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A Message to the Founders of The Badass Teachers Association

July 5, 2013

Dear Badass Teachers Founders,

First of all, let me congratulate you on your overnight success at establishing such an organization! Wow. To have such a well-intentioned, purposeful initiative be met with such a response is nothing short of amazing, and I applaud your efforts.

In April, after reaching the point where I could not, in good conscience, continue to be a part of the problem that exists in the public schools, I resigned from my 15-year teaching career in the Boston Public Schools. I did so with the intent of establishing a similarly-minded and similarly-intentioned FB group myself; on May 28, I launched “Boston Teachers – United We Stand”. The group has not been met with anything close to the response BAT has received, but that will not deter me from continuing with my efforts. I am truly in awe of the movement you have already created, and grateful to be a part of such an organization.

Having said that, there is one aspect of BAT that I’m respectfully asking you to consider rethinking – that is, the words behind the acronym.

BAT founders/facilitators have recently been quoted as saying:

“A note on the name: There have been many discussions about the name of the group. There are some who feel it is offensive or unprofessional to use the word “badass” and are uncomfortable with its use. We disagree. As Dr. Naison says: “We’ve had enough. We are not your doormats. We are not your punching bags. We are some of the hardest working, most idealistic people in this country and we are not going to take it anymore. We are going to stand up for ourselves, and stand up for our students even if no organization really supports us. We are Badass. We are legion. And we will force the nation to hear our voice!

We hope that conversations about changing the name no longer continue. To that end, page administrators have been asked to end or delete any comments and/or threads where this becomes the topic. Our intention is to promote the goals of the group and move forward with our efforts.”

I am not one to judge,especially because, as I said, my own grassroots efforts have not seen anywhere near the level of success yours is continuing to enjoy. Clearly, you know what you’re doing, and you do it well. To reiterate my earlier sentiments, I am in awe of you.

Neither am I one to judge people who use profanity; one of my own personal worst habits is my propensity to drop f-bombs whenever the mood strikes, which is often. But there are a lot of people who take offense at what can be considered “vulgar” or “foul” language, from the “F-word” to even a word like “badass”.

I understand your unwillingness to consider changing the name; I understand the theory behind the title; I understand that you have created something with commendable intentions, & that maybe you think people should focus on that, rather than be so petty as to criticize or even condemn the words behind the acronym. And maybe people should lighten up about “badass”. Maybe people shouldn’t allow a simple word to dictate or determine whether s/he ultimately opts to join the BATs.

But they are. Open up the comments section after any article or blog posting written in praise of BAT, and you will surely discover that the number of people commending your efforts is equal to the number of people who also take offense at the name. You will find yourself reading comments like these:

“I would be violating my conscience to join. I do however, support the principles and mission of the organization”;

“In our high school Freshmen English classroom, my kids are not “allowed” to use even the word “suck” as an adjective, as in “This sucks.” They are, instead, encouraged to find ‘the exact right word” to express their meaning. That being said, I cannot endorse BAT”;

“Admittedly, I AM A bad-ass teacher and I did, initially, join in the fray. Then I thought about how I would justify my association/membership to my kids (students). I could not, so I removed my name from their membership list though I agree with their sentiments and goals”;

“But if I am trying to organize a push against the edu-deformers I wouldn’t choose “Badass Teachers” as a moniker. It’s all about context, when does a word become a “foul” word versus when is the word properly used in the proper context. A lot has to do with tone of voice, social setting, intent of speaker/writer, etc. . . . So, no I haven’t signed up for the facebook group”;

“I have not officially joined BAT yet (hung up on the name, but I’m sure I’ll get there)”.

Badass Teachers Association founders, I know you’ve expressed your hope that conversations about the name don’t continue, so that you can continue to focus on your efforts. I further believe that your ultimate goal is in creating the most widespread alliance of like-minded educators (& others invested in public education) possible.

What I don’t understand is your unwillingness to revisit the words behind the acronym, because until you do, you will fall short in achieving that goal. As someone who would do just about anything to experience similar success in creating a grassroots campaign to stop this insanity, I especially struggle with your unbendingness.

I think it’s time you re-priortize and re-assess your intentions, and ask yourselves which is the more important outcome here – to maintain a level of “control” with the BAT by refusing to choose a new moniker, or to enlist as many supporters nationwide as possible, in hopes of achieving this common goal we all share?

The reality is, “Badass Association of Teachers” really does negate some of it’s credibility in it’s word choice. Worse, the title has already proven to be enough of a deterrent for some people that your membership is not going to reach the numbers it would and could, if only you re-named it.

