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Reform: Ravitch & AFT Use MassacreTo Attack Political Enemies

While reactions and responses to the Newtown massacre continue to pour in (see roundup of news coverage below), the AFT and reform critics like Diane Ravitch have been unable to resist the chance to connect the violence to teacher unionization (Ravitch) or to Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst organization (via Huffington Post). 

image from blu.stb.s-msn.com Ravitch's attempt to connect the tragedy to criticism of charter schools and nonunion teachers has generated a flurry of online denunciations -- along with stubborn responses from Ravitch and predictable support from her followers.  

Filtered through a willing Huffington Post, the AFT attempt to link Rhee to gun violence has generated less pushback -- Rhee's organization issued a statement yesterday -- even though it is no less objectionable. (Some of the muted reaction may be the result of StudentsFirst's previous and ongoing messaging woes, as well as tensions among Rhee and other reform leaders.)

It's a good reminder just how far afield (some would say low) some reform critics are willing to go in order to discredit their enemies and blunt their enemies' momentum-- as well as an example of grim but effective negative advocacy of the kind that reformers should expect and be prepared to deal with if they expect to operate in the advocacy space.  

Roundup of the latest Newtown news coverage is below.

Amid Calls For Gun Control, Some Push For Weapons At School NPR:  As a national conversation about stricter gun control takes shape in the wake of the Newtown shooting, some are arguing instead for arming school personnel. Supporters say having armed school officials would help prevent shootings and enable staff to protect children if one occurs.

Principals Not Thrilled With Idea of Carrying Guns Post-Newtown Educated Reporter: "I would absolutely decline," said Foran, who was named the METLife 2012 principal of the year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "I think there are a whole lot of other ways to make both schools and our communities safer, and more guns is not one of them."

Rush to boost school safety sparks flurry of ideas and questions Reuters: Principals spend lavishly on emergency response software, not realizing how impractical it is to fumble with a log-in during a crisis. Districts buy pricey metal detectors, only to switch them off because they cannot afford to deploy staff to do pat-downs and search book bags.

More Schools Face Threats WSJ: A child stands next to a makeshift memorial for shooting victim Jessica Rekos, following the 6-year-old's funeral on Tuesday in Newtown, Conn. 

After Newtown Shootings, Schools Consider Armed Security Officers NYT: In the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., officials are reviewing security protocols, like lockdowns, and considering stationing armed guards in schools.

For Young Survivors, Odds of Emotional Recovery Are High NYT: For young people exposed to traumatic violence like the Newtown school shooting, recovery can be torturous, marked by anxiety, nightmares or substance abuse. But the good news is that most children do heal.

School shooting survivor tells her story USA Today: Shari Thornberg says she was running late and fears she passed the gunman when she walked through the parking lot to the front doors of Sandy Hook Elementary School at 9:30 Friday morning.


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Sequence of events in terms of Diane Ravitch et al.:

- Ravitch writes a blog entry (http://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/17/the-hero-teachers-of-newtown/) that talks about educators' willingness to put their lives on the line and hey, maybe that deserves some acknowledgment -- that part unimpeachable -- observes that the Sandy Hook teachers were not just "showing up" contra some statements by Gov. Malloy (tough but a fair point) and then further calling out ConnCAN, Malloy, and StudentsFirst (going a long way past the tough-but-fair point)
- TFA VP David Rosenberg says on Twitter (https://twitter.com/davidr1019/status/280883603318124544) that Ravitch should be "ashamed of herself" and carries on a long Twitter exchange about the post. (In general, Twitter exchanges can be long but not particularly deep.)
- CTU President Karen Lewis responds, which Diane Ravitch posts as a blog entry (http://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/18/karen-lewis-reacts-to-the-kerfuffle/)

In the meantime, various other people on multiple sides of education policy chime in with variants on "you did it first" and "I'm rubber, you're glue." In my household, we'd call this a rudeness draw.

in her post ravitch attributes the valor of the teachers in newtown to their being tenured career teachers, unionized, in a noncharter school and takes potshots at malloy for past disagreements and offenses. that's not just "first," or mere rudeness.

and there's no "draw" until someone tries to blame union teachers, ravitch, or weingarten for the newtown massacre, or suggests that charter teachers would have done better at protecting the children.


