Following up on a recent post about “TIME Magazine Need[ing] a TIME Out,” the leaders of the Bad Ass Teachers Association (BAT) sent the following letter to TIME magazine in response. They also sent the letter to Diane Ravitch (see here), and I’ve also pasted their letter below. It’s certainly worth a read of what they wrote:
As delegates of an organization that represents the collective voices of 53,000 teachers, we take issue with the cover [see below] selected for the November 3 edition of Time. We believe that the image is journalistically irresponsible because it unfairly paints teachers and teacher tenure in a negative light.
The gavel as a symbol of corporate education, smashing the apple – the universal symbol of education – reinforces a text applauding yet another requested deathblow to teacher tenure. Instead of clarity, this continues the misconception that tenure ensures a job for life. It does not. It ensures “just cause” rationale before teachers can be fired. [Related, see a recent Washington Post article about how an all round “excellent” teacher is suing the state of New York given her lack of due process here].
In addition, the cover perpetuates the pernicious myth of the “bad” teacher and tenure as the prime enablers of larger failures in American education. This is a false narrative. These failures are due to structural inequalities and chronic underfunding in our educational systems, not due to teachers and teacher tenure.
The cover feeds this narrative with the misleading statement, “It is nearly impossible to fire bad teachers.” A few months ago talk show host Whoopi Goldberg made similar statements suffering under the same basic misunderstanding of teacher tenure as something akin to what college professors enjoy rather than a simple guarantee of procedural due process which is its function in K-12 education.
Nevertheless, opponents of teacher tenure have consistently invoked the “bad teacher” argument as pretext to attack not only teachers but also teacher unions, arguing that they place the needs of students second to the protection of underperforming teachers.
In fact, teacher tenure has served as an important protection to allow teachers to advocate for students— especially with regard to maintaining manageable class sizes, safe instructional spaces, the needs of students who are English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities.
Given the massive increase in student enrollments, one of the greatest shortfalls is in the number of teachers themselves. A simple accounting of all the teaching positions lost in the great recessions reveals that the nation would need 377,000 more teachers in the classroom just to keep pace not to mention combat the shameful shortage of teachers of color.
In its haste to disparage teachers, the cover inadvertently tells a larger truth. The instrument used to destroy teacher tenure is wielded against the entire profession. It seeks to obliterate due process for all teachers rather than to ensure its proper use.
More significantly, the cover uncritically situates the tech millionaires as saviors without revealing their own self-interest in the tenure fight, the creation of a nation of corporate-run franchise schools taught by untrained teachers and measured by high stakes test[s] developed and administered by those same millionaires.
In an age where transparency in politics and journalism is sorely needed, we regret Time’s decision to proceed with a cover so clearly at odds with the truth.
The Badass Teachers Association
(Created by BAT Administrators and edited by Marla Kilfoyle, Melissa Tomlinson, Steven Singer, and Dr. Yohuru Williams)