As representatives of an organization that represents the collective voices of 53,000 teachers, we take issue with the image selected for the November 3 edition of Time. We believe that the image is journalistically irresponsible and unfairly paints teachers and teacher tenure in a negative light.
The gavel smashing the apple, the universal symbol of education, reinforces the text that applauds“tech millionaires” in finally figuring out how to deal the deathblow to teacher tenure widely misunderstood as job protection for life for teachers.
In addition, the cover perpetuates the myth of the “bad” teacher and tenure as the prime enablers of larger failures in American education—more borne of structural inequalities and chronic underfunding than teaching professionals.
“Labeling of teachers is hurtful and stigmatizing to teachers, students, and communities”, states Aixa Rodriguez, BAT DREAM Manager and Bronx teacher.
The cover deliberately privileges the “bad” teacher 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.
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, ELL and Special needs interventions, and needed financial resources to combat the poverty and inequality that plague public schools and are most to blame for hurting young people.
Terry Kalb, BAT administrator, former Special Education teacher, and Special Education advocate says, “Teachers are whistleblowers- we protect children who are denied IEP services, devices, accommodations- all costly and complicated for administrators looking to streamline budgets and staff.”
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 being teachers of color.
BAT Administrator, historian, author, and college professor Dr. Yohuru Williams states, “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 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.