Maybe I'm misreading the passage you're referring to:

"Every one of the teachers was a career educator. Every one was doing exactly what she wanted to do. They’ve worked in a school that was not obsessed with testing but with the needs of children. This we know: the staff at Sandy Hook loved their students. They put their students first, even before their own lives. Oh, and one other thing, all these dedicated teachers belonged to a union. The senior teachers had tenure,..."

Is she saying that they put their lives on their line BECAUSE they were tenured and unionized, or is she saying that they put their lives on the line AND they were tenured and unionized, and that maybe we should stop attacking tenure and experience? I'm not defending how she writes the rest of the entry, but I draw some very different inferences from what you drew, and I don't see where close reading of this passage gives you what you concluded.

if there's no implied causal relationship in her remarks, then why's she even bothering to mention tenure status, union status, or career longevity?

if there's no connection, there's no reason to mention it.

When teachers have been subjected to an ongoing barrage of attacks from "reformers" as one of their signature PR strategies, and teachers show themselves to be heroic, what do you mean "why mention it?" It's completely relevant. The attacks on anyone who points out that vilified teachers behaved heroically are part of the same PR strategy.

A week or so ago Bobby Jindal said it was the "Herculean efforts of the teachers' unions" that was impeding progress in American education, and if that isn't an all-out attack on American teachers, what is?

Ravitch doesn't mention TFA or charters or anyone else, and she didn't imply that those people wouldn't have tried to save their kids, too. It just might be nice if someone ever recognized that the teachers regularly being demonized in this country aren't the biggest problem we face, which is all Ravitch was trying to say.

if there's no implied causal relationship in her remarks, then why's she even bothering to mention tenure status, union status, or career longevity?

if there's no connection, there's no reason to mention it.

I think you fail to see the clear reason why she writes it this way: it's not to imply causal relationship, it is to debunk what she perceives to be the ongoing meme of reformers that suggest the opposite is likely true. She is calling out the hypocrisy of the accountability hawks that denigrate teachers and their profession on a regular basis by shoving VAM and other incendiary, unproven policy at them based on what they, the reformers, think are a set of conditions (tenure, unionization, etc) that have literally destroyed our competitiveness in the 21st century, blah blah blah.

Diane wasn't insulting them any more than they insult themselves.

Why would anyone bring up the fact that these heroes were union teachers? We lost brave and loving sisters. Diane was answering this sort of discourse, of which you can't pretend to be unaware:

"Union Parasites Bleed Chicago"

"Education chief calls teachers union 'terrorist organization'"

"In Wisconsin and across the nation, public school employee unions spared no kiddie human shields in their battle against GOP Gov. Scott Walker's budget and pension reforms."

Limbaugh calls Wiscosin teachers ‘anti-democracy,’ ‘parasites’

It's a good reminder just how far afield (some would say low) some [you fill in a fitting descriptor] are willing to go in order to discredit their enemies and blunt their enemies' momentum-

The current "reformy" response is to pretend they never, ever heard of anyone saying anything negative about teachers, and to attack anyone who says anything like what Diane Ravitch said (of course she gets attacked most vigorously).

It's scripted, orchestrated and dishonest to the core.

Mary (commenter, above) wins, Russo loses. Reason bests (highly) selective offendedness. Nice.

Thank you, Mary, for pointing out what teachers live with every day of our lives, for the crime of doing our jobs. It's disappointing to see how many people try to read Ravitch's mind, how poorly they do so, and particularly why they even bother when her words are so precise. It makes me wonder whether they are hard of reading.

What the other Mary said...

I like how Russo infers "attribution" on Ravitch's part when, as one commenter notes, she doesn't say they were brave BECAUSE they're union, merely that they were brave AND they're union. Then Russo hyperventilates and says, "If she isn't attributing valor to unionism then why bring it up?" As if he has never read or heard any of the really nasty commentary about unionized teachers. Are you kidding, Alexander? This pretense of having vapors, this feigned cluelessness about the context preceding Ravitch's comments shows how obtuse and deliberately callous to the perceptions of the nation's educators our National Reform Agressors are. Russo is either playing dumb, or else he is dumb.

Diane Ravitch is right to bring up the fact that these teachers, who have been denigrated for being union teachers i.e. ones who are only committed to themselves and don't care about the children they teach, actually laid down there lives for these kids.

Maybe being government teachers, rather than corporate teachers, makes the former more aware of their duty to other citizens because of who they represent. Maybe charter and private school teachers would act the same way - let's hope we never have to find out.

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