Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Cuomo’

Perception Management 101: While Thousands Gather to Reject Cuomo’s Proposals, the New York Post Babbles on About a Retired Radical

March 29, 2015

Since its inception, “education reform” has been almost entirely a product, not of public debates, but of public relations and perception management campaigns. Fueled by billionaires and corporations, propagated by a compliant corporate media often owned by the same billionaires, the premises of “education reform” have entered into the skulls of millions of Americans who are barely aware of how they even got there. This, of course, is precisely how such premises are intended to be received. The process is akin to osmosis. Something or someone is targeted. Stories that make the target look bad are planted. Stories that allow the target to look good are wholly ignored. Exceptions are painted as the rule. Lies and exaggerations are repeated in different forms endlessly over. The animation of envy and fear is constantly attempted. In these campaigns, the lines between public relations – a dubious enough field in itself — and perception management, it’s more sinister and militaristic cousin, often gets blurred.

In the area of education, America has been treated to one long, well oiled, professionally enacted, deliberately induced poisoning of the well, along such lines as above. One goal is to deflect the attention of the average citizen away from forces and institutions that are systemically stripping us of our rights and plundering the commonwealth, and — think Wall Street and K Street – blaming the incontrovertible degeneration of the United States into a oligarchic farce on something or someone other than the forces or institutions that are actually causing it.

For the past decade this something has been the public school system, this
someone has been a public school teacher.

America, according to the “education reformers” and their allies or employees in the media and all levels of government, would once again blossom into a Ronald Reaganesque Eden if only we privatized the public school system, rid ourselves of the pestilence of unions and fired hundreds of thousands of teachers, many of them outright incompetents, deviants or unrepentant radicals, as reported in the newspapers and portrayed in major motion pictures.

This, or some version of this, has been poisoning Americans via the airwaves, TV screens, newspapers and movies for years now. In terms of demonizing a profession, the ferocity of the sustained campaign has no precedent in American history.

What’s important in such campaigns, of course, is not whether a story is true or false or even relevant. All that is important is that emotions are stirred and attention is deflected from real issues and focused instead on the targeted enemy. Think for one moment of the horrific fact that some 85% of Americans allowed themselves to be tricked into believing Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 and that the invasion and consequent destruction of Iraq and murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis was necessary for our national security.

Such was a diabolical accomplishment, that much the more in a nation that considers itself a bastion of freedom.
Such is also a triumph of perception management.

In that light, consider today’s New York Post.
Yesterday, despite the unseasonably chilly weather, thousands and thousands of parents, teachers, students, members of the clergy, union leaders, and elected officials from all over New York state, gathered in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 41st St. office to denounce in no uncertain terms the entirety of Cuomo’s reckless assault upon the public school system, public school teachers, and public life itself.

According to the New York Post, these people are not news worthy.

According to the New York Post, these people are not news worthy.

As far as I can see, the New York Post, even as it worshipfully reports on the billionaire based charter campaign, devoted not a single word to this event, this despite the fact that Cuomo’s proposals will, if enacted, adversely affect the lives of millions of New Yorkers.

Neither are these.

Neither are these.

Instead, Post readers were treated to a lesson in perception management 101. Under the hysterical and misleading headline, Weather Underground Bomber Unmasked –as City School Teacher, the Post spent over 1700 words on an absurdly irrelevant article about one Ronald Fliegelman, a former member of the idiotic Weather Underground who, following his days as a would be revolutionary decades ago, worked for many years as a New York City schoolteacher before earning his retirement in 2006. At no point in the article was there any indication that Fliegelman was somehow “masked.”

Nor is there any indication whatsoever of Fliegelman’s talent or lack of talent as a teacher. Such discussions would run the risk of distracting the reader from the article’s main ( and only) point: Ronald Fliegelman was a radical who worked as a teacher. What is important in perception management is the planting of particular seeds in a person’s head, the more insidiously the better. The seed here is that New York City teachers, and by extension the New York City Public school system, are not to be trusted.

