Granted, at this point in time anyone who gets their nightly news from television is a damned fool and deserves whatever slop is dished out to them. And you can rest assured, whatever the subject, it will be slop. Still, one expects a modicum of something that somewhat resembles real journalism, even from NBC, producer of the risible weeklong billionaire backed infomercial for public school privatization called “Education Nation, ” featuring Goldie Hawn.
This afternoon, following in the wake of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s welcome announcement that NYC charter schools would no longer automatically receive whatever they asked for, as was the case under the endless reign of Mike Bloomberg, I was asked by my union to speak to the press, in this case, NBC News. This I did, trying to articulate as best I could the miserable and degrading experience of “co-locating “ in a building with Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy. Indeed, my school has the unfortunate distinction of being the host in which Success Academy first began to metastasize. Soon, of course, Eva’s chain was spreading all over the city even as it slowly devoured our building, taking at first a few rooms here and there and then swallowing up an entire floor. In this painful process we lost our music room and with our music program. (It’s impossible to gauge such a loss in the life of a child but know it is immense. ) Gone soon was our computor room. Occupational therapy and physical therapy were now delivered in hallways, stairways or rooms formerly known as closets. Whatever. Storage rooms were suddenly designated classrooms. I know. I had one. Lunch schedules were reconfigured so kids were forced to eat lunch soon after they arrived. Without a word to the parents and community of our school, the school yard was rendered largely useless by the imposition of a strange, completely impractical astroturf section.
An entire school and community was distorted and contorted almost beyond recognition to satisfy Eva’s rapacious hunger for ever more space as well as Mike Bloomberg’s mad delight in delivering it, whatever the cost to the dignity of the students of our school. The atmosphere was instantly poisonous and, despite the good will and good intentions of a couple of Harlem Success business managers (who seem to run the show) , remains so. From the beginning, we were treated like unwelcome guests if not out right intruders in our own building, an attitude that was not lost on the children of either camp.
This did not come of thin air but from the top.
Year after year there was more and more encroachment; more and more often would the students of Harlem Success Academy be eerily marched by the children of my school without as much as looking at them, as if the act of making eye contact with such riff raff would somehow contaminate the charter school “scholars.” (Note: Eva ignorantly insists her teachers address their students as “scholars”, apparently not realizing that the two words mean very different things. ) Far more often than not, the refusal to recognize the common humanity of another was also shared by Eva’s ever-transient teaching brigade. It is unnerving, I assure you, to be treated as if you are invisible.
And soon enough began the annual ritual of receiving those students who Harlem Success Academy deemed not up to snuff. Out their door they went, in our door they came.
As a truly public school laboring under the ethical obligation of educating every student, regardless of how difficult, troubled or torn, such is our duty.
Not so charter schools which have the luxury of bouncing whom they will when they.
And bounce they do.
One can go on and on but I trust you get the point.
None of this would you have any chance of knowing from NBC’s report/ad for Harlem Success Academy which portrays the chain, not as the spoiled child that can afford to pay Moskowitz almost half a million dollars a year in salary, or spend more than a million dollars a year on super slick recruitment propaganda, but as a suddenly “homeless” orphan punished by a thoughtless and cruel mayor, bent on punishing them for their success. Note: Like thousands and thousands of New York parents, my daughter received in the mail a slick, professionally produced glossy postcard enticing her to enter into a brand new Success Academy that was to open in my downtown neighborhood. (It didn’t.) My daughter was five years old at the time. The Department of Education thought it a fine idea to give her address and the addresses of thousands of children out to help build Ms. Moskowitz’s burgeoning empire.
Anything for Eva.
From the beginning, a public relations campaign plowed on in several fronts, one slicker than the next. There was the full-length documentary, The Lottery. Then there was the egregious book Class Warfare in which author Steven Brill, pitting one school against another, praised Harlem Success Academy to the heavens as the same time he disgraced himself by writing of a teacher no teacher in my school had ever known. No problem!
But O, those tests scores, you may say! Do they not make up for everything ? Of that consider this timely piece.
Back to NBC News. With a few annual exceptions or in emergencies, it has been many years since I have watched “the news” on TV on a regular basis. Still, I am very aware of its effects, mostly horrific, on many of my fellow citizens. We are, after, the nation that twice elected Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (kind of) and Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States, a feat of political imbecility unimaginable without the influence of TV.) Because of its insidious Education Nation, NBC seems especially contemptible to me.
Still, tonight’s “reporting” on De blasio’s decision — “The War on Charter Schools “ — was so preposterously lopsided as to be absurd, even by the absurd standards of the corporate media’s reportage on corporate education reform campaigns. The only word for it is “propaganda.” Here is my always-prescient friend and colleague NYC Educator’s take on the “report. ”
My twenty second cameo under a name not mine was meant to serve, apparently, as proof of giving both sides of the co-location story, regardless of the fact that the charter school advocates were given many, more times the time I or any other public school advocate was given.
What it really serves to prove, however, is the utter shoddiness of NBC News. Consider this: My name is Patrick Walsh, a name I clearly stated and even spelled out for the NBC reporter. In the report I am called Patrick Murphy, a fine name, to be sure, but one that does not belong to me nor I to it.
My question: how is it possible to trust a news agency to get their facts right when they not only produce slick, poisonous garbage like Education Nation, but when they can’t even get someone’s name straight ?