Given their recurrent vicious if vacuous opinion pieces on the deceitfully named Common Core, I was under no illusions that the editors of The New York Times were in any way supporters of public education and public school teachers. Not by a long shot. Even still, I could not help but be appalled by the editor’s parroting of virtually every platform, no matter how discredited and despised, of the corporate reform agenda in the guise of advising Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on how to handle the United Federation of Teachers in the wake of Mike Bloomberg’s disastrous twelve year reign.
If the editors were less weasel worded and more honest their advice to de Blasio could have been delivered in a single sentence: Wreck the school system if you have to, but continue the work of your predecessor in breaking the union to the point where it exists but is utterly powerless so we may have political cover when the school system is finally completely privatized.
Instead, they chose to suggest de Blasio implement failed policies and repeat ugly and false statements not merely as it they were true, but as if they were common knowledge. Consider the following line, on loan, apparently from the New York Post : “The union must also let go of the unspoken presumption that every teacher is entitled to a job for life.”
I’m not sure what an “unspoken presumption” is or how, if “unspoken,” the editors of the Times divined it, but I do know that I have been a member of the UFT for almost a decade and I’ve never heard or divined anything remotely resembling this sentiment. Quite the contrary, I, like thousands of my fellow teachers, have heard UFT President Mulgrew state openly and unambiguously that teaching is tough work and not everyone can do it.
Continuing to exhibit the astounding ignorance of its opinion writers, the editors go on to bemoan state laws protecting teacher seniority — laws common to all civil service jobs and passed as a modicum of protection against racism, nepotism, and cronyism — as if these were the handiwork of the union, designed specifically to protect lousy old teachers at the expense of “excellent” young ones.
Note: “Excellence”, like “flexibility”, are words that no piece of reform propaganda can do without.
The editors find a splendid model for de Blasio to work with in the “progressive systems like the one found in Washington D.C., which made big gains on federal assessment tests.” Incredibly, the editors seem wholly unaware of the scandals looming over that city ever since Michele Rhee flew out of town on her broom. The goal of the D.C. system, intones the Times “is to keep the most talented teachers.”
Generously, the editors leave to the reader’s imagination the goal of the NYC teacher’s union.
Apparently, in much the same way that for hedge funders “charters schools” are monuments of “civil rights, ’ for the editors of the New York Times, “progressive” is now synonymous with “corporate business model. ”
Like all education reformers the editors of the Times are deeply concerned with the well being of young teachers because “ younger teachers start out with relatively low salaries and are at risk of leaving the system for higher pay elsewhere.”
But not to worry. “ The scales should be rebalanced so that teachers who are judged highly effective under the new evaluation system can move up quickly in the pay scale.”
Wow! Combining a divisive and decomposing scheme like merit pay (that for decades has failed and failed and failed ) with an evaluation system that is as loathed as it is incomprehensible as a platform for “excellence” takes some kind of editorial cake! Even in the flatulent halls of education reform!
The editors then go on to steal a page from the egregious Campbell Brown, who has parlayed her status as a former ersatz journalist into a career as an ersatz parent activist with one issue: teacher sexual misconduct which, she claims, the UFT monstrously protects. This despite the fact that, contractually, any teacher found guilty of such charges must be fired. Brown, like Bloomberg, finds it outrageous that arbitrators find many who are accused of such despicable acts innocent and, like Mike Bloomberg, wants the chancellor to be the judge and jury in every case, due process be damned.
Apparently, and disgracefully, so do the Times. Except, unlike even Campbell Brown, they haven’t even the courage to spell it out.
Finally, knowing that every union busting agenda is incomplete without lines about the wonders of the “ city’s thriving charter schools “, which the Times erroneously states are “on average, out performing traditional school.” Of these miraculous institutions the editors write the following: “One of their advantages is that individual charter schools can set many of their own rules, scheduling longer school days and making more time for parent-teacher conferences. Traditional schools often follow a by-the-book approach that dictates the length of the day, frequency of meetings and so on.”
By claiming that charters can make “ more time for parent-teacher conferences, “ the Times sells the charters way, way short. Charters seem to be able to do just about anything they want. Charter schools can and do force parents to sign contracts with them, obliging the parents to do all kinds of things or find their charge out in the street, a trick not legally available to a “traditional school.” And who can forget Eva Moskowitz leading hundreds of children and teachers on an anti de Blasio protest over the Brooklyn Bridge in school hours on the public dime. Indeed, if a public school tried any of such stunts – the contracts, the expulsions, the publicly funded political action during instructional time — the principal would unquestionably be fired and possibly arrested and featured for days on the cover of the Post.
I find it impossible to believe, cocooned that they are, that the editors of the times are not aware of these facts. And reprehensible that they pretend not to be.
Like the Time’s “ unspoken presumption that every teacher is entitled to a job for life,” the Times “ by-the-book approach that dictates the length of the day, frequency of meetings and so on, “ of public schools is something I have only heard of and heard of only from corporate reform union busters. I have never ever remotely experienced such a thing as a teacher.
So there you have it. Every word of an editorial from the most powerful and influential newspaper in America that could have been issued from the public relations department of the ubiquitous Gates Foundation or the Broad Foundation or Students First or any number of the ever multiplying billionaire based “reform” groups who care so deeply about America’s children and speak so contemptuously and ignorantly about America’s teachers.
And here we are.