I respectfully urge you to reconsider your rigidity here, and come up with a more widely-acceptable term for “Badass”. The group has already become known for it’s controversial title as much as it’s become known for it’s amazing intentions; listening to what so many potential allies are saying would certainly not hurt your cause. It could only help. And at the end of the day, isn’t that exactly what you are trying to do?

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14 Comments
  1. Marty Townsend permalink

    To me, the growth of this group greatly resembles that of several astro turf entities such as AFP and other Tea Party aligned groups. They magically appear, get lots of followers, and the mission gets streamlined to a specific agenda. When I first heard of BATs, they were pissed teachers requesting support and calling for unity. Within two weeks their message has been driven toward nothing but abolition of CCSS and high stakes testing. They somehow got funding for a web site, which is registered to Rebekah Cordova, a teacher for a charter operation, consulting service, and teacher/principal fast track certification program based in Colorado. Ms. Cordova lives in Florida and claims on her Facebook profile that she is a former employee of the same organization listed as the owner of the BAT website at http://www.badassteacher.org, which was activated on June 20, 2013. When posting on the BAT page, if you disagree with an administrative position of the group, you are quickly banned and your comments of dissent removed. Members on the page often openly attack one another with name-calling and downright mean-spiritness. You are under no obligation to post this response on your blog, but I would ask that you contemplate some of the things I mentioned and assist me in researching the origins of this group a little better before we all jump on board. Wouldn’t it be disastrous for teachers nationwide if membership in this group became a GOP talking point labeling teachers as whiny, foul-mouthed, adults dissatisfied with our educational system? I can see their talking points now – “Would you want these foul-mouthed adults teaching your children?” It could be that the insistence on no name change has an ulterior motive.

    • jillconroy permalink

      Marty, talk about food for thought!!! Thank you for sharing that info…the more I think about what you’re saying, the more I read comments like that of Teacher Tim below, the more leery I become about the BATs in general. I’d be happy to do some research myself; as you say, we should research the origins before we all jump on board.
      I’ve been so impressed with the fact that BAT has gained 20,000members in just 2 weeks that it never occurred to me to wonder HOW that possibly happened? What kind of a group could achieve the same level of interest and support before it had even had a chance to establish itself as a legitimate and worthwhile coalition? It’s so amazing I can’t help but wonder if it’s impossible.

      Maybe we all really shouldn’t be so naive….

    • Rebekah Cordova permalink

      Hi Marty! I’m very flattered that you took the time to “know” me through your FB and google “research”. If you would like to know more about my many years teaching in schools (public, charter, private, facility) as well as my education activism in my home state of Colorado – why didn’t you just say so! I could talk about my positionality within social justice education as well as teacher licensure curriculum for hours on end ….. So if you really want to have a dialogue (meaning more than just your voice hearing itself) – then please do reach out 🙂 otherwise I assume your cyber-stalking will reach a polite end?

      • handymaam13@gmail.com permalink

        You really should learn the definition of cyber stalking. I merely pointed out facts that seemed to be at odds. I have no beef with you, it just seemed odd that you and a company you claim to no longer work for (even though they still list you as staff) are listed as the registrants on the BAT website. Incidentally, I don’t use Google because I find them too intrusive. I prefer Bing and other sources I learned about in law enforcement training.
        Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  2. Tim permalink

    Did you ever think about why BATs has taken off? Part of it is the name! Teachers have had it, there are many organizations , do this..do that, but this is an organization for those that realize what is going on and want to change it! Look at all the “reform” names, they all sound great, but they are all out to profit on the Public schools.

    There are still many teachers that have their heads buried in sand and this is what the “reformers” are wishing for. If they can shut the Teachers out they have no resistance, which is exactly the way they want it!

    So pull your head out of where ever it is and join with us or just get out of the way, the BATs are here to stay!!

  3. jillconroy permalink

    Teacher Tim, I’m sorry that you felt necessary to defend the BATs after reading my post, but I think you misunderstood my message. I am not someone who is personally opposed nor offended by the title; my head is not buried in any sand, & my name is included in BAT members/supporters.

    I am, however, someone who wholeheartedly agrees with your 2nd paragraph, who is as outraged by that as you seem to be, & who has even taken the initiative to launch a similarly-intentioned FB group myself, albeit one of a much smaller caliber.