But somehow this guy is.

But somehow this guy is.

Rest assured, if Ronald Fliegelman had gone on to be a dentist or a postman or a plumber, Post readers would not have been treated to this article. To be sure, whatever idiotically violent acts or plans this man was involved in some 40 years ago are completely secondary to the fact that he retired as a schoolteacher, for it is the image of a school teacher, and not a dentist, or a postman, or a plumber that has to be relentlessly tainted if the “education reform” campaign is to succeed.

A massive amount of time and energy and money has been dedicated to such success.

Consider how The Post insinuates that the fact that Fliegelman appears to be enjoying his retirement is somehow shady if not outright criminal.

“His life now appears to have taken on all the trappings of the leisure class. On Thursday, he was seen walking a small white dog in idyllic Park Slope before climbing into a Subaru Forester SUV.”

The “exclusive” was ostensibly based on a finding in a new book entitled Days of Rage. But rest assured that this completely irrelevant non-news has been saved for precisely just this kind of moment.

So, readers of the New York Post would know nothing of the thousands who gathered to denounce the radical right wing agenda of Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday, but would have learned a great deal about the life of a retired teacher whose politics would be anathema to just about every one of them.

This is one of the ways perception management works.

It would be funny if it were not so dangerous and effective, but it is.

Addendum: Doing my bit at the rally.

Patrick Walsh – Teacher http://youtu.be/JwSrN_nT3EA

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What Cuomo Wants

March 8, 2015

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It is no secret that Governor Andrew Cuomo, a man of terrifying ambition, wants someday to be the president of the United States. To prove himself worthy of the limitless financial backing of the One Percent to whom he answers and in whose name he governs, Cuomo wants to prove that he can achieve two goals that no previous governor of New York, never mind one of the Democratic Party, has ever even dreamt about. By the end of his second term as Governor, Andrew Cuomo wants to leave a New York State in which the public school system has been largely or completely privatized and one in which public unions, particularly the teachers’ unions, have been all but eviscerated. In fact, if all goes Cuomo’s way, he will leave New York State well on the way to being a Right To Work state before the vast majority of people even know what hit them.

To achieve these extraordinarily radical ends, Cuomo in his State of the State speech put forth a number of extraordinarily radical proposals. If passed into law on April 1, they will render the New York State public school system and the teaching profession that sustains it almost unrecognizable and certainly unsustainable. Collectively, once implemented, the proposals will inevitably lead to a mass firing of teachers, a mass exodus of teachers and a mass shortage of teachers, as no one in his or her right mind would enter a field in which working conditions were so degrading, evaluations so unfair and arbitrary, and job security virtually non existent. The mass bloodletting and exodus as well as the unsustainability is most certainly the point, even as Cuomo, the self-proclaimed “advocate of students, “ wants the general public to believe that he believes otherwise.

Cuomo wants the public to believe that his insidious attacks and demeaning demands on teachers are necessary, while at the same time the offer of merit pay — a scheme that has been tried and has failed for over a century — will magically attract serious and qualified people to teaching.

Cuomo wants to keep the vast majority of people oblivious to what he is doing and confused as to why he is doing it.
To keep people oblivious, Cuomo wants those New Yorkers who are even aware of his proposals to believe in his apocalyptic vision of a “crisis of failing schools,” which, in turn, will lead them to believe that his proposals are actually about improving public education rather than eliminating it, and then using that process of elimination to undermine the teachers union. He knows that if New York State’s public school system is privatized, all bets are off and the floodgates are open. Cuomo wants to be the governor responsible for opening those gates and directing that flood into the radical reconfiguration of labor relations across the board and, at the same time, launching a full scale attack on the social contract itself.

The governor wants New Yorkers to believe he cares, and cares deeply, about the welfare of children, that much the more African American and Hispanic children in poverty; therefore, he wants New Yorkers to remain in the dark about the judicial decision in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, in which it was decreed that New York State owes New York City schools upwards of $ 2. 5 billion, a decision Cuomo refuses to even recognize despite the fact that the state has a surplus.

