|Stranger Than Fiction: Fashion Designer Takes Aim at Teachers Unions in New Campaign|
|posted by: Alix | April 30, 2012, 05:00 AM|
When you think of the name Kenneth Cole, most American women think of great handbags and accessories. However, in a world where politics and fashion often intersect, Mr. Cole's billboard on Manhattan's West Side Highway is grabbing headlines for its dig at New York's teacher unions. The enormous Kenneth Cole advertisement reads "Shouldn't Everyone Be Well Red?" and in smaller lettering, the billboard states, "Teachers' Rights vs. Students' Rights." The billboard has caused quite the stir, and is just the latest commentary in putting students first in New York's education reform debate.
Kenneth Cole, famed clothing designer and brother-in-law of noted education reformer and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, often comments on hot-button political issues. In 2007, Kenneth Cole Productions began their "Awearness" Campaign, which revolves around clothing slogans and celebrities endorsing charities ranging from AIDS awareness to eliminating animal fur in fashion collections. His foray into education reform is just the latest in a series of socially conscious advertising campaigns nationwide.
Coupled with the lines about students' rights, this latest billboard also invites viewers to visit WhereDoYouStand.com, a website maintained by the Kenneth Cole Company, to weigh in on an "Issue in the News." This spring, one of the topics is "Should underperforming teachers be protected?" The website is currently taking votes on the question and invites New Yorkers to weigh in on the issue of tenure reform in public schools.
In context, the question is particularly relevant in the state of New York in 2012. In fighting for education reforms, including the implementation of value-added teacher evaluations and tenure reform, Governor Cuomo has seen a breakdown in dialogue with teacher union leaders. Negotiations stalled and the war of words between reform supporters and teachers unions continues to rage on. In supporting his brother-in-law, Mr. Cole has used his influence to raise awareness for the cause.
In commenting on the thought provoking advertisement, a Kenneth Cole public affairs representative said, "It's something in the news and being debated, and we wanted to provide a forum where people could discuss it as well." She added that the billboard is meant to tap into ongoing public discussions, not to necessarily attack unions. The ad went up March 14 and is the only one advertising Kenneth Cole in the city, she mentioned.
This latest example of education reform support is a testament to the growing rallying cry for improvement in our schools. When a liberal activist like Kenneth Cole joins the fight, it signals to stakeholders that citizens from all walks of life are engaged in a conversation about putting students ahead of teacher union interests.
What do you think about the Kenneth Cole campaign?