On TIME Magazine's Attack on America's Teachers

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On TIME Magazine's Attack on America's Teachers

Cover detail of TIME magazine's November 3 issue. Since when do tech millionaires know anything about teaching children? asks Ravitch, who also backs a petition calling on TIME magazine to apologize for the upcoming issue. (Image: TIME magazine)

TIME Magazine has a cover story called “Rotten Apples,” in which it falsely asserts (on the cover) that “It’s Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher. Some Tech Millionaires May Have Found a Way to Change That.” Here is a link to the cover and a petition denouncing this slander.

This TIME cover is as malicious as the Newsweek cover in 2010 that said, “We Must Fire Bad Teachers. We Must Fire Bad Teachers. We Must Bad Teachers,” and the TIME cover in 2008 showing a grim Michelle Rhee with a broom, prepared to sweep out “bad” teachers and principals. (As we now know, Rhee fired many educators, but saw no significant gains during her tenure in office.)

This non-stop teacher bashing, funded by millionaires and billionaires, by the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and even by the U.S. Department of Education, has become poisonous. Enrollments in teacher education programs are declining, sharply in some states. Experienced teachers are retiring early. Teaching has become so stressful, in this era of test mania, that our nation’s biggest teacher issue is recruiting and retaining teachers, not firing them. teacher-cover.jpg

Since when do tech millionaires know anything about teaching children? Why should they determine the lives and careers of educators? Why don’t they volunteer to teach for a week and then share their new wisdom?

Randi Weingarten is fighting back against TIME’s scurrilous cover. She is organizing a campaign to let TIME know that they have outraged and insulted America’s teachers. This bullying has to stop! Speak out! Tweet! Sign the petition! Write a letter to the editor! Organize a protest at TIME headquarters. Don’t let them get away with bullying teachers who earn less, work harder, and have greater social value than the writers at TIME or the tech millionaires.

Randi Weingarten writes:

From: Randi Weingarten
Date: Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 5:36 PM
Subject: Teachers aren’t rotten apples

Time magazine is about to use its cover to blame teachers for every problem in America’s schools. On Monday, Nov. 3, this cover will be in every supermarket checkout line and newsstand across the country—and it’s already online.

 When I saw this today, I felt sick. This Time cover isn’t trying to foster a serious dialogue about solutions our schools need—it’s intentionally creating controversy to sell more copies.

 We’re running a petition demanding that Time apologize. Will you help us spread the word by using the tweets below to call on Time to apologize?

 This midleading @Time cover hurts teachers and damages the mag’s own credibility. Ask them to apologize! #TIMEfail

 Why is @Time attacking teachers? This misleading cover is more about sales than truth. Demand and apology! #TIMEfail

 .@Time should do the right thing and ditch the planned anti-teacher cover! #TIMEfail

 Once you’ve tweeted, please sign the petition telling Time’s editors to apologize for this outrageous attack on America’s teachers.

The millionaires and billionaires sponsoring these attacks on teacher tenure claim they want to get great teachers into the schools that serve high-need kids. It’s a noble goal, but stripping teachers of their protections won’t help.

 In fact, this blame-and-shame approach only leads to low morale and high turnover, making it even harder to get great teachers into classrooms. Just today, constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky wrote a fact-based argument that tenure protections help recruit and retain high-quality teachers! In fact, there is a strong correlation between states with strong teacher tenure and high student performance.

 And Time’s cover doesn’t even reflect its own reporting. The Time article itself looks at the wealthy sponsors of these efforts. And while it looks critically at tenure, it also questions the testing industry’s connections to Silicon Valley and the motives of these players.

 But rather than use the cover to put the spotlight on the people using their wealth to change education policy, Time’s editors decided to sensationalize the topic and blame the educators who dedicate their lives to serving students. The cover is particularly disappointing because the articles inside the magazine present a much more balanced view of the issue. But for millions of Americans, all they’ll see is the cover, and a misleading attack on teachers.

There are serious challenges facing our schools—tell Time that blaming teachers won’t solve anything.

 When we work together instead of pointing fingers, we know we can help students succeed.

 In places like New Haven, Conn., Lawrence, Mass., Los Angeles’ ABC school district and many others, union-district collaboration is leading to real change.

 Instead of pitting students and teachers against each other, these districts are showing how we can build welcoming, engaging schools by working together to give kids the education they deserve. As a result of this collaborative approach, once-struggling schools all over America are turning around.

 When we collaborate, we’re able to recruit AND retain high-quality teachers, and reclaim the promise of a high-quality education for every student.

 And when we work together, we can also change tenure to make it what it was supposed to be—a fair shake before you are fired, not a job for life, an excuse for administrators not to manage or a cloak for incompetence.

 But instead of a real debate, Time is using the cover to sensationalize the issue so it can sell magazines.

 Tell Time magazine to apologize for blaming teachers in order to sell magazines.

 We need to have a substantive, facts-based conversation about the challenges our schools face and the real solutions that will help educators and kids succeed.

 Help us tell Time that blaming teachers isn’t the way to help struggling schools.

 In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT President

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. Her most recent book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.  Her previous books and articles about American education include: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform, (Simon & Schuster, 2000); The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knopf, 2003); The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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