Moreover, Cuomo wants people to believe that, despite the neo liberal underpinnings of his politics, he, Andrew Cuomo, is somehow “progressive.” To create and sustain this illusion, he has supported gay marriage and raising the minimum wage; he has come out against fracking and will even meet with and praise certain private sector union leaders, the better to undermine labor solidarity. This Cuomo will do even as he and his proxies in billionaire created fronts like Families For Excellent Schools do everything in their power to demonize teachers and undermine the teachers’ unions.

Andrew Cuomo wants to divide and conquer, and at this dark art he is very cunning and very skillful.
He wants New Yorkers to see his all out attack on teachers as one that is isolated to the teaching profession and not, in fact, as an all out war on labor in the state and a prelude to the privatization of the social contract itself.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is a man of terrifying ambition who wants to be the president of the United States and is willing to go to any lengths, any lengths at all, to please the radical and ruthless rich who have stolen the power to catapult him or deny him entrance to the White House.

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Charter School Front Buses Thousands of Children To Albany To Use As Human Props

March 4, 2015

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Playing by their own rules while crying about being oppressed has been a charter school tactic for years and, with the compliance of a wholly subservient media, a highly successful one. When a charter school “co-locates” with a neighborhood school and their demands for whatever space they desire are not immediately met, you can rest assured they will launch a PR campaign claiming that their rights are being violated, and you can rest with equal assurance that the media will report it so. Playing by their own rules took a significant leap today as, under the aegis of the hedge fund created and bank rolled front Families For Excellent Schools, charter chains emptied their schools to bus thousands and thousands of school children to Albany to be used as human props in their ceaseless campaign for more and more of everything at the expense of everyone else. Given the fact that almost all charter schools are anti union, the little ones should be seen, too, as unconscious and innocent extras in the campaign to break the teacher’s union,
clearly the long term goal of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Please note that the principal of any public school who pulled anything remotely like such a stunt as shipping her charges hours away on a school day in the dead of winter would be fired and possibly arrested, as well he or she should be.

Charter school entrepreneurs fear no such consequences and claim, with straight faces, that the thousands of kids were engaged in “a civics lesson.”

Yes, they actually say that.

At times today, everywhere you looked you saw kids decked out in red shirts and red caps both bearing the Familes For Excellent Schools slogan, “Don’t Steal Possible” — about as poorly a constructed sentence as you can make but… what the hell? It’s all about the kids, no ?
I ‘d be curious to see the bill for the thousands of hats and shirts, the mountains of sandwiches, and the hundreds of buses for this excursion but, as with all things charter school, I rather doubt such information is easily obtainable.

This young fellow does not like "failing schools"

This young fellow does not like “failing schools”

I have yet to see any corporate news reports of the use of these children in such a cynical manner in a struggle that they cannot possibly understand, but I am confident that all major media will find it not merely acceptable but as heartwarming as a movie by Disney.
As George W. Bush used to say most blasphemously as he plotted and schemed and conned and terrified America into invading Iraq, “And may God continue to bless America.”

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Addendum: And then there’s the astoundingly arrogant Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO of Families For Excellent Schools, seen here doing his best to not answer questions (and distance himself from the much loathed Eva Moskowitz) even if he does admit (very, very testily) that, “I am not an educator.” Not being an educator, apparently, qualifies one to play savior to the “800,000” kids who are “failing” in the “education crisis” created by real educators. Kittredge’s non educator and non educated status is, however, evident in his occasionally mangled syntax and incoherent statements ( shared, it seems by all Families For Excellent Schools messiahs and adherents), as in when he declares the the entire New York school system ” steals possible.” On the other hand, given that Kittredge and his charter school confederates enjoy the luxury of making their own rules with impunity, perhaps the man is simply extending this principle to English grammar. Clearly, Kittredge is a man accustomed to giving orders and being obeyed and with that sense of regal entitlement shared by so many education messiahs, is transparently pissed that a guy as important as he, Jeremiah Kittredge, has to actually answer basic questions. Note that as Kittredge and his handler (“That’s a wrap.”) bolts, a reporter states plaintively: “You should probably wait and let the rest of us ask our questions.”

