Friday, July 06, 2007

You think we've got it bad....

If you think politics are corrupt in the United States, be thankful you don't live in either France or Peru.

In France, former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin faces charges that he helped forge bank documents to frame President Nicolas Sarkozy on bribery charges.

And in Peru, public school teachers walked off the job to protest a proposal that they pass competency exams in order to keep their jobs.

This might be just another brouhaha over arcane matters -- what the tests measure, what procedure is used to punish/help teachers who fail -- except for one thing: in the first round of exams, held in February, nearly half of the teachers couldn't solve basic math problems and a third had trouble with reading.

Further, the proposed rules would only fire teachers who failed the test three times. The teachers' union opposes that, saying it would lead to "arbitrary" firings.

O-o-o-o-kay.

It takes a certain brazen indifference to be confronted with evidence of widespread incompetence and still oppose efforts to fix it -- and to claim that firing anyone who can't pass the test on the third try is "arbitrary." I suppose it is, in that where exactly the line is drawn is an arbitrary decision -- why not fire them after the second failure, or the fifth? But the union is out in left field on this one.

Which may explain why only 15 percent of teachers paid any attention to them.

That last statistic provides another example of how bad Peru's teachers are at math. Half of them failed the test, and yet only 15 percent support a union that wants to protect them from any consequences for that failure. It's like they can't discern their own simple self-interest. Either that or they're nobly self-sacrificing, which strikes me as unlikely.

The U.S. has its problems, but it pays to remember that things could be far, far worse.

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