Friday, June 1, 2012

The Colleen Kennedy Experiment

The Save Upper Darby Arts campaign goes from the ridiculous to the sublimely ridiculous. Today's  print column was not well received by SUDA founder Colleen Kennedy, who is demanding an apology and a retraction.

Ms. Kennedy accuses me of making fun of a little girl because of her disability. She is wrong about this as, I think, any fair reading of my column will make clear.

In an email to my editor, Ms. Kennedy writes:
A lot of people claim Mr. Spencer's work to be satirical in nature, a jab to help boost awareness about our cause, but let me ask you this. Would Tina Fey, one of the best satirists of our generation, ever use a little girl's disabilities to get her point across? No, she wouldn't. What would Brad Schoener, a hero and mentor to both of us, say to such cheap ploys for attention? I know for a fact that he'd be pretty darn upset. I'm really at a loss for words for the level of classlessness that Mr. Spencer committed to tonight.
There was no satire meant in today's column and only a fool would think so. My criticisms of SUDA are sincere and not meant to "boost awareness" of their "cause."

As for just who is using "cheap ploys" for attention, what could be more clear? It is SUDA that is using Katie for this purpose. It was Ms. Kennedy who challenged me to watch the video featuring Katie as the symbol for heartless cuts being made in the Upper Darby School District.

Katie is obviously a neat kid with a winning personality but she is just as obviously being used by Ms. Kennedy and her zealous band to promote their cause. Sanctimoniously claiming that their demands are "for the kids" is standard operating procedure in the education funding wars.

In this case, given the budget constraints in Upper Darby, administrators came up with rather a modest plan that has been characterized by its critics as "dangerous" and putting kids "at risk." The charge is ludicrous and deserves to be pointed out as such. SUDA activists seek a public opinion advantage over these heartless administrators by tugging at the heartstrings of district residents (and our readers) with an assortment of videos meant to rally public opinion to their point of view.

Ms. Kennedy is wrong about something else. Such tactics have, in fact, been satirized by Ms. Fey and other SNL cast members for decades. In so doing the satirists are NOT making fun of the kids, they are making fun of the grown-ups who attempt to exploit children for their own ideological or political purposes.

But then Ms. Kennedy wouldn't know satire from Sartre.

You will find her ridiculous e-mail below in it's entirety (except of the phone number she left for Phil to call her back). Read it (and my column) and make up your own minds about who is pathetically (and bathetically) exploiting whom.
Mr. Heron,
I got a Google Alert for a new article about our movement about an hour ago. I read the article, and then I sat, completely enraged, for about 40 minutes...not because of the nasty things that were said about me, but because of your colleague's use of a child with disabilities as a ploy for his childish games to gain readership. 
I'm writing to you because you are a reasonable gentleman, and I know that not only through your coverage of our movement, but through years of reading your pieces and through what I hear from older community members. What Mr. Spencer did by writing the article was a proverbial kick in the stomach to a girl with only one leg. Katie is absolutely one of the most inspirational and strong kids I have ever met. I've spent years around some amazing kids, from my work as a co-founder of the Brad Schoener Music Marathon, to many other opportunities I've had over my years in Upper Darby Township. Katie's strength and humility brings tears to my eyes, and she talked openly with my colleagues on camera about the ways that other kids tease and bully her for having one leg. She takes it all in stride every day, because of what her teacher, Mr. Dunne, has shown her. He not only has helped her to learn how to walk up steps, but to take pride in herself and become a leading athlete in her elementary school. I think you understand what these programs mean to these kids, and I'm trying to do the very best that I can (as an inexperienced young adult) to be an advocate. I shouldn't be ridiculed for that, but more important, Katie's innocence should not be taken away by an adult, all for the sake of entertainment to some readers.
Among all my other duties with Save Upper Darby Arts, I have to call Katie's parents now, first thing tomorrow morning, to notify them that their child was made fun of by a news reporter. We can go back and forth, but her disability was trivialized, and that is something that deeply upsets me, and will absolutely upset the parents and readers tomorrow, when they read it. 
I demand not only a retraction from Mr. Spencer for his comments, but an apology on the phone from him to Katie's parents, and a genuine promise from him to at the very least, treat the children of this community with dignity and respect. I could care less about Mr. Spencer's insults of me, because they're ridiculous and completely unfounded at best, but he will not use the children of this township as sources for attack. If these three things do not occur, our organization is going have to sit down and think seriously about whether or not this paper's editorial standards are worthy enough for the serious nature of our cause. (And that hurts me to say, because everyone else on your staff has absolutely treated us and their work with absolute dignity, but a line has been crossed, and something needs to be done.)
A lot of people claim Mr. Spencer's work to be satirical in nature, a jab to help boost awareness about our cause, but let me ask you this. Would Tina Fey, one of the best satirists of our generation, ever use a little girl's disabilities to get her point across? No, she wouldn't. What would Brad Schoener, a hero and mentor to both of us, say to such cheap ploys for attention? I know for a fact that he'd be pretty darn upset. I'm really at a loss for words for the level of classlessness that Mr. Spencer committed to tonight.
Please feel free to drop me a call tomorrow, so we can discuss matters. As you can imagine, I am very distraught over this recent development, and I want things to be rectified as soon as possible, so we can get back to the job at hand: telling the news. I think above all else, we need to be concerned about the safety and emotional welfare of the kids at the heart of it all, because what really matters more than that?...
Colleen KennedyFounder of Save Upper Darby Arts