No chance of that.

At any rate, after viewing this clip ask yourself this question: would you buy a used car or anything under heaven from Jeremiah Kittredge ? These poor charter kids can have no idea how cynically they are being used and by they time they realize the hustle it will be too late for many.

http://bcove.me/nb7c1s41

The Education of Co-Location

March 1, 2015

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On Friday February 27, the United Federation of Teachers held another round of forums in communities across the city to speak out against the horrific proposals of Governor Andrew Cuomo on public education. One of Cuomo’s proposals is the creation of 100 new charter schools, institutions wildly favored and completely dominated by the super rich, who shower their favorite charter brands with their tax deductable largess and have created an extremely visible two tiered school system. The two tiered system is all the more visible (and to parents it is meant to be) in what have been called “co-locations, ” or public school buildings in which public schools and charter schools uneasily co-exist. No charter brand has received more 1% largess than Success Academy, the ever-expanding empire of Eva Moskowitz, which has a public relations budget in excess of a million dollars. Success Academy began in my school as Harlem Success Academy , and has been expanding both in my school and throughout the city ever since. As a teacher and chapter leader who has dealt with co-locating with Success Academy from day one, I was asked to speak briefly on the experience at the forum held at the Church of the Holy Trinity on E. 88th Street. In the words below I did so.
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On the Education of Co-Location

As we all know, education takes many forms. There is, for example, the education we receive in our homes and in our communities, where we learn how to comport ourselves, how to interact with others, and hopefully, what it means to be a decent person. Then there is the formal education we receive in our schools, where we learn to read and write, solve mathematical problems, gain knowledge of history and science and, above all, learn to think and discern, which provides us the tools to make sense of our lives and our reality.

In my experience of many years of co-locating with Success Academy at PS/MS 149,
I am forced to the appalling conclusion that, due to the extremely targeted and reckless largess of the super rich, largess that could never be matched by public funding, some co-locations can be said to provide yet another form of education, and a particularly cruel form at that.
The education is all the more powerful because the lessons are unspoken and must remain unspoken, or at least disguised, for this particular education to be allowed to continue in a nominally public institution in a nominally public system.
My students at PS/MS 149, like most kids sensitive and intelligent, learn daily and silently, without words, without language, that they are simply not as good as their co-located counterparts at Harlem Success. They learn daily and silently, without words, that some children are simply better and more deserving than others. Some children deserve the newest and brightest technology, as well as brand new carpeting, brand new books, fresh paint jobs; some children deserve what happens to be laying around or nothing at all. Some children deserve music programs; others can have theirs taken away and their instruments jammed into closets and forgotten. Some children deserve block rooms in which to explore and play and others deserve to be taught in stairwells and hallways like children of a lesser God.
Some children deserve fresh food delivered daily and wheeled through the hallways for all to see; others can dine on the considerably lesser fare of the DOE.

Indeed, if you are looking for a perverse negation of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which outlawed the separate and unequal public schools of the Jim Crow South, you need look no further than the co-location of PS/MS 149 and Harlem Success Academy.

Each day I see the Success Academy students marching through the crowded hallways and stairwells of 149, passing students from my school, children from the same neighborhoods, displaying no recognition whatsoever of their common humanity. Each day my students watch as the ephemeral teachers of Success Academy snap their fingers and bark orders at their “scholars, “ all the while behaving as if my fellow teachers and myself, in effect their co-located colleagues, did not even exist.

These things too are an education, and you can rest assured that both groups of students are learning their respective if silent lessons which, if put to words, could be rendered simply: some people count and some do not.

There is something very powerful going on here and something very wrong. It is morally wrong. It is educationally wrong. It is civically wrong and it is spiritually wrong. Such cruel disparity and militant hubris has no place at all in a public