Teachers Talk Depression, Training, Facilities, Bullying; The Atlantic Talks “Poop”

Inside Philanthropy published an article in May exploring the intersection of journalism and private, agenda-specific money. In particular, the article looked at a $550,000 grant to the Atlantic from the Walton Family Foundation – with its stated goal of catalyzing a “national movement demanding choice and accountability” in education – asking: “So how, exactly, does the Atlantic help the foundation advance its game plan?”

The article – “What’s Up With That Big Grant to the Atlantic Monthly from the Walton Family Foundation?” – states that authors had seen no “overt bias toward a Walton worldview in Atlantic’s pieces” while also noting lack of disclaimers in the magazine’s education coverage.

But an article published this week has many readers declaring that the Atlantic is now evidencing anti-teacher and union-bashing attitudes – often associated with the Waltons, as well as with the Gates foundation, which also funds the publication.

All About Poop?

The July 27 article cites a recent national teacher survey sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers and the BadAss Teachers Association. But author Alia Wong fails to interview anyone associated with the Quality of Work-Life Survey, dismisses most its findings, and calls for skepticism toward results because the AFT “clearly has a vested interest in advocating for better work conditions for educators, as does the Badass Teachers Association.”

Wong ignores findings about bullying, poor school facilities, and lack of decision-making. Instead, she zeroes in on only one of four “health and well-being” summary points, declaring: “perhaps the biggest takeaway is somewhat buried in the summary report: Of the various everyday workplace stressors educators could check off, one of the most popular was ‘Lack of opportunity to use restroom.’”


  • 45% do not get adequate bathroom breaks;
  • 44% are not able to use the breaks they do get.
  • Only half say their school district encourages them to take sick leave when they are ill.
  • 26% of respondents say that in the last 30 days, their mental health (stress, depression,
    emotional challenges) was not good for 9 or more days.
  • 51% work in facilities that are only fair/poo

— from “Quality of Worklife Survey” Summary (full summary here and more from the AFT on the survey)

Nine percent of respondents said they’d suffered assault at school, and 30% said they’d been bullied. Wong talks about toilet breaks.

Many readers believe this narrow focus diminishes serious stresses – including very real problems of well-being associated with limitations on bathroom use – and deliberately mocks the profession. Wong’s turning to experts on hydration and urinary tract infections, while devaluing teachers’ own health reports, struck many as further demeaning.


WongTWEETTo promote the story, the author Tweeted: “But srsly, why can’t schools give teachers more time to pee & poop?” The Atlantic followed suit. Social media responses included a number of Tweets using vulgar expressions for bodily functions to directly attack teachers. Others chastised the Atlantic for missing the mark:

“What if the author actually contacted BadAss Teachers Association about the survey and then wrote an article?” one Tweet asked.

“The larger issue is the Atlantic seems to be making light of bullying and abuse in the workplace,” said another.

<a href="http://windycityteachers.blogspoMakeItRightTWEET“Make it right!” Tweeted a third. “It’s about bullying and suicide and basic human rights.”

See also, “Teacher Pee Time, Really Atlantic?” on Windy Ciy Teachers Blog.

As of July 30 morning, neither the Atlantic itself nor author Alia Wong had responded to criticism via Twitter or on the Atlantic site.

Discussion here with one of the survey creators and a BAT leader —


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