Blogger jake said...

This woman ought to be interested in saving the arts because she sure is a drama queen.

June 1, 2012 at 9:17 AM 
Blogger jake said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 1, 2012 at 9:18 AM 
Blogger Dannytheman said...

I think jake hit this one out of the park!! Drama queen. I re read the article 3 times to see where you even remotely insulted the little girl. It ain't there.

She lied, she hated what you said about her and since it was true, she had to invoke the child abuse syndrome that opponents use often when facts beat them.

I would be happy to pay for a few music lessons for Katie though, if that helps..

June 1, 2012 at 9:27 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you serious right now? How could a group TRYING TO SAVE PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN be EXPLOITING children? Mr. Spencer, your remarks are defamatory and deplorable. I hope you can sleep well at night knowing that this young girl is going to see the two articles in which you trivialize her and a movement that she voluntarily told her story for, and this is going to make her feel bad. As someone who has been following the SUDA group since it's creation, I can attest that it's leaders are only trying to help children. THAT IS ALL THEY ARE TRYING TO DO. You, and those who are similar to you, however, are working in opposition and borderline slandering personal members of the group. And who does that benefit? The war on public education.

June 1, 2012 at 10:07 AM 
Blogger xcALI21 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 1, 2012 at 10:33 AM 
Blogger xcALI21 said...

This woman is not being a drama queen. She is voicing the opinion of a community that is outraged over how their tax dollars are being handled and how it will affect the children. The fact of the matter is the community as a whole is right. They are being no more extreme then those who fought the Catholic schools being shut down. It took extreme measures to save them and those measures worked. If you want to blame anyone, blame those who supported Bonner/Prendie. The parents of Upper Darby School District took their cue from that. How dare anyone tear down this community for trying to bring some good into it.

June 1, 2012 at 10:38 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. She's a total drama queen. And her mother is a teachers union rep for udsd. That should sum it up for you.

June 1, 2012 at 10:58 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...


June 1, 2012 at 11:23 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear readers this is gil Spencer's psychologist who he mentioned in his initial column about this subject. Please ignore his comments as he frequently suffers from delusions when he does not take his medication properly. This includes an over inflated sense of grandiosity and inability to reason properly as evidenced by his infantile extrapolation of his habit of blowing up balsa airplanes as a six year old to the rest of society as a whole. Please be advises that we are working with his family and the relevant authorities to ensure that he gets back on a regular medication regimen so he does not bother the general public again.

