‘ROUNDING THE GLOBE’-15: Critical analysis of Boston Globe education coverage
A Tale of Two Editorials
It was the best of times for the BTU, it was the worst of times. If you don’t believe this, just check out two Globe editorials that appeared less than a week apart.
But before we turn to opinion page, let me add a postscript to yesterday’s news column attack on the AFT/BTU for its decision not to support the state’s RTTT application.
You will recall that this Page One/ 23-graph story carried almost nothing about why the union took this position. (Reporter Vaznis informed readers he could not reach the union, but incomplete though it was, the Globe published the story anyway). If you didn’t have a chance to read it, imagine the union as a giant dartboard for every elitist grouping in the state. Believe me, the darts flew.
Well, the union’s response came today—sort of. You may have had a little more trouble finding it, because the story didn’t even make it to the front page of the B Section. You can find it on B5. It wasn’t a very good story, but that might have been the fault of the union leaders quoted. There were some generalities about teachers being blamed and disrespected (true enough!) and references to Central Falls and “job security.” What wasn’t effectively elicited by Vaznis or communicated by the union leaders is why the Obama turnaround model is so objectionable to teachers. I refer here to the mass “execution” of dedicated teachers, the utter randomness in choosing who is to be fired, and the use of high-stakes exams as the sole assessment of teacher and student performance. Let’s leave the matter right there, for the time being.
Now back to the editorials.
Just three days ago, the BTU was enjoying the view from the penthouse. The Boston Globe had published an editorial on April 12 entitled “New Cooperation from union” in which it praised the union for its “openness to creative solutions.” Let me translate that. The BTU was getting a condescending pat on the head because it has apparently agreed to make accommodations to allow Teach for America interns to take over classes in the Boston schools, without the tiresome hurdles regular teachers normally have to clear. After all, these kids graduated from elite colleges! The reason this is a “creative solution” is that it’s an initiative the Globe advocates.
Alas, these interns are no solution to any problem in American schools, because they do not stick around. (I’ve known many of them as former students). For most, the urban teaching experience adds a certain frisson to one or two post-graduation transitional years, before they move on to where the money is. Hmmm, I wonder if a similar program involving elite college students could be used to displace well-paid veteran reporters employed by America’s failing newspapers. Anyway, please read this editorial and tell me if you find it condescending as well. If you disagree, do say so.
On Monday it was the penthouse. By Thursday, the BTU was in the outhouse. Today, the Globe pilloried the BTU-apparently no longer a “creative solutions: kind of group-for refusing to sign on to the state’s application for RTTT funds. Now the headline read, “Instead of racing to the top, unions puts its own needs first.”
No point in my summarizing the most predictable editorial in the history of publishing. The Globe is just really ticked off that the union doesn’t want its membership to be fired for no cause. It attacked the union for opposing the interests of “everyone else in the state.” There’s you go again, Globe, speaking for everyone, but that’s just your way. Many teachers, parents, and students, think the conditions attached to this one-time RTTT bribe will make education worse. What is it, Larry Harmon, that you don’t understand about “worse”? And are you going to follow up with a signed op ed tomorrow in which you express the strongest possible agreement with your own editorial?
The Globe even tries to reason with the union, explaining that its opposition to RTTT will only cement the impression that unions are selfish. Of course the Globe has had nothing to do with helping to create that impression! Then this failing newspaper proceeds to give advise to this threatened union about how it might best survive.
I am calling the tone of this editorial “unctuously patronizing.” (I never have that reaction to NY Times editorials I oppose). What would you call it? Characterizing tone is like tasting wine. The absolute right word must be found. Yours?
Extra credit question: Can anyone recall the last time the Globe supported any union or genuinely grassroots movement? I can certainly see why, if an elite feels it is anointed to rule, it would resent the hoi polloi and their petty, short-sighted struggles.