Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ravitch and Lewis Vilify Teachers (Non-Unionized Ones, Anway)

Everyone's talking about the way Diane Ravitch linked the heroism of Sandy Hook’s teachers to their union affiliation, and the school’s non-charter status. At best, such reductionism  is insulting to all teachers: does union membership confer moral or physical superiority? At worst, it’s inflammatory and exploitative of the tragedy that occurred less than one week ago today. Tying the massacre to the need for stricter gun control and better mental health services is one thing. Using it to cast aspersions on  public charter schools and their staff is reprehensible.

Ravitch's blog got even more attention when a vice president for Teach For America wrote to Ravitch expressing anger at the implication that TFA members are somehow less committed to kids or more disinclined to protect them. Then  Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago teachers, wrote a note defending Ravitch:
She has a special place in heart for those who see the value of the classroom and not as stepping stone to a more lucrative career or the opportunism of self-promoters like Michelle Rhee who, with her lies about her own classroom experience has catapulted herself into the welcoming arms of those who hate unions, tenure and anything else that provides due process and gives teachers real voice.
How did we get to a place where TFA members, or teachers in charter schools, or teachers who see value in placing student outcomes above job security, become enemies? Kids are kids. Great teachers are great teachers. Andy Rotherham at Eduwonk said it best:
Encountering Ravitch’s disrespectful, and in my view revolting, use of this tragedy Lewis, the leader of thousands of educators and a senior leader in the American Federation of Teachers, could have: 
Said nothing.  These were blog posts on a marginal blog that is mostly an echo-chamber anyway. 
Or, seized the opportunity to unite and lead by pointing out that there is a big gun violence problem in our country- especially in Chicago btw – it makes everyone emotional, especially now in the immediate wake of this tragedy, but this is the time to come together to address this issue regardless of where else we might disagree.
Instead she took option C, which is to double-down on using this tragedy to make a point about unrelated education policy issues and make an unbelievable reference to Teach For America – whatever you happen to think of the organization – in the context of this tragedy. Poor taste doesn’t begin to cover it. 
There is plenty of disagreement in education, people of good faith can disagree about many of  today’s hot issues, and those debates sometimes get heated and political. I don’t know anyone thoughtful who wouldn’t like to have something back or have said something differently at some point. That’s life.  There is also some bad behavior, dishonesty, graft, and the rest on all sides of these issues. That, too, is life. But  in almost two decades in education I’ve never been so ashamed for this sector as reading these things.  You hear this kind of rhetoric and see this sort of zealousness in private a lot, so perhaps it’s illustrative to see it in public.  But in the wake of what happened in Sandy Hook, and riding on the emotions of that tragedy, it’s disgusting and shameful. We have reached a very sad place

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