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Shanker Said What?

In a lengthy article published in The Atlantic that's being debated across education blogs, former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein makes the case that "a major realignment of political forces" is needed to improve the nation's education system.

Klein blames election-minded politicians and the teachers' unions for America's students being "stuck in a ditch." Above all else, the unions are concerned with keeping their members happy, he writes, so that they can continue to grow and spread their influence. He quotes Albert Shanker, the late former head of the United Federation of Teachers, as having once said, "When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of schoolchildren."

Over at the blog Edwize, Leo Casey, a vice president for UFT, argues that there's no proof Shanker ever said or wrote those words. He calls Klein's attribution of the quote a "classic bad faith argument, in which one asserts a proposition, without evidence or proof that it is correct, because it fits with one's ideological predispositions and makes a political point one wants to make."

Ah, the mud-slinging continues in the reformers vs. union supporters match-up. But what do you think—is this sort of polarization productive? Or is the us vs. them mentality contrived, and can we further the conversation without it?

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