‘ROUNDING THE GLOBE’-16: Critical analysis of Globe education coverage
Spending Sabbath in the bunker with a Globe columnist
Nu, so now the Globe has me working on the Sabbath.
But what choice do I have? We are now three days into the press campaign provoked by the BTU’s refusal to go along with the state’s RTTT application. Artillery shells are being fired daily from Morrissey Blvd. in the form of alleged news articles, sanctimonious editorials, and hostile columns. Incoming rounds have also been traced to the Dept of Ed, the Boston Foundation, and the Legislature. The ‘Coalition of the Testers’ is mobilizing. I am deep in my bunker contemplating the transgressions of my fellow human beings.
I looked forward to enjoying a single ray of light in the grey, rainy skies over Boston today. I eagerly thumbed through my morning newspaper to read about how the Florida governor vetoed a bill calling for the abolition of teacher tenure and pay-for-performance. The story wasn’t there. When I found it in my NY Times, Page One no less, I was thrown into a state of confusion and consternation. No room for this story in the Globe? Just like there was no room for a story about Diane Ravi….whoops, I promised not to mention her for a while.
Though I hold many Globe writers in high regard, let me say it plain: this newspaper is not living up to the high professional standards we have a right to expect of a major regional daily. The credo of it owner, the NY Times, deserves careful study by all Globe employees: to report the news “without fear or favor.”
No, I did not find the Christ article, but I did have to absorb today’s predicable salvo, namely, Scot Lehigh’s column. That was today’s offering. By now I could have written it myself. In the dark.
Entitled “Teachers unions’ race to nowhere,” the columnist lehighs BTU president Richard Stutman, for whom the author names a new award, the “Stutman Trophy for Obstinately Myopic Positions” or “The STOMP Award, for short.”
Never heard of the verb “to lehigh” before? That’s the new word to describe when a columnist uses someone’s name to make fun of them. It’s a fairly immature, deplorable, and desperate tactic. I don’t know Mr. Stutman and I wasn’t a member of his union. I may not agree with all he has done or not done, but no one deserves to be referred to in such disrespectful manner. Scot, I even apologize to you. Let’s leave people’s names out of it.
As a longtime teacher of American history, I want to try to explain something that I think Lehigh and other education crusaders may have forgotten in their zeal to reform schools, unimpeded, as they think best.
We live in a Democracy, and one of our rights is the freedom of association. The New Deal’s Wagner Act gave us the right to unionize, though it was only much later that teachers the right to organize. Employees form unions so that they bargain collectively for reasonable salaries and working condition, because for a long time teachers didn’t get either (and many still don’t). Globe employees do the same. If all the business councils that the Globe so regularly invokes were high-minded and fair, maybe we wouldn’t need unions. But, alas, that’s not the way things shakes out. Let’s remember, too, that unions are generally prohibited in authoritarian countries-for good reason.
Back to education.
The Obama Administration is pushing an agenda that Lehigh and his fellow testers support. The feds are dangling a possible one-time award of cash if the various stakeholders accept a reform program based on testing, charters, and merit pay. In the case of “failing schools,” the RTTT program gives allegedly competent administrators the power to fire large swaths of faculty with no cause established.
No union can permit that and remain in existence. Why have unions? What would be the point? I was a public school teacher for many decades. I strongly believe that incompetent teachers must be identified and removed from the classroom through rigorous evaluation by trained evaluators. I don’t want to see test scores that can be explained by a dozen different variables, the most important being class and what neighborhood you happen to grow up in. I want to read thorough, carefully prepared evaluations based on a series of in-classroom observations. That’s called due process, which another important American value.
In the most transparent act since the invention of Saran Wrap, these crusaders are not only using the possibility of federal funds to crush those with whom they disagree-as well as the unions to which they belong-but they have the chutzpah to use the children of this state as shields to keep us hostage to their barren vision.
I am very tired of hearing how Lehigh and his allies are the only ones who care about our children, while teachers are depicted as selfish and uncaring. Most of them do a great, selfless job, and, unlike many Globe editors, actually put their own kids in the pubic schools.
Scot Lehigh, stop using the kids to advance your argument. Stop claiming that you and your friends are the only ones who care about them. Defend your ideas and try to figure out why many of America’s greatest teachers, including Deborah Meier and Herb Kohl, think your prescription for education reform is deserving of no trophy whatsoever and is positively harmful to children.