A Message to the Founders of The Badass Teachers Association
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?