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The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education Hardcover – February 4, 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"The problem with America's government school system is socialism. The solution is capitalism-the introduction of a free market." This provocative theme, stated explicitly by CBS Marketwatch columnist Brimelow, aptly sums up the premise of this lengthy opinion piece on what's wrong with American schooling and how to fix it. The real villains in the government educational scam, according to Brimelow, are the unions, with their bloated bureaucracies, political maneuvering and teacher protection rackets. Brimelow's prescriptions go further than suggesting we simply get rid of unions. His remedies run along predictable ideological lines: turn education over to market forces, hand over responsibility for teacher education to private firms instead of universities and abolish the U.S. Department of Education. Competition, in this paradigm, will solve all of education's problems. For politicians seeking ammunition in the war on public education, Brimelow shares plenty of anecdotes highlighting what he sees as the excesses of teacher unions. Unfortunately, his text suffers from selective use of research and unnecessary teacher bashing (e.g., he opens the book with a commentary on how extraordinarily fat teachers are) to make the point. He can also be hypocritical, as when he accuses union spokespeople of hyperbole when warning against vouchers, merit pay and other conservative proposals for school reform, yet engages in much of the same, detracting from what might otherwise be a welcome addition to the national conversation on education.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Brimelow's Alien Nation (1995), decrying massive immigration to the U.S., made all the multiculturalists diss him, and now he lambastes the National Education Association, the nation's biggest union and, he argues, the most self-serving in the interests of its officers and staff, who see to it they make double whatever they get for teachers. According to Brimelow, the union vacuums up money with legislated agency fees for nonmember teachers and exclusive bargaining rights in most states, and local and state affiliates turn over all surpluses to the national. He claims the union buys politicians like no other lobby and that they are almost exclusively Democrats, despite surveys suggesting a third of NEA members are Republicans. It co-opts every reform it can't crush, and Brimelow shows it maneuvering to own the voucher movement if it can't kill it. In a concluding wish list for curbing the NEA, Brimelow aims high because he feels that it, like the Soviet Union (its institutional inspiration, he thinks), may suddenly collapse. Rougher reading than Alien Nation but just as bracing. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060096616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060096618
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph R. Guzzardi on February 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Until I began teaching in 1988 at the Lodi Unified School District in California's San Joaquin Valley, I had never stepped foot onto a public school campus. My background was in the private sector. I had heard about how bad public education had become but all the warnings didn't prepare me for what I found. My biggest surprise was not how little the lowest 10 percentile knew but how little the top 10% knew. I wish Brimelow's book had been available to me before I signed up to teach. I might have changed my mind. Brimelow cites many depressing and discouraging examples of how little American school children know. From my own classroom experience, a high school senior on her way to a full ride at the University of California at Davis asked me what the word "errand" meant. As Brimelow aptly points out the bureaucracies governing public education are crushing.In California,the volumes which detail the education code are nearly four feet high when stacked one on top of the other. Brimelow has the best solutions and they are well overdue--cut the teachers free from their shackles and let them do what they do best--teach. Tear down the U.S. Department of Ecuation and its state equivalents. Education at its multiple levels and layers, as Brimelow emphasizes, is so bloated that it cannot get out of its own way. "The Worm in the Apple" is a must read for concerned parents and educators how are searching for answers. And it is also strongly recommended for all that are considering a career in teaching. Maybe if more new teachers know what they are getting into the turnover rate wouldn't be so shockingly high.
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Format: Hardcover
While I do not necessarily agree with everything that the author has to say about teachers (he clearly has an "agenda"), he and I at least have come to the same conclusion: Teacher unions are unto themselves an evil empire. I am happy that someone has bothered to look beneath the veneer of the unions and to show them for what they are: dictators of self-interest. While various talking-head union leaders espouse how they want what is best for the students, they are doing everything they can to stand in the way of actual progress. How is it that a horrible teacher can be paid the same amount as a terrific teacher? Unions. How can a teacher be FORCED to join an organization that may not reflect his or her own values? Unions. How is that parents are told where they will have their kids educated and not have an option for private school with vouchers? Unions. How is it that union workers (people who work in the union offices) receive better perks and benefits than the people who pay their salaries (the union members)? Yep, unions.
I really do wish that more teachers would read this book and come to the realization that the union is doing more harm than good in promoting great education. Teachers should withdraw their support of unions until the unions can shift their priorities to actually caring about the students.
Every American with a child in public school should read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written, well documented attack on the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). .

The premise is, as the title clearly states, that since the rise of teacher unions in the mid-1960s, the quality of education has dropped, innovation has been compromised and the cost of education has skyrocketed. He backs it up with a ton of statistics. To the credit of Brimelow, this could have been a stale listing of statistics punctuated by charts. However, he writes in a lively style and backs up his assertions with independent sources of information as well as damning quotes from movers and shakers in the NEA and the AFT.

As an unsatisfied member of the NEA, I found the book to be quite eye-opening. It was also interesting to me since the Indiana branch of the NEA (Indiana State Teachers Association) was the source of a lot of his material and that is my State Association.

This is a thought-provoking and challenging book. He does not just stand there and point out problems. He also 24 suggestions at the end of his book, although he is quick to note that this is a wish list and it will be extremely unlikely that half of these could ever see the light of day.
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Format: Paperback
Brimelow begins his candid exposé on the National Education Association with a little history. The NEA, created in 1857, "was" a professional association concerned with "standards, ethics, and educational techniques" [preface]. Its original goal was improving America's education. So where did they get lost? The author tells us it was during the 1960s. The NEA morphed into a labor union, after removing school administrators from its membership and becoming competitively obsessed with the American Federation of Teachers. This was also when Kennedy issued an executive order allowing collective bargaining for federal employees, mind you, "in exchange for labor union support" [preface]. Because of these changes, Brimelow concludes that our educational system has been failing our children ever since.
Brimelow begins with NEA's 1999 annual meeting. It reads like a political train wreck, and is the perfect start in proving his point. Throughout the book, Brimelow shows the NEA's move from reading, writing, and arithmetic to such things as self-preservation, politics, and political correctness books and class atmosphere. Brimelow names names, places blame, dishes numbers, and exposes past and present union leaders. His eye-opening facts are riveting as he relays various accounts in trying to prove the absurdity of the union's control.
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