Time Magazine has stirred up a education firestorm with an article highlighting and seeming to endorse Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who want to reform education by smashing teacher tenure.
The cover image of the magazine refers to "rotten apples" and shows a judicial gavel poised to smash an apple. Teacher unions and their supporters are not amused.
At The Washington Post, eduction blogger Valerie Strauss notes a previous cover from Time in 2008, which featured then-DC school superintendent Michelle Rhee, using a broom to "clean up" Washington's schools, in large part by firing teachers.
This time, Strauss writes, the icons Time profiles include David Welch, the millionaire who founded Students Matter, which led the legal fight to eliminate teacher tenure in California.
"Teachers are furious," Strauss concludes, "especially at the magazine cover, which they see as sending the message that there are loads of 'rotten apples' that only 'tech millionaires' know how remove from the classroom. Yet again, wealthy philanthropists and businessman are being cast as the saviors of public education when, in fact, they aren’t."
The progressive website Common Dreams joined the pushback, arguing that 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."
The American Federation of Teachers promptly responded with a petition calling for an apology.
"Time’s cover doesn’t even reflect its own reporting," AFT argues. "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.
"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," The AFT petition concludes.