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Troublesome timing on those teacher walk-outs

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Did you ever see something, and immediately ask yourself, “who thought that was a good idea?”

I had a really strong moment of that about three months ago. Think back to early February: at that point, the news had been dominated since mid-October by allegations of sexual misconduct against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. In the course of the tawdry affair, Weinstein was forced to resign from his company, enter a therapy program, and, eventually, face legal action in many jurisdictions. At about that same time, movie star Kevin Spacey was accused of a series of acts of sexual misconduct, eventually leading to his firing from his television series. Simultaneously, allegations were leveled against actor Danny Masterson, musical conductor James Levine, a number of current and former Congressmen, and, of course, Garrison Keillor and Matt Lauer, among others.

And, in the face of this tide, some genius decides that this — THIS — is the exact right moment to release the next sequel to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a movie about a man with power and wealth introducing a naïve girl to a world of sexual dominance.

Brilliant.

Sometimes, it’s not the message so much as the timing of the message.

I’m having some of the same thoughts about the teacher walkout that is happening in Jefferson County today (assuming you are reading this on Thursday). For those who don’t know, so many teachers and substitutes in Jeffco took a personal day so they could attend a rally at the capitol today that the school district was forced to cancel classes.

Now, that’s not unique — it’s happened in a number of states around the country already this year, and it’s going to happen in a number of other school districts in the very near future in Colorado. And, as far as it goes, I have no problem with teachers taking a stand and advocating for political issues that affect them and their students. I think it’s a good cause.

However, somebody failed to look at a calendar before they scheduled this particular date for this event. The Thursday walkout is followed by a Friday in which the elementary and middle schools have an early release day, where students are done with classes two to two-and-a-half hours early; these two dates are followed by a series of student assessment days over the next couple weeks, in which most elementary students around the district get the better part of one or two days off, only interrupted by a couple hours to take mandatory state assessments. That’s a lot of time off.

I always look at political advocacy through a prism of 40 percent: In modern America, any issue someone advocates for automatically garners 35-40 percent support; likewise, that same issue automatically motivates 35-40 percent opposition; that leaves 20-30 percent of the public available for influencing. The trick, it seems to me, is to advocate in a way that brings most of the middle over to your position, without mobilizing the opposition to a degree that you have a hard time countering.

In this case, the teachers have at least an automatic 40 percent support, and an automatic 40 percent opposition. Some of those people in the middle are looking at today, while teachers are down at the capitol, as another day that they have to either take off from work to watch their children, or a day they have to spend money on daycare, in a sequence of days when they have several such days already on the calendar, and are getting annoyed. And all this, at a time when the school district is pondering asking the public for a huge influx of money for building projects in the fall.

And, so I ask: who thought this was a good idea?

Today’s brief foray into finding beauty is a simple one: Now is the perfect time of year to find a farm and watch all the new babies. Spend an hour doing this — you’ll walk away much happier.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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