Return to Sender

This week, the Center for Union Facts mailed a tirade about American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten to 125,000 homes across the country. I won’t go into the details, because the substance of the letter is not worth repeating. Suffice it to say that it’s a shameful example of the personal attacks that have become dismayingly common in our national shouting match about improving schools—and one that anyone who is serious about that effort should resoundingly reject.

We have had our fair share of disagreements with Weingarten over the years. As the head of the million-member AFT, one of the nation’s largest labor unions, she wields enormous political power and influences education policymaking at all levels. At times, we’ve been discouraged to see her use her platform to advocate for policies that we believe do a disservice to the profession and the students it serves. But none of that justifies ad hominem attacks on her personal character.

The challenges facing our public schools are complex and can seem intractable. They deserve attention and debate. But it’s a lot easier to demonize and blame one person or entity (Weingarten, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, Campbell Brown, bad teachers, bad principals—you pick), than to engage in the hard work of finding solutions. Teachers unions and their allies themselves have been all too eager to engage in the politics of personal destruction as a strategy for fighting change.

The difficult truth is that dysfunction in education is pervasive. Everybody owns a piece of it. And it will take all of us together to fix it. Attacks like this, which seek only to inflame the discussion and polarize us further, do nothing more than deepen that dysfunction and distract us from the real problems.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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