generous elsewhere!

  • Peter Brimelow Reviews Reviews: Tom Bethell in American Spectator Peter Brimelow writes: Tom Bethell's trademark discursive essay style (harder than it looks) applied to the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force on K-12 Education. This is where the teacher unions come in. If you want to go straight to the generous reference to WORM, click here. Grade: A.

  • John O'Sullivan reviews Worm in the Apple in the Chicago Sun-Times James Fulford writes: Since John O’Sullivan is the godfather of Peter Brimelow’s son Alexander Frank Brimelow, the much-commented on young man to whom Alien Nation is dedicated, Peter Brimelow recused himself from reviewing this review. I give it an A+, for focusing the main economic point: productivity goes down while spending goes up.

    Take class size, for example. Your local board of education will ask for an increase in taxes to lower teacher-pupil ratios, and issue self-congratulatory press releases when they’ve done it. What they won’t be able to do is show that the students are better off.

    It’d be like General Motors boasting to their shareholders that they are hiring more people to make fewer cars, which may or may not run.

  • Roger Hedgecock on the Rush Limbaugh Show, Friday, May 9, 2003 - Peter Brimelow writes: it's a fascinating commentary on the sheer power of talk radio in general, and Rush Limbaugh's show in particular, that this terse albeit incisive comment by Roger Hedgecock, subbing for Rush that day, propelled WORM to its highest point yet on the Amazon's all-inclusive sales rankings - #30. My appearance on the O'Reilly Factor produced the previous record - #41. I can't listen to radio and write at the same time, so many thanks to VDARE.COM readers for reporting this.

  • David Orland for Focus On The Family Peter Brimelow writes: The Teacher Trust and Dr. James Dobson's Focus On The Family are equally formidable operations and they each have a pretty clear idea about the other - hence Orland's highlighting of my point that all the NEA's critics get denounced as "extremists."  An effective and polite summary. Grade: A

  • Robert Holland in The American Conservative, April 7, 2003 - Peter Brimelow writes: I don't know Robert Holland personally, but he has written extensively on education. This review shows evidence of close reading of the book, catching the input-output question and also that I don't regard busting the Teacher Trust as a panacea for K-12 education reforms - just a prerequisite. Of course, I don't just make my "wishes regard to their political feasibility" - I explicitly eschew the subject on the grounds that no-one, least of all professional politicians, know what is politically feasible beyond the immediate future. The same applies to immigration reform!

  • Jonathan Leaf In The Weekly Standard, March 24 2003 - Peter Brimelow comments: The playwright Jon Leaf is himself an expert on the teacher union, having spent five years teaching in New York City, and in an ideal world I would have collaborated with him on WORM. But I disagree that my argument isn't novel! I don't think the legal framework of the Teacher Trust has been explored before, and I don't think the input-output analysis is being done anywhere.

  • Peter Brimelow On BookTV Saturday April 12 at 10 a.m. Peter Brimelow comments: This is the third time Book TV has run its version of my Cato Institute talk, but I keep neglecting to flag it. Cato has its own video and audio versions, but maybe this one has a better camera angle. (Can't do much about the accent!)

  • Mary Walsh in Human EventsFebruary 3, 2003 - Peter Brimelow comments: Ms. Walsh has an interesting mind: she notes both qualitative and quantitative aspects of my analysis. She is also the only reviewer so far to pick up my point about the peculiar gender structure of the NEA - female membership, male (piously liberal) leadership. More of a summary than a review but, hey...Grade: A.

  • The O'Reilly Factor, February 26, 2003 - Peter Brimelow comments: Because of the Iraq War (sigh) this is the one big media break we've had, and it's had a dramatic impact on sales. Being interviewed by Bill O'Reilly is rather like falling into a washing machine. He has an agenda; fortunately for me, it includes education. Note that O'Reilly makes the common assumption that "Right To Work" - the right not to join the union - would make a big difference. In fact, because it can leave the union in exclusive control of negotiations with the school board, it's significant but not decisive. Reform of collective bargaining laws is the key.

