Saturday, November 08, 2014

Outrage of the Week: Time and teacher-bashing

Outrage of the Week: Time and teacher-bashing

Finally for this week, we have our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week..

You may have already heard about this or seen something about it, it has been in the news, but there may be some aspects you don't know.

This week, the outrage starts with the cover of Time magazine for November 3. It portrays a judge's gavel about to smash an apple alongside the text "Rotten Apples: It's Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher."

Which, right off the top, is a problem because it's not "nearly impossible" to fire a bad teacher - you just have to have an actual reason and give them a hearing.

Media watchdog FAIR says that the cover, insultingly depicting the teaching profession as full of "rotten apples" that deserve to be smashed, might make you suspect Time "is doing some good old-fashioned teacher-bashing." And, the group says, "You'd be right."

A petition drive started by the American Federation of Teachers produced more than 100,000 names in less than a week, demanding Time apologize for the cover.

And here the outrage deepens. Nancy Gibbs, Time’s managing editor, responded in the magazine by claiming that
Union leaders … are charging that by writing about legal efforts to remove bad teachers from classrooms, with the cover line 'Rotten Apples,' TIME has insulted all teachers....
That statement is a blatant lie. The petition specifically objected to the cover, not the stories. In fact, it said that "the cover doesn’t even reflect Time's own reporting" and that the articles themselves "present a more balanced view of the issues."

So for Time to charge that petition supporters - oh, wait, it's "union leaders," I guess no one else signed - for Time to claim that the petition said that writing about efforts to remove bad teachers is an insult is, again, a blatant lie.

But it gets even worse because the petition was too kind to the article.

The article is about a small group of very rich Silicon Valley "tech titan" millionaires who, despite lacking any educational expertise or experience, have decided that they are the ones who can fix America's supposedly broken public schools and that the way to do that is to attack tenure, the system that says that after a certain point on the job, a teacher can't be fired except for cause.

What got this started? What gave them the idea that this is our educational panacea? David Welch, one of these millionaires, says he asked a "big-city California superintendent" how to fix the schools and was "blown away" by his answer, which was "Give me control over my workforce." That is, a guy with power thinks the answer to any problems is to give him more power. I can see why these millionaires identified with that so strongly.

Time does admit that teacher tenure used to be important, noting that before tenure laws,
a teacher could be fired for holding unorthodox political views or attending the wrong church, or for no reason at all if the local party boss wanted to pass on the job to someone else.
But now, apparently, Time wants us to believe that is all in the past. There is no more job discrimination, no one gets fired for their political views or their religion or for being homosexual, or because someone wants to give the job to someone else, or for being a thorn in the side of the bosses, no, that's all in the past! Just doesn't happen any more! So who needs tenure?

But the worst thing of all is that after going on about the supposed "flood of new academic research" backing up the millionaires' attacks on tenure, the article admits in the 27th paragraph of a 28-paragraph story that the methodology involved is at best questionable and may be useless if not downright bogus.

So Time magazine, after drooling and fawning over a bunch of very rich elitists who are going to "repair public education" in an article that did not quote a single teacher or union official but did manage to include comments from a researcher for a "conservative education think tank" and someone from the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, an article that never even hinted at the connection between attacks on tenure and attacks on teachers' unions and how the former is just the wedge to attack the latter, after all that, Time gets around to mentioning that the whole anti-tenure enterprise may be based on vapor. And it illustrates it with a picture of a gavel about to smash a supposedly rotten apple.

The whole thing is at best journalistic malfeasance - and an outrage.

Sources cited in links:

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