This past week, the local paper featured several “news” articles about the school where I formerly taught. The principal at the school was given notice recently that his contract would not be renewed due to MCAS, our state educational yardstick. There is no equivocating that the Superintendent of schools has a right to do this: principals work without contract in this state. However, the aftermath of this sad moment in a school’s history made me wonder what in heck is wrong with people today.
The local paper carried a page 2 article which, in summary, stated that when the above-referenced principal announced to his staff that he would not be returning for the 2010-2011 school year, he did so by lambasting the staff for failing to get the MCAS scores where they would need to be. When I read this “account”, it seemed rather curious. Only a moron would further demoralize a teaching staff already on edge because the administration was changing by such unprofessional behavior. I was acquainted with the principal in question, having worked at the school during his first year’s assignment there. Such an outburst truly seemed out of character — yet there it was in black and white for all to see. It was in the paper — it must be the truth. Newspaper reporters fact check, don’t they?
Later the same week, the current staff — the very people who would have been sitting in the meeting during the alleged lambasting — categorically and without prompting denied that the reported events happened. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The principal complemented his staff for their efforts and received a standing ovation. How could the newspaper report have been so inaccurate? To date, there has been no retraction. The only way the accurate accounting of events has become known is through word of mouth. Not gossip. People who were actually sitting in the room and who are now trying to correct inaccuracies one ear at a time.
Well, I do have a few thoughts about such phenomena — plural, because who knows how often such blatant, mean-spirited misrepresentations occur and no one hears the truth. Educators work in a profession that no longer carries any respect. It used to; but now it is much more convenient to blame educators for the evils of our society. We’re easy targets – too busy to make a big stink and out there sucking up tax dollars,. Or so it would seem to those who would like to ignore the common good or their responsibilities in a democratic society.
When it comes to spending public money, no one wants to spend much on public schools. It’s much more easy to cut or withhold desperately needed funding by vilifying public education and the people who are dedicated to it. The press around public education says nothing about what really goes on in a classroom. I can’t actually recall much positive press unless of course you count the feel good sports stories after the Thanksgiving Day football games.
Some of our elected officials would be better informed if they actually set foot inside classrooms and stopped relying on agendas put out by small-minded publishers supported by sloppy reporting. It would force those in a position to champion public schools to abandon efforts to dismantle public education — the education that is available to all.
However, it’s much more convenient to read and believe misrepresentations reported as truths. This week’s local news article is just one more example of such.