June 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 10:58...that is very interesting information.

June 1, 2012 at 11:31 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The fact of the matter is the community as a whole is right. They are being no more extreme then those who fought the Catholic schools being shut down. It took extreme measures to save them and those measures worked"

Nothing has worked yet. They failed to reach their fundraising goal on 6/18/12 and are still trying to push a school choice, voucher, opportunity scholarship bill, and according to the Pilly AB, without that all of this will be for naught and a complete failure.

June 1, 2012 at 12:06 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

Dr. Flegenheimer, How could you?!

June 1, 2012 at 12:21 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gil Spencer, way to take real news and turn it into utterly worthless tabloid garbage. You're wrong, but worse than that you don't even make a real attempt to look into this issue before you open your mouth about it. Very Donald Trump of you sir.

June 1, 2012 at 12:39 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear readers, this is Dr Flegenheimer again with an update on Gil's can see he attempted to reach out through this blog but its best if we don't engage with him at this time as it only seems to encourage his anti-social and infantile behavior. To update you on our progress, please be advised that his family has agreed to help ensure he returns to therapy, takes his medication as prescribed, and we are also working with management at the newspaper to suspend his column as those efforts clearly create a delusionary feedback loop of grandiosity that results in his deranged behavior. I am confident that with the aid of medication and intensive therapy we can resolve Mr spensers infantilism., and inability to reason and debate like an adult When the time is right we can ease him back into writing again. My plan is to start him off covering some UD school board meetings so he can get some true understanding of the issues at play in this debate. I am confident that he will be responsive to therapy as in the past we have resolved some of his other issues, such as his stubborn case of adult onset bed wetting...I will update you on the progress of this case as necessary

June 1, 2012 at 1:51 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well it does add up. I noticed that any time someone mentioned the teachers unions or the POSSIBILITY of them making concessions the conversations were steered in other directions by Miss K. Herself. Obviously is NOT ALL about the kids...

June 1, 2012 at 2:20 PM 
Blogger Dannytheman said...

Let's bust the unions then talk about art....

June 1, 2012 at 3:46 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Right Danny. Bust the unions. While you're at it, maybe you can give back your paid vacation, your 40 hour work week, your paid overtime, paid holidays and your medical and dental plan.

June 1, 2012 at 5:43 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW Gil. Really living up to Dad's legacy of journalistic integrity, huh?

June 1, 2012 at 8:37 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

Vintage anonymous "integrity."

June 1, 2012 at 9:14 PM 
Blogger Dannytheman said...

What 40 hour work week??? Let's see, 7 to 5-3 days this week and 5:45AM to 9:00 PM 2 days. Sunday I will be on a con call at midnight.
No 40 here.
Sorry Bob, I do not hate all unions, but I sure do hate public unions. Teachers and government workers.
Love the trade unions. Steamfitters, Carpenters and Steel workers. Just don't have time for pansy unions.

June 1, 2012 at 9:31 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That email was a hoot! Thanks for sharing it!

June 1, 2012 at 11:28 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Danny, Do you get OT for anything past 40? Just curious.

June 2, 2012 at 12:27 AM 
Blogger jake said...

In my office, we have a word for anyone who works just 40 hours a week -- slacker.
No overtime, just the privilege of being employed in the Obama economy.

June 2, 2012 at 9:16 AM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Jake - That's too bad. The people that I work with have lives, thanks to the fair trade labor movement. You might want to go to the Department of Labor web site and review the work hours and overtime laws. The state of Pa. also has overtime laws. The rule of thumb is that the most progressive law applies. I don't know what you do for a living, so you would have to see if your industry or trade is exempt. If not, it's possible that you're getting ripped off.

June 2, 2012 at 10:02 AM 
Blogger jake said...

Commissioned sales people get paid on their production. Time is a less important to compensation than product, contacts and problem-solving.

The union/public sector concepts of hours and seniority are basically irrelevant to my work, and most jobs where you have to produce.

