Teachers as Both the Problem and Solution to Improved Schooling: The Perpetual Paradox

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Has anyone noticed that much of the blame pundits shower on teachers and unions for blocking school reform and tolerating low-performing students is usually followed by perky pay-for-performance plans, revising teacher evaluations, and other solutions wholly dependent upon teachers embracing those very changes? Framing teachers as both the problem and the solution is a tough conundrum to unravel. Teachers, however, are not the only ones to grapple with the paradox of being blamed for a problem and then be expected to turn around and solve the very same problem.


Consider medical care. Patients, insurance companies, and federal officials criticize physicians and hospitals for errors in practice and ignoring the accelerating cost of providing health care. Tough questions are asked: Which hospitals are best and worst for cardiac surgery or for treating children with cystic fibrosis? Why do doctors commit many errors (illegible handwriting on prescriptions, incomplete charts, etc.)? Should…

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