Debating “Depraved Indifference”

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The intentions behind a recent Drummer letter on public education were seemingly benign and certainly ambiguous. The author assured us that “it was not meant to reflect on Granby’s status” and that she “looks forward to any reaction on the current situation of public education in America.” (Reference Susan Patricelli Regan’s March Opinion piece, Depraved Indifference)

In a circuitous approach, our local writer asked us to read a letter printed in another newspaper published a month earlier. That letter included no data and was one man’s opinion and rhetoric. Without diligence, intending to reinforce his credibility, we were advised locally that the original letter was written by a CEO of an education “think tank.”

The original letter in question was titled, “The failed promise of public K-12 education” and was critical of the American public education system. Our local Granby writer excerpted phrases from the letter such as “the demise of public education”, “ineffective and low performing (public school) teachers protected by unions” and “parents who do not place a high priority on their child’s education.” Our local writer asked us to consider this “diverse perspective.”

Interestingly, the newspaper that published the “failed promise” letter printed many recent letters addressing education, including, “Connecticut charter schools are not delivering”, “Education is the cornerstone of democracy” or “Trump’s reaction to defeat further confirms urgency for school focus on social emotional skills”—each generally offering favorable views of American public schools. Oddly, our local Granby writer chose to direct us to the “failed promise” letter only.

Further, the CEO of the “think tank” appears to be self-employed, self-appointed and his organization apparently exists only on his LinkedIn profile (i.e., there is no public record of the organization). Additionally, his recent letter appears to be the only published article by the CEO or the purported “think tank”.

Now consider that our Town of Granby is currently in the middle of our budget process. Not coincidentally, the local writer reminded us that “public education makes up the majority of any municipal budget.”

Stringing this together, in my words, here’s the developing message: “public schools are a failure according to an ‘expert’ + it’s our town’s budget season + our local schools are the largest budget item.” It is not difficult to see the rhetorical construct our local writer is attempting.

Like many, I am for free speech—citizens are permitted to agitate and raise questions within our political system. We are even free to directly or indirectly impugn our local community’s investments in our children and public school system.

While the Drummer’s editors wisely labeled February’s letter as an opinion, it is important to recall that rhetoric without facts or data can easily become misinformation. Our community would do well to dismiss February’s letter as nothing more than that.

Michael Fitzgerald