I'VE BEEN thinking about Senator-turned-Viagra pitchman Bob Dole lately. Now, for the record, that's not because I suffer from ED; nor is it because the so-called socialist health-reform law was actually Dole's plan in 1994. No, it's because I find myself nowadays muttering his plaintive cry from his ill-fated 1996 presidential bid: "Where's the outrage?"
When Daily News columnist Buzz Bissinger recently penned his imagined, vigilante-fueled execution of abortion doc Kermit Gosnell in these pages, it dawned on me: We had all become numb to moral horror. Buzz's outrage jump-started mine. The day after his column appeared, sportswriter Dick Jerardi - himself something of a loose canon - waltzed into my office.
"You know why I love Buzz?" he said. "Because he just doesn't give a ."
I've been thinking of this exchange ever since, and I've concluded that Jerardi was on to something: This town needs more Buzzes, more people who just don't give a bleep and are willing to speak their mind and let the chips splatter where they may. More people to wake us up.
Hope Moffett is one of those people. As we've chronicled, the 25-year-old high-school teacher, who spoke out against Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's plan to convert Audenried High into a charter school run by Kenny Gamble and had been held in "teacher jail" for 10 days, found out yesterday that she'll likely be terminated, as punishment for airing her views and for encouraging her students to speak their minds.
They were, after all, studying the civil-rights movement; Miss Moffett stumbled onto a teachable moment. So it is that, as this drama has unfolded, a nontenured high-school teacher has exposed the Nixonian bent of Queen Arlene and her Haldeman-like apparatchiks, a couple of bureaucrats named Linda Cliatt-Wayman and Andrew Rosen. From her "rubber room," Moffett chatted on philly.com and expressed her concern that her kids - some of whom are wearing "Free Miss Moffett" T-shirts - aren't being properly prepared for this month's state assessment test. Seriously, is there any doubt who is more committed to teaching kids: this gutsy teacher - or a superintendent intent on quelling dissent? This, after all, isn't the first time that Queen Arlene has sought to steamroll anyone who doesn't genuflect before her; she not long ago suspended five district whistle-blowers for going public with details about no-bid contracts. What's next? An Ackerman enemies list?
Here's where I channel my inner Dole: Where's the outrage? We have 10 days of a passionate, committed teacher in lockdown, followed by her unceremonious ouster; that's met with a chorus of "no comments" coming from the district and the so-called School Reform Commission. The only thing more deafening than Ackerman's silence is the lack of condemnation we've heard from elected officials. Where are Mayor Nutter, Congressman Brady and City Council on all this?
You know how we're always being reminded that journalist Lincoln Steffens once called Philadelphia "corrupt and contented"? Well, he did so in a 1903 magazine article. Back then, as now, Philly was a one-party machine town, run by Republicans. In the piece, a local hack explained to Steffens why our city so rapidly followed each stunning act of public malfeasance with yet more public malfeasance: "We reasoned that if we fast enough, one-two-three - one after the other - the papers couldn't handle them all, and the public would be stunned, and give up. . . . We know that public despair is possible and that that is good politics."
Times sure have changed, huh? Ackerman can trample Hope Moffett's rights because she knows that public despair - in the alphabet-soup age of PHA, DRPA, BRT and DROP - is so damned possible. Well, this paper won't give in to that. Now that the district has shown its disdain for its students by firing Miss Moffett, I'm offering her space in these pages to write about education, so she can continue to hold cynics like Arlene Ackerman accountable. Meantime, you can do something, too. You can call Arlene Ackerman at 215-400-4000 and tell her that she can remove the messenger, but the message remains: Moffett and other community leaders have real concerns about her plans, which she foisted upon them from on high. You probably won't get Queen Arlene on the phone, but you can deliver a very clear message of moral outrage. You can tell her she shouldn't have messed with Hope.