I don't want to get paid like everybody else, according to some schedule. I want to get paid based on my hard work and success.

June 2, 2012 at 1:12 PM 
Blogger jake said...

And the last thing I would ever do is invite the Dept of Labor bureaucrats into my life. Government meddling is a nuisance. Nothing good can happen when the government gets involved.

June 2, 2012 at 1:17 PM 
Blogger Dannytheman said...

No over time, Bob. Not even comp time. I asked my boss one time if we could switch to 4 -10s for the summer. He said, "Why, I get 5 10s from you now?" True story!!

June 2, 2012 at 6:40 PM 
Blogger CharlieSix said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 3, 2012 at 9:03 PM 
Blogger CharlieSix said...

Bob: You are very kind to point out to Dannytheman that he might be getting ripped off. But, at the same time, you may not be cognizant of the reality. Check it out: Hope you take the time to do so. If you do, you'll understand better what is a major difference between those paid by the hour and those paid on a salaried non-exempt basis. The latter work to do the job they're being paid to do often without regard to the hours it takes. Or they put many extra hours into the job because they are both exempt and being paid on commission or bonus for production or sales. It's 2012, Bob. Not the FDR days of the 1930s.

June 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cutting the arts in Upper Darby’s elementary schools is way more than losing some third-grade art class. They’ll be losing generations of artists in the high school. Gil Spencer, among others, hinted that arts programs in the elementary school are not important (that sarcastic comment about the 3rd grade art class). But no one has mentioned that the reason why high school programs are so valuable to students is because they have already built their basic skills through years of experience in the previous schools. The quality of the arts students the high school receives will deteriorate over the years; the programs at the high school will deteriorate with this. They will be no competition when it comes to band and film competitions, art shows, college, and simple performance. Elementary school arts programs are so important because you're working on skills that take way more than 3 years in the middle school programs to prepare for high school.
So I understand what you’re trying to say, Gil, that arts programs tend to be overdramatic, everyone thinks they’re the underdogs, the Glee club, people need to learn to “grow-up” and make sacrifices. But you can’t spin that lecture on Darby. They have a real problem that you can’t undermine with your sarcastic comments. Darby is allowed to declare themselves the underdogs and Glee club on this one; with any less energy, they would lose a terrific program. And as for making sacrifices, the school board is just trying to get fast money. There are plenty of other places they can cut from (note-not cut entirely). Every program, especially high school ones, claims they don't have enough money. And everyone wants to conserve these programs because they're the face of the school's success. But the truth is they're so good because of the elementary school, and a poor program is better than an unskilled one.

June 3, 2012 at 10:34 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Thanks Charles. I did in fact mention that there are exemptions. However, without mentioning the company, I know who Danny works for, and I believe he gets an hourly rate. I had a friend who worked for a driving school, and they were paying him straight time for all hrs. over forty until he discovered the overtime laws. It was a small company, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, they weren't aware. Now they pay overtime. There's nothing wrong with Danny looking into this. He has a family to feed like the rest of us. Thanks for the warm welcome back.

June 4, 2012 at 8:12 AM 
Blogger Dannytheman said...

No hourly rate for me, been salaried since 1985.

June 4, 2012 at 2:01 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Didn't know that Danny. I know a lot of people who work for your company are hourly, and I know that IBEW was involved in trying to organize them.

June 5, 2012 at 2:51 PM 
Blogger Dannytheman said...

I think they mostly cover the cities, Bob. Philly, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg are CWA and IBEW guys.
None of the suburbs have unions. The Corporate offices and Divisional offices (which is where I was housed when not working from home)are all salary folks.

June 5, 2012 at 4:49 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Danny, You get to work from home?

June 5, 2012 at 9:36 PM 
Blogger Bob Bohne said...

Danny, I don't ever want to hear you refer to my job as a "cushy union job" again!

June 6, 2012 at 4:53 PM 
Anonymous Marc said...

This woman ought to be interested in saving the arts because she sure is a drama queen.

December 1, 2012 at 10:03 PM 

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