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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 28, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Teacher layoffs

Ageist assumptions ignore value of career experience

In his column Wednesday, Danny Westneat celebrates a new day when Seattle Public Schools will be free to lay off older teachers with seniority instead of newer, younger teachers with less experience [“Shake-up in schools coming soon,” NWWednesday, May 27]. This marvelous new concept is founded on ageist assumptions and heralds practices that are illegal under pesky federal and state laws.

The effort by a small but vocal activist group to do away with seniority as a basis for retention assumes that older teachers are often past their heyday and are thus inherently less capable, ready to be tossed out on the dust heap. Long-term career experience is equated with deteriorating ability and loss of competence.

Overlooked is the value of accumulated career experience, and the requirement of continuing education that exceeds that of most occupations. Left out is the question of what happens to those who have dedicated their working lives to careers in service of educating our children with the expectation they will, in turn, have at least the guarantee of a secure retirement. Newer teachers to whom this effort appeals may also ask themselves how they will feel when they reach the time when they, too, are regarded as outmoded and ready for the dust bin.

I am sorry that in his zeal to promote this change, Westneat failed to give voice to these counterarguments and left out the views of those who have spent a lifetime in the field of education.

— Ken Camper, Seattle

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