Time-Teacher Spat Grows

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Blake Neff Reporter
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The feud between unionized teachers and Time magazine is continuing, with the country’s second-largest teachers union planning a demonstration outside the publication’s New York City headquarters on Thursday afternoon.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which has about 1.5 million members, launched a petition effort against Time last week over a cover reading “Rotten Apples: It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. Some tech millionaires may have found a way to change that.”

The cover was paired with a lead story focused on efforts by education reformers, funded by wealthy businessmen, to weaken teacher tenure and otherwise make it easier to fire inept educators. The AFT claims the cover “cast[s] teachers as ‘rotten apples’ needing to be smashed by Silicon Valley millionaires with no experience in education.” The petition, which demands that Time apologize, has collected some 90,000 signatures already and may soon pass 100,000.

To send its message home, AFT president Randi Weingarten will be leading a protest on Thursday afternoon at Time’s headquarters. Accompanied by Michael Mulgrew, the head of New York City’s teachers union, and a collection of other teachers and parents, Weingarten will be dropping off tens of thousands of petitions at TIME’s Midtown office at 3 p.m.

In an effort to shame the news magazine, AFT has also been organizing a collective social media protest using the hashtag #TIMEtoApologize, which will be promoted at the same time Weingarten’s multitude delivers the petitions.

Other teacher groups have been getting in on the act as well. The National Education Association (NEA), the country’s other large nationwide teachers union, has endorsed the AFT’s efforts, as has the hard-left Badass Teachers Association (BAT), which has condemned Time for being “journalistically irresponsible.”

Should Time refuse to issue any apology after Thursday’s showing, the underlying threat is that the AFT may move on from merely being upset to pushing for a boycott of the magazine, both in teachers’ homes and in public school classrooms. AFT’s petition included a checkbox for individuals who subscribe to the magazine or use its materials in school, an effort to drive home the business Time stands to lose by remaining defiant.

If a potential boycott has flustered Time, they certainly haven’t bothered to show it. The magazine has steadfastly refused to comment on demands that it apologize. Instead, it has managed to draft its critics into writing content for the magazine. On Monday, it ran an entire series of negative reactions to its cover, written by Weingarten, NEA president Lily Ekelsen Garcia and even members of the Badass Teachers.

Update: Time editor Nancy Gibbs has published a brief response to criticism of the magazine, saying that Time “has nothing but admiration for America’s dedicated teachers and their commitment to excellence.”

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