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On Jeb Bush, the United Nations and drunk teachers in Michigan

• Mike Thomas

In one of her latest posts, Diane Ravitch unleashes a stream of non sequiturs that begins with Michelle Rhee and Michigan, veers off to the United Nations and Canada, takes on global corporations and then does a quick drive-by on Jeb Bush.

I must say, there’s never a dull moment with Diane.

She takes on Rhee because the StudentsFirst organization contributed $500,000 to fight a ballot initiative in Michigan that would enshrine collective bargaining privileges for government employees in the state constitution. The campaign has unveiled, among other things, a union contract for Bay County teachers that allowed them to show up drunk in the classroom five times before being fired.

Ms. Ravitch then makes this observation: “Turns out that the right to join a union is contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Canadian Constitution.’’

I’m not quite sure how a 1948 document from the United Nations applies to public employee labor relations in Michigan, or for that matter where the Canadian Constitution fits in.

Ravitch then goes off on a quick tangent against corporations slashing costs in a global economy.

“That means,’’ she writes, “teachers must be low-wage and cheaper, or as Jeb Bush recommends, replaced by computers.’’

Now, let me just say that I would not work for a person seeking to replace my wife with a computer or, for that matter, even with an iPad Mini.

Bush certainly is an advocate of digital education. But here are some excerpts on how he describes it:

Teachers are no longer forced to use textbooks that become outdated the moment they leave the printer.

Digital learning can provide real-time data so teachers can differentiate instruction with laser-like precision. Data brings a level of efficiency to both teaching and learning that will improve both the experience of education as well as the outcome.

Imagine with me an education system where a student’s homework is listening to their teacher’s lecture, and class time is spent working through the military genius of Napoleon by using the latest GPS mapping software.

After providing an overview lesson on sentence structure and basic concepts, her teacher works with each student individually, based on their specific needs.

You will note frequent use of the word teacher. Bush describes a system in which technology relieves the teacher of humdrum work so she can focus on actual teaching. I am sure the United Nations and Canadians would approve.

About the author

Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet

Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at