Ask a Korean! News: Is the Union the Real Problem in American Education?

As the New York Times noted today, it is fashionable nowadays for Americans to bash on teachers and teachers' union for the failing American education.
The jabs Erin Parker has heard about her job have stunned her. Oh you pathetic teachers, read the online comments and placards of counterdemonstrators. You are glorified baby sitters who leave work at 3 p.m. You deserve minimum wage.

“You feel punched in the stomach,” said Ms. Parker, a high school science teacher in Madison, Wis., where public employees’ two-week occupation of the State Capitol has stalled but not deterred the governor’s plan to try to strip them of bargaining rights.
Teachers Wonder, Why the Scorn? [New York Times]

But the funny thing is that Korea, whose student performance is among the world's best, has very, very strong teachers' unions. American critics decry that American teachers' job security is never linked to performance, but Korea's teachers are never evaluated on how well their students do on exams. American critics often point out that the best and the brightest are attracted to teaching in East Asia, but it is not as if teachers in Korea are wealthy, or even upper-middle class. The absolute, biggest draw of being a teacher in Korea is that you never lose your job until retirement and receive pension after retirement until you die -- because of the unions!

This is an incomplete thought, because obviously a situation from one country does not directly translate to another. But it is something worth chewing on. Is the union the real issue here?

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