    That being said, I believe the #1 priority for any grassroots organization like this is recruiting members. Obviously, the more members an advocacy group has, the stronger the group becomes. We already have seen the kind of strength that money can buy, and there is no apparent end to the amount of money the Reformists have (&continue to amass at a sickening rate and for a terrifying cost). In order to become more powerful than what often feels like immeasurable wealth, we need everyone we can get to stand alongside us.

    So I did not post this message to condemn, criticize, or otherwise, and I’m not sure how that wasn’t clear. I posted it rather to simply ask why would you be so utterly unbending in your decision not to re-consider using the word badass in the title, when it results in fewer people getting involved, thus reducing the potential level of power the group could ultimately achieve. Isn’t that the goal?

    In hindsight maybe I did criticize when I said the Word negates some credibility of the group. It does. But I have to tell you now that it’s the curious, confusing, and frankly, immature, apparent message the BAT leaders are sending of “we don’t care if it offends you; we came up with the name, so go “f” yourselves, then. We don’t need you in our group”, that is leaving me – & presumably others – with an even worse taste in my mouth about BAT and where BATs priorities are.

    Maybe instead of attacking everyone who expresses any negativity regarding BATs title, defenders can explain what the big deal is about re-considering “badass”, especially if it means an increase in the membership.

  4. Hannah permalink

    A little reality check here, I’m SURE the founders did not tell you to go “f” yourself… but it was more of a, “You can choose NOT to join if the name bothers you.” The frustration about posts regarding the name has to do with the fact that it’s a dead issue… it’s been discussed ad-nausea, and the founders have been clear (if one reads in the tab’s sections) that they don’t want to continue allowing the issue to diffuse the group’s energy, so those posts would be deleted. If someone actually DID tell you to go “f” yourself, I’d venture to say it was an already disgruntled teacher who’s tired of the issue coming up.

  5. Tim permalink

    Jillconroy, I did not misunderstand your message!

    First, I think is is pretty darn rude to join an organization then tell them that they should change the name! Did anyone tell you that you should change your name?

    Second, as I mentioned, the name is what caused this group to grow to 21,000 in 2 weeks!

    Thirdly, we have tried being “nice”, now it’s time to get bad-assed!

    Stop getting hung up on the name and do something useful!

  6. Michael permalink

    Marty, I have to concur with your thoughts as well. I joined BAT’s FB group because I thought it was a teacher advocacy group. With so much wrong with teaching right now, I thought perhaps a grass roots teacher group might shine some light on what plagues us. Instead, all I read was comment after comment condemning the CCSS and assessments. It sounded like the whiny teacher workrooms I avoid at school. What was worse was that posts spoke of the CCSS, but were really complaining about the assessments. They are not synonymous! Anyway, I could only handle about an hour of the complaining before I left the group.

    To be honest, though, I joined because of the name; however, they will never be considered a legitimate player with that name.

    • Wow! The group is only a month old, and you think you know what or who they are? No one is begging anyone to stay… The author here is obviously using the organization to gain a little more attention. If you don’t mind high stakes testing and having corporations take over schools Michael, we really don’t want you there anyway…

  7. I wonder how many of the BAT defenders are, in reality, BATINOs who have been going along to get along and instituting the insane educational malpractices without any fight for all these years until now when the repercussions (that could be seen coming a mile away) are starting to hit their district/school. How many of the BATtys have multiple letters of reprimand for standing up for the students against the nonsense? How many have been forced out of positions, been forced to leave a district for not “going along to get along” or not being a “team player”? When all you BATters have put your job on the line to stand up to the many educational malpractices that have been and continue to be instituted then we’ll start talking about being a badass!

    Badasses don’t need to promote themselves, they know who they are!

  8. Ann Wells permalink

    Just a new thought on the name. It is confusing, due to the fact it can be administrators complaining about ” teachers that don’t meet the standards, or have repeatedly received poor evaluations.” Thus BAT Ass. Or it can be just what you aspire it to be. Either way, make the Organization more direct and to the point.; so forget the Hoopla and change the name.

  9. I don’t mind the name, it gets the point across. I’m attempting to stick with the status quo after also leaving education 15 years ago. I’m dedicating my site to be used as a parent resource, and I’m not getting into the politics of what’s happening. I’m being the change I want to see. To each their own. It sure is good to know change is happening, on any level.

