At least the Wall Street Journal is supporting Bessinger against the “education horror show.”
Yesterday, I wondered why the plight and complaints of Providence middle school teacher Ramona Bessinger weren’t of more concern to teachers, parents, the community, the union, and Rhode Islanders generally. Today, the Wall Street Journal editorial board has proven that somebody actually cares, giving their editorial the sharp headline, “Education Horror Show, Continued.” (Search the headline in Google or Bing to access the text if you don’t subscribe.)
Although not noting that Bessinger’s classroom whiteboard and Twitter became a forum for the expression of hatred against her while she was at a pretext-smelling disciplinary hearing, the essay makes key connections, such as:
The district would be unlikely to win a disciplinary case against Ms. Bessinger for opining online about critical race theory because the Supreme Court in Pickering v. Board of Education (1968) held that the First Amendment protects teachers from retaliation for speaking on matters of public concern. Hence, the district needed a pretext to target her.
Readers may recall a 2019 report by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy (see our editorial “An Education Horror Show,” July 2019) documenting teacher misconduct, chaotic classrooms, student violence and academic failure in Providence public schools. Teachers were rarely disciplined even if they abused students, skipped classes, dozed off or lied about grades.
It is far from gratuitious for the WSJ to bring readers’ minds back to the 2019 Johns Hopkins study, because the two are intrinsically connected. The reason the district is so abysmally failing its students is related to the reason its employees get away with failure, which is related to the ideological indoctrination on which Bessinger put a spotlight as well to the efforts to discipline her for doing so. Fixing any link in that chain goes a long way toward fixing the whole thing.
So, I ask again: Where are the local voices? Standing up for Bessinger is a step toward improving education for Rhode Island’s most-disadvantaged students.
The silence shows that Ocean State politicians, unions, and other activists (in and out of the local news media) understand that their fates are all tied to an ideological agenda, which is more important to them than the mission for which they’re supposedly involved in public education in the first place.
The silence of parents and others in the community, not to mention the participation of students in attacks on Bessinger, shows that there’s still a wide open field that can be claimed simply by getting them to see the truth behind the special-interest talking points.
Featured image by Niamat Ullah on Unsplash.