It’s notable when someone in the Seattle area stands up against “the orthodoxy”. In this case it’s the Washington teachers’ unions and the unimpressive state of education in Washington. There are many reasons for this, but excessive bureaucracy is certainly one:
“It reminded me of the same fights that I have had with the educational establishment. They said I wasn’t an expert in education, and that I should be quiet and stop being so negative. I remembered a teacher urging me not to write that second-graders use calculators on math tests.
That is when I really got angry.“
Seattle has some good reasons to promote diversity, namely a diverse population. Under that banner, though, huddle many people busy ignoring their own self-interest where it can matter most: the students themselves. See the Discovering Math debate for a taste of the discussion.
That’s where another Seattle dynamic (somewhat political as well) plays out: The dissenting opinions and reformers to the orthodoxy are often entrepeneuers, successful business types and business leaders whom Seattle has attracted.
Sometimes, parents and reformers know a lot about their own disciplines (engineers, for example), but aren’t sympathetic to the problems a teacher reasonably faces. Some of them are sympathetic though, and it gets interesting when they are pitted against “the orthodoxy:” the entrenched interests, union protectionists, and the true-believing bureaucrats who can, as Backstrom notes, become part of the problem.
I don’t believe education fits under Milton Friedman’s intellectual net, nor would I want it to. But I like seeing how he comes at the problems of scarcity of resources, students failed by the system, and entrenched educators: