I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, December 21, 2012

Reformy Pearl Clutchers

The Reformy Ladies Sewing Circle and Pearl Clutching Society has worked itself into froth of outrage over the defense of teachers by Diane Ravitch and Karen Lewis. What did these women say that has our delicate, reformy flowers running for the fainting couch? Ravitch and Lewis made the impolite observation that the brave teachers who died in Newtown were union members and tenure-track career educators.

Poor RiShawn Biddle was overtaken by the vapors. Andy Rotherham finds the whole affair to be "obscene." Patrick Brennen at NRO was incapacitated by his vexations.

You can go back and read Ravitch's and Lewis's posts and make up your own mind. To me, their points were obvious:
  • The adults who were killed in Newtown were tenured/tenure-track career educators and union members.
  • Sandy Hook is a public school that had a lot more going for it than test scores; this community does not need corporate education "reform."
  • The inveterate union bashers and those who lay all the problems (many of them phony) with America's schools at the feet of teachers would be well-advised to back off.
When you're a pearl clutcher, however, you learn to look for slights where none exist. And any time is a bad time for me or anyone else to bring up a point they disagree with. Because the sad truth is that these people have no answer for what Diane and Karen are saying. The unmistakable climate of teacher-and union-bashing in this country was already a national disgrace; it is even more so after the tragedy of Sandy Hook. That was the unmistakable message of Ravitch and Lewis, no matter how the tut-tutters try to twist it.

Now, if Biddle and Rotherham and Brennen had a history of defending teachers and their unions against attacks on their characters, maybe I would give their reservations some weight. I'm not saying they have to agree with teachers unions on policy; far from it. I'd love to have a substantive debate about "reform" that has good faith arguments on both sides.

No, I'm saying that if these fine gentlemen had stood up and called out those who have created a climate of distrust for teachers and their unions, maybe they'd have more credibility when questioning Ravitch's and Lewis's integrity. But that's not what these guys are about.

Rotherham, for example, poo-poos the notion that teachers are under attack, suggesting that the vitriol against educators is "just a reflection of the times we’re living in." He makes the divisive case that unions and students regularly have interests that are not aligned; even when striking a pose as a fair middleman, he plays right into the frameworks of the corporate reformers.

Rotherham speaks admirably of Chris Christie's Educator Effectiveness Task Force, bemused that anyone would have a problem with the panel having only one working teacher and no representative from the state's largest teachers union, the NJEA. Where, I wonder, was Rotherhan's outrage when Christie personally insulted teachers and questioned their motives over and over again?

Biddle shares Rotherham's insouciance at teachers being excluded from policy making forums about their own profession. He thinks the "argument of teacher-bashing lacks merit." He thinks unions "let teachers off the hook." He accuses unions of aiding and abeting "the kinds of abusive behavior among teachers that ultimately hurts the futures of children."

Brennen's tree house, NRO's "The Corner," is a hotbed of anti-union and anti-teacher sentiment. Teachers in Chicago supported "rampant union greed." The union in Louisiana engages in "thuggery." Teachers are accused of not caring about their students when they express a political view. They are derided for not being "ambitious." And, of course, teachers unions are fighting against the children.

So this is the record of those who are now bemoaning the poor manners of Ravitch and Lewis. At best, they stand aside bemused as teachers and their unions are smacked down; at worst, they deliver the beatings themselves.

And then they expect us teachers to just sit there and take it. If we dare to, as Anthony Cody puts so well, "claim our heroes," we are "obscene" and "artless" and "reprehensible."

Well, this teacher couldn't care less what these people think. We've had a solid decade of teacher- and union-bashing, and it's time for that to stop. If you want to have a serious discussion about policy, let's have it. Maybe we can spend some time looking at the shaky nonsense on which you've built your reformy arguments.

But don't contribute to a climate where educators are vilified and then expect us not to react when the best among us pay the ultimate price. We were already sick of being denigrated before Newtown; the attacks, however, now look especially cruel in the wake of the massacre. But your guilt about your previous words and actions is your problem, not mine; don't try to deal with it by telling me to shut up.

I will proudly claim the Sandy Hook Six as my own; get yourselves some smelling salts if that bothers you.


ADDING: More "obscenity" from the Baltimore Sun:
Teachers and other public school employees deserve more respect than to be vilified as lazy, overpaid union thugs, or any of the other various taunts that have been hurled their way in recent years. In some states, they are been stripped of bargaining rights. Often, they are cited as a threat to public education and not its chief asset.
We adopt standardized testing of students, in part, because we don't trust that teachers are doing their best. Too often, we judge them harshly for not achieving the near-impossible: creating a model citizenry from the imperfect products that show up at their doorstep.
Next time we discuss the state of education, let us also recall those images of teachers leading children out of harm's way in Newtown or those half-dozen adults who died in the line of duty. Public educators deserve our respect, not just for what happened in Sandy Hook but for their extraordinary, daily devotion to the education, health and welfare of the next generation.
How "reprehensible."


Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

Thank you for taking on Andi "five things teachers could learn from the NRA" Rottenham and the self colonized-cum-raging libertarian Biddle to task for their endless teacher loathing and right-wing propaganda spewing.

Rottenham's idiocy is best summed up in his let's start a new, hip, "eat what you kill," NRA-light: A Sportsman’s Viewpoint: We Need a Moderate Alternative to the NRA

Biddle's obsessive self-hatred that informs his Ayn Rand like world view is found in the explanation of how his journalism career ended: You can't yell 'fire' in an Internet theatre; the RiShawn Biddle fiasco

ms-teacher said...

Biddle's obsessive self-hatred that informs his Ayn Rand like world view is found in the explanation of how his journalism career ended: You can't yell 'fire' in an Internet theatre; the RiShawn Biddle fiasco.

and guess what? The union, a union he was not a member of, still stepped in to make sure his due process rights were protected.


"We just want you to know that The Guild is committed to due process and making sure that RiShawn was not improperly discharged. We have been involved in collecting facts related to this matter, and soon the Guild officers will meet to decide on what action we will take."

caroline said...

They're following the same script. To be very polite, I'll just say that it's play-acting and not anything they actually believe. Of course, you will note that disparate education so-called "reformers" all got the same message and mouthed the same lines.

Here's the script.

1. Wide-eyed, say you have never engaged in or ever even heard of anything resembling teacher-bashing.

2. Voice outrage that anyone would point out that the heroes of Sandy Hook were union members and career teachers. Accuse them of exploitation and politicizing a tragedy.

(When it's pointed out that the Baltimore Sun editorial board said the exact same thing as those who have horrified and outraged you, have sudden attack of deafness.)

Marie said...

"So this is the record of those who are now bemoaning the poor manners of Ravitch and Lewis." I think the ed reformers underestimated the push back they are getting because many teachers are a-political. They only want to do their job. They really opened Pandora's box!