I don’t know any of the students or faculty from Central Falls High School personally. I’ve never been to Central Falls High School. In fact, I had never heard of Central Falls before last week. I would guess that very few of the people who are commenting on “the failure of Central Falls High” have ventured inside Central Falls High or taken time to actually talk to the students and staff. However, lack of first hand knowledge certainly hasn’t inhibited politicians, pundits and the public from pontificating about “those” teachers and “those” students. It would seem that without any real information, a great many people have labeled the students as losers and their teachers as users and abusers.
As the rhetoric rolls on about the firing of the entire Central Falls High School staff I have been reminded of a comment made by a former teacher who understood the power of the press. While I can’t share Thomas Paine’s amusement, I can appreciate his perception when he said
- I have frequently amused myself both in public and private companies, with silently remarking the specious errors of those who speak without reflecting. Thomas Paine
As a propagandist, political activist, agitator and journalist himself, I began to wonder if Mr. Paine might contribute some Common Sense to The Crisis that seems to be swirling around the fate of a school that was almost invisible until last week when
- “Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society.” Thomas Paine
The Secretary of Education applauded the action insisting
- “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Thomas Paine
But the teachers claim that they have made progress, pointing out that
- “You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.” Thomas Paine
According to the AFL-CIO
- “If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.” Thomas Paine
This week talks have resumed and Central Falls Superintendent Frances Gallo said in a statement
- “The greatest remedy for anger is delay.” Thomas Paine
In defense of the Central Falls teachers, the American Federation of Teachers website presents its case stating
- ” We can only reason from what is; we can reason on actualities, but not on possibilities.” Thomas Paine
In the conclusion of the Commissioner’s Report, the Team Chair advises
It is possible that the teachers at Central Falls went from being hard workers to unconcerned slackers between April 2009 and February 2010. What seems more plausible is that the agendas of stakeholders who have any real investment in Central Falls have changed and once again, the students are pawns and the staff the pieces in an adult game of political chess. There are some who say that the Crisis at Central Falls was an unfortunate but bold and necessary move to be competitive. But in the excitement of competing in the Race to the Top for more money to ensure that No Child was Left Behind it seems that the people in charge didn’t notice that if you fire all the teachers the kids of Central Falls are left home alone and that’s not bold, it’s foolhardy.
- “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Thomas Paine
Image: National Portrait Gallery
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