Are you a supporter of sexual predators?
We can all agree that that is a ridiculous question to ask, yet, former journalist Campbell Brown did just that in her Wall Street Journal opinion piece titled, "Teachers Unions Go to Bat for Sexual Predators." Undoubtedly there is a problem with 97 tenured teachers or school employees in New York City being charged by the city's Department of Education with sexual misconduct.
Melvin Hydleburg, 17, a rising senior at Robert H. Lehman High School said at the New York Education Reform hearing at CUNY Hostos on July 26, "We have gotten caught up in the finger-pointing game." He went on to say, "We are simply too content with placing blame. Why don't we step back and realize that a failure for one party is a failure for all parties?"
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened.
And it gets worse.
A Twitter argument began. Brown and UFT President Randi Weingarten fought over Brown's failure to disclose that she is the wife of both a Mitt Romney political advisor and a board member for Students First NY. Both are well known entities that do not support teachers unions.
Weingarten then accused Brown of having taken her stance because Brown's husband is a Republican. Meanwhile, Brown continued suggesting that teachers unions are protecting sexual predators.
I injected myself -- @ZakMal -- into this spat tweeting:
"You're all acting immature. No one supports sexual predators. Period."
"You may not feel this affects you directly, but it is [a] big deal to the victims and families. [This is] an important change worth fighting for." The change she was referring to is stopping the union from protecting sexual predators, as she accused them of doing in the aforementioned opinion piece.
Her response frustrated me. I replied:
"I never said it doesn't affect me. This Twitter fight is not constructive and isn't doing kids justice."
Students First NY joins in by tweeting that they agreed this Twitter bickering was senseless.
Next I asked, "So are we going to end this now and focus on the students?" In a response, they said that this issue is about students. My final follow up requested that Students First "Take [the] lead," considering their claim that they are putting students first.
I got no response.
As respected educator Chris Lehmann wisely shared, "There is arguing to learn and there is arguing to win." This was an argument to win.
Failing for all parties
This idea was played out beautifully in a Twitter smackdown.
Brown approached our failure to protect students in an inappropriate and unprofessional manner.
Weingarten failed to respond in a way that maintains the pride of the teaching profession.
Students First NY got involved in what was a clear publicity campaign by bashing Weingarten in a mass email.
Each party has since taken the foot off the pedal, but is not sitting down to discuss suitable solutions. If these adults can't work together, who can we trust to protect students?
Rather than working to empower students, teachers, and parents to fight against the egregious acts of a few, these high-profile tweeters spent the day arguing to win. That sounds like something an angry ex-girlfriend or boyfriend would do. Let's leave "winning" Twitter fights to the angry ex's. Protecting our kids, our students, from the horrendous acts of child predators is where we should want to focus on winning. Otherwise, the only losers will be our students.
Zak Malamed is an 18-year-old student who is sick and tired of seeing these "adults" fighting for us. He is the organizer of StuVoice.org.