Who Cheated in Atlanta?

In 1963, Davey Moore, an American boxer, lost a fight due to a technical knock-out. He left the ring complaining of a headache and died of inoperable brain injuries 4 days later. He was 30 years old. That same year, Bob Dylan wrote a song “Who Killed Davey Moore?” in which he questioned the entire boxing industry, from the fans to the managers and everyone in between. Who DID kill Davey Moore? Dylan’s line of inquiry was designed to examine the morality of a sport in which many people benefitted greatly at the expense of a few athletes willing to risk their lives.

Each stanza of the song presents the perspective of various parties involved in the industry:

“Not I”, said the referee
“Don’t point your finger at me
I could’ve stopped it in the eighth
An’ maybe kept him from his fate
But the crowd would’ve booed, I’m sure
At not gettin’ their money’s worth”

The crowd absolves itself of blame as well:

“Not us”, said the angry crowd
Whose screams filled the arena loud
“It’s too bad he died that night
But we just like to see a fight”

We cheat our students every minute we spend practicing for a test that does not measure what we believe to be the essential qualities and habits of educated citizens. Parents cheat their children every single time they send them to school to sit, still, for a standardized test. Principals cheat their families every time they implore them to send their kids to school for testing in the name of higher school letter grades. Governors cheat their states by racing to the top in order to receive millions of dollars for their schools.

And the US Department of Education has stolen our schools from us too, by bullying top school administrators into high stakes assessments that do not measure the standards we believe in.

It would be foolish for any of us to believe that the Atlanta educators were the only ones. What they did was wrong, indeed. But the system has been carefully designed to engender such desperate behavior.

When Davey Moore was complaining of that headache after his knockout, no one paid attention. It was just the cost of doing business. Each and every one of us is suffering from a horrendous headache right now. The students from staring at their screens and filling in bubbles; the teachers from the pressure off losing employment; parents from sending their kids to unhappy environments; top school administrators from creating systemically toxic cultures.

There’s no easy fix for this headache; but we do need to stop cheating.







Eve Rifkin

Eve Rifkin

Tucson, Arizona

I have been an educator for over 20 years. As a founding co-director of City High School, I have held a variety of leadership and teaching roles, including academic director, humanities teacher, and principal. I am currently the Director of College Access and support students as they envision their lives after high school.

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