The End of Teachers Unions: In the Next Two Decades, Their Political Power Will Wane, and America Will Achieve K-12 Reform
In 2012 the American education system was doing what it did best. It was surviving. For decades, it had been subjected to blistering—and well-justified—criticism for its relentlessly poor performance. But thanks to powerful defenders in politics, it had weathered the storm like a rock, virtually immune to the efforts of reformers to bring about major change.
The school system of that era really had two problems. It had a performance problem. That much was obvious. But it also had a political problem—which, in the grander scheme of things, was more fundamental than the performance problem itself because it prevented the performance problem from being addressed and resolved. Reformers had been butting their heads against a wall of power, winning a few battles along the way but consistently losing the war. The system was a disappointment. It was failing the nation. But it was strong and resilient where it counted—in power politics—and it doggedly prevailed.
Unbeknownst to almost everyone at the time, however, the American education system of 2012 was in the early stages of a revolution. The ingredients of change were barely visible, and the revolution would unfold slowly over a period of decades. By 2030, though, it was virtually complete: radically changing the education system and shattering the structure of political power that had long preserved a failing status quo. It was a revolution in education. But it was also a revolution in politics—without which the revolution in education could never have succeeded.
How did all this happen? In particular, how did the system’s power structure—so formidable for so long in blocking change—come tumbling down, and what did the new politics of education that replaced it really mean for children and schools?