  10. Jill as you know from being a member of the group the name is what drew many to us. That being said, and as you know, we are passionate about dialogue and conversation among educators. We have been quiet for far too long. I would like to copy and paste our mission statement for all your readers and as you know we welcome people to join our charge. We take pride in calling out those who are harming public education (our actions thus far have exposed Duncan, Gates, and Broad). We have conducted 911 actions for Philly and Chicago teachers, as well as actions for the reauthorization of the ESEA. Perhaps our most supportive advocate, Diane Ravitch, confirmed the need for a group of teachers who aren’t afraid to get in people’s faces. We have action coming against lawmakers and hoping for a national action in DC next summer. So, continue following us and writing about us – we welcome the press because it only makes us stronger.

    Mr. Townsend I can quickly tell you about the origins of this group. Mark Naison and Priscilla Sanstead found the group. I was asked to join when it had 70 people. We wanted a place where teachers/educators could dialogue about corporate deform. On June 16th Mark and I proposed a contest to recruit more teachers so we could begin educating them about the attempt to privatize education and the rest is history. Regarding our web designer, Rebekah is a passionate advocate for children and education. She kindly volunteered her time to create our webpage for our non FB users. As you know from being on BATs we welcome all educators because they need to be in on the national conversation about education reform. Regarding deleting posts, yes we need to do that but I have to disagree that it is a quick process. Admins will privately message a poster but if that post becomes a personal attack on anyone in the group and is directed at race, gender, or sexual identity it is deleted after 5 votes from the admins. Posts are not deleted because they disagree with administrative position. As far as banning, yes we need to because people do appear on the board that chronically violate our policies. This to is voted on by admins and talked about at length. So, hope that has cleared up a few items for you.

    BADASS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
    CLARIFICATION OF OUR MISSION
    JULY 18, 2013

    Dear Members – We would like to make it clear and concise what our mission is for this association of teachers. Our actions will occur in three phases and continue to evolve as the landscape of corporate deform evolves.

    Phase 1 – To expose the entities that are harming public education (corporate
    deformers and government officials/lawmakers). Time Frame: July/August

    Phase 2 -To educate the public about the realities of public education policy.
    To pursue ways, prior to the start of the school year, to educate and join in partnership with parent and student groups to actively stop the privatization of our public school system. To also educate teachers who are not yet aware of the privatization movement. Time Frame: Late July/August

    Phase 3 – To continue making public the hoax that our public school system is broken as well as other lies being spread about public education. We will actively monitor and target public figures to demand they “step up” and increase support for public education. Time Frame: Late August/Year Round

    We ARE NOT A POLITICAL ORGANIZATION. WE DO NOT SUPPORT OR ENDORSE ANY POLITICAL PARTY. We endorse a return of education back to the public and the addition of teacher voices to the education conversations being had at both the federal and state level.

    Here is what we are fighting:

    1. Badass Teachers will fight against Common Core National Standards; this stance is rooted in an extensive review of research literature, policy documents, and advice of educational historians/experts (Ravitch, Krashen, and Cody). This stance is in NO WAY ROOTED TO SUPPORT ANY POLITICAL PARTY. BATs WILL NOT ALIGN THEMSELVES WITH ANY POLITICAL PARTY. WE BELIEVE THIS IS AN EDUCATORS’ FIGHT AND WE WILL SUPPORT TEACHERS IN ENDING THE HARM CURRENTLY BEING DONE TO PUBLIC EDUCATION IN AMERICA. This group is opposed to the forced imposition of Common Core Standards on teachers, schools and school districts. We do not exclude teachers who voluntarily work with Common Core Standards, but we vehemently oppose a one size fits all model of learning that is imposed through bribery, intimidation and extreme political pressure, for the profit of private companies, in a manner that brings with it increased testing and smothers student and teacher creativity.

    2. Badass Teachers will fight against High Stakes Testing and the excessive testing of our children.

    3.Badass Teachers will fight against teacher evaluations tied to student test scores.

    4.Badass Teachers will fight against the corporate attempt to privatize public education, which has resulted in the closing of schools in urban and poverty areas and the subsequent opening of charter schools for profit or a voucher system that seeks to destroy neighborhood schools.

    5.Badass Teachers will fight against any federal or state educational policy or mandate that has been implemented without funding and extensive teacher input.

    6.Badass Teachers will fight against any attempt to assault, hinder, or deny our right to collective bargaining.

    We hope that these six mission statements will allow you all to carry on conversations as great Badasses always do. We also hope they will provide you with a clarification of our goals. An army of 23,000 Badass Teachers will not agree on all these elements but we do agree on most. We want to thank you all for your continued support, time, and consideration. Now let’s get to work!

    Respectfully your Co-Founders,
    Mark Naison and Priscilla Sanstead
    and
    BAT General Manager
    Marla Kilfoyle

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