Millionaires and Images

The cover story of Time Magazine’s November 3, 2014 issue was titled “ROTTEN APPLES.  IT’S NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO FIRE A BAD TEACHER.  SOME TECH MILLIONAIRES MAY HAVE FOUND A WAY TO CHANGE THAT.”

I came away with two realizations after reading the article – one person with lots of money can change public education and images are as powerful as words.

I had heard something about the California ruling of Vergara v. California in which a judge had struck down California’s teacher tenure.  What I didn’t know is that Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch orchestrated the lawsuit.  Time quotes Welch’s pronouncement on education, “It’s failing, and it doesn’t want to acknowledge that its’s failing, much less do anything about it.”  Welch put his money where is mouth was in 2010.  He hired a legal think tank to define the legal theory behind the lawsuit.  Then he hired a public relations firm to drum up supporters (and more money).  Welsh’s team then went out and found kids who were willing to bad-mouth their teachers in court.  After a two-month trial, Judge Treu’s decision sided with Welch’s team – that bad teachers are bad for kids, so get rid of tenure.

I like images as much as words.  The Time cover is a picture of a courtroom gavel about to smash an apple (the symbol of American public education).

Inside, the two-page introductory spread (above) shows four apples – three ripe and one rotten.  Are one-in-four teachers “rotten”?  That’s what the image implies.

Of course the court case in California will continue up the legal ladder for awhile.  In the meantime similar lawsuits are starting in New York, Connecticut, Oregon and New Jersey.  See what one person with deep pockets can do?