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Nut Jobs At The Margins (Or Do People Really Believe That Collective Bargaining Had ANYTHING To Do With Newtown)

By Joe Williams, Executive Director

Pick any issue of interest these days and you’ll find nut jobs on the extremes spewing irrational nonsense that nobody takes seriously. Often, there’s no need for the public square to hold these folks accountable for their screeds because nobody in the square really takes them seriously anyway.

We’ve certainly seen it in the wake of the tragic Newtown school shooting from last week.

First we saw the Tea Party (to the extent that it still exists) offer an asinine theory blaming the shooting on, among other things, teachers unions. 

Then we saw Diane Ravitch (a friend who I spend an unusual and frustrating amount of time defending with colleagues) argue that the school tragedy proves that charter schools and education philanthropists are evil (and that the fact that Newtown teachers were part of a union was a significant factor in the heroism that we have all honored in the last week). 

Seemingly worried that Diane was going to look marginalized, Chicago Teachers Union boss Karen Lewis, speaking on behalf of teachers in one of the nation’s largest school districts, weighed in with a rambling “atta girl, Diane” missive which (astonishingly) dragged Education Secretary Arne Duncan into the blame game. 

Are we to dismiss this stuff as the work of a bunch of coo-coo birds? That was my first instinct, but who knows? An early debate in the comment section over at Eduwonk seems to be raising spirited questions about whether or not, for example, Teach For America corp members would have put their lives on the line for students the way the teachers in Newtown did.