Teachers unions are portrayed as monsters that are haunting the educational system. They act as a barrier to the free market of education. They keep bad teachers employed, they get teachers more pay than they deserve, they protect the interests of teachers and not the students. I think after reading about the NEA and their intense (to say the least) lobby to create the Department of Education, many would believe that teachers unions are really as power hungry as they are portrayed. 

As a future teacher, I think that teachers unions are a necessary evil. Yes, maybe some of the above is true, however without unions how would teachers in America be treated? I believe in our country the profession of teaching is not as professionalized or respected as in many other countries. Teachers bear a lot of the burden and critique for educational failures that they cannot control. I believe that unions act as a safe guard for teachers. Yes, occasionally they keep a bad teacher in a position but more frequently they are protecting good teachers. They also help teachers to negotiate contracts that they would never be able to get otherwise because teachers are seen as expendable. If teachers were paid more competitively like many other professional position, I believe that unions would have less strength in the American educational system. 

Originally, the NEA was an organization that existed to help professionalize teaching. They became a teachers union because the group transitioned from being a mix of teachers and administration to being almost entirely teachers who were interested in teachers rights. It is interesting to consider if the NEA had remained a professional group, would this have let to the professionalization of teaching? If teaching was more of a professional career where teachers were trusted to have autonomy and were respected for their knowledge, would unions even be necessary today? I think that the transition the NEA faced was inevitable with its changing demographic. They could not remain a professional organization and aggressively lobby for teacher’s rights at the same time. 

While there have been several attempts to professionalize teaching, it has never been truly successful in America. I think that this has a lot to do with the fear of giving teachers a lot of power and autonomy in the classroom. There is also the desire to standardize our educational system. It is easier to treat teachers like robots than to train competent teachers that have their own power in the classroom. However, I think that as long as this is the way America views its teachers, teachers unions will be necessary to protect teachers. So, are teacher’s unions good or bad? The answer is more complex than that, they have aspects of both good and bad. More importantly they are rooted in our educational system and as long as the way we view teachers stays the same, teachers unions will remain for better or for worse.