  • David Lombino in Litchfield County Times, March 14, 2003 - Peter Brimelow comments: We have a very upscale weekly paper here in the Connecticut Berkshires, catering to New York and Boston weekenders, and David Lombino is a highly educated (Taft, Williams) young man. The result, ironically, is my personal favorite review - strictly speaking,interview - to date, because it neatly summarizes the economic issue and the fact that the Teacher Trust is driving the fiscal crisis, with supporting local evidence. A+

  • Jay Mathews in, Tuesday February 25, 2003 - Peter Brimelow comments: This is a generous review in a paper from which I didn't expect any quarter. Matthews' conclusion - that he sees no sign of the unions "inside the classroom" - indicates the great gulf between financial/ economic journalism and education reporting. Education reporters want to write about pedagogy - teaching. Abstract systemic questions mean nothing to them - that school management cannot e.g. fire those teachers "inside the classroom," nor hire replacements freely. The union has made a desert and called it school.

  • Tom Sowell's February 27 syndicated column - Peter Brimelow comments: A brief, friendly reference, but reverberating impressively as it appears in papers across the country. Tom Sowell obviously has a real following. Hard to believe it's 16 years since I profiled him in FORBES!

  • Baltimore Sun, February 23, 2003 -  Peter Brimelow comments: Ah, this is a return to the good old Alien Nation days! - knee-jerk hysteria at the very mention of the topic, without any sign that the reviewer has read the book. Thus John McIntyre says that "How law, medicine and the church protect incompetents without the benefit of unions is a subject he does not enter into..." Apart from its childish, so's-your-father irrelevance - what possible difference does this make to whether or not the teacher union is a problem? - McIntyre's argument is simply wrong. I specifically say in WORM that the Teacher Trust is just one of a number of cases where an interest group, because of some institutional accident, can temporarily extort rents from society - such as stockbrokers before negotiated commission rates, airline pilots before deregulation and...trial lawyers. (p.76). No wonder he's "assistant managing editor for the copy desk." - Grade: F

  • The Detroit News, February 23, 2003 - Peter Brimelow comments: An effective transposition of the Teacher Trust problem into Michigan terms. Tom Bray was a major figure on the Wall Street Journal editorial page when I spent an instructive summer there in 1978.

  • Bullies in the Schoolyard, by Howard Dickman - Peter Brimelow comments: I have to admit this is decent of the Wall Street Journal, after our various disagreements. The writer, Howard Dickman, is an old friend. (This happens when you get to my age.) No mention of input-output or legal framework. Sigh. Grade: A

  • UPI Story on The Worm In the Apple and the Voucher Question, by Lou Marano Peter Brimelow comments: This is a really solid interview, with Checker Finn and myself, dramatically highlighting the input/output question, among others. I've heard some whimpering about my comparison between the (efficient) British socialist education system 1944-1970s and the (troubled but low-cost) British socialist National Health System, because I noted that both were based on triage. But it's true! Grade: A

  • Publisher's Weekly, December 23, 2002 Peter Brimelow comments: Pedestrian review. Misses the point that WORM is not an "opinion piece," but reporting, with extensive data from official sources on the government school system's extraordinary productivity decline and the new drop-out crisis, besides the more familiar qualitative problems. Of course, this is all in the dense second chapter, which had Harper Collins' Tim Duggan twitching unhappily. Grade: C

  • The Washington Times, February 02, 2003 - Peter Brimelow comments: "Devastating and marvelously readable." Yes, I can live with that. Of course, Checker Finn is a (neo)conservative writing for a conservative paper, an example where the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy has a little traction i.e. business as usual by the standards of the Vast Liberal Conspiracy. What I really like is evidence that Finn had read the book - this is actually quite rare among book reviewers - i.e. his noting my detailed reform recommendations and my argument that the union has weaknesses. Again, no mention of the input-output problem of government school system, and not much of the legal framework, but, hey...Grade: A

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