Campbell Brown, the journalist turned education advocate who founded The Seventy Four, irks Karen Magee, president of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). Despite Brown’s standing as a public school parent, her passion for educational justice and her credentials as an award-winning journalist with a deep understanding of education issues, Magee doesn’t believe that Brown has the right to weigh in on public education.
In fact, at a protest outside a speech Brown delivered this past weekend in upstate New York, Magee challenged the right of anyone who’s not a teacher or doesn’t send their own kids to public school to weigh in on public education.
This line of reasoning presents a major credibility problem for Magee on a variety of fronts. Public school teachers send their own children to private school at a rate twice the national average of 11 percent. The figure is even higher in New York City, where 33 percent of public school teachers enroll their own children in private school.
If Magee were to stay consistent with her guidelines, she would have to silence actor Matt Damon who not only is not an educator, but sends his four daughters to private school. Damon, whose mother is a teacher, has been critical of charter schools and test-based accountability.
Diane Ravitch would also need to be muzzled according to Magee’s rules because she too fails the litmus test. Though Ravitch can certainly claim some expertise around education, Ravitch’s children didn’t attend public school nor is she a public school teacher.
And on this issue, it seems she disagrees with Magee. In a blog post, Ravitch wrote:
You don’t have to be a public school parent to care about our public schools. You don’t even have to be a parent. You just need to care about children and the future of our society.
I am a product of the Houston public schools, K-12. My two grown sons went to private schools in NYC. I have three grandsons. The older two attended religious schools. The youngest is a public school student in Brooklyn. I support public education. That is my right as a citizen, regardless of where my offspring went to school.
Karen Magee is wrong. Every American citizen has a right to weigh in on public education in America. Reasonable people will disagree on policy but no one should be discouraged from engaging in these important debates.
So while Karen Magee decries her opponents in raising their voices on behalf of kids, I say shame on you, Ms. Magee, for telling those with a vested interest, including many of your own NYSUT members, that their opinion isn’t welcome.