Teacher Union Advocates Get Schooled in Debate
Intelligence Squared is a public charity dedicated to providing a public forum for intelligent discussion on a wide range of important and/or controversial issues. They host Oxford-style debates in which teams of three argue opposing sides of a motion. Before the debate begins, the live audience members register their opinions on the topic, and they do the same after the debate so that, in effect, observers can discern which side’s arguments the listeners found most persuasive.
On March 16, the topic up for debate was whether teacher unions should be blamed for failing public schools. Arguing that teacher unions should not be blamed were Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers; Gary Smuts, a superintendent of a successful public school district in California; and Kate McLaughlin, an elementary school teacher in Lowell, Mass. Arguing that unions should be blamed were Dr. Terry Moe, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University; Rod Paige, former U.S. Secretary of Education; and Larry Sand, a teacher from Los Angeles.
The debate itself is incredibly interesting and well worth watching for anyone interested in the topic of education reform. Although the details of the debate are too numerous to go into here, I will give you an idea of how it turns out.
Before the debate, 43 percent of the audience said that unions were to blame, 24 percent said they were not to blame, and 33 percent were undecided. After the debate, 68 percent said that unions were to blame, 25 percent said they were not to blame, and only 7 percent remained undecided. In short, only one percent of the audience’s undecideds were persuaded by the union advocates, while 25 percent were persuaded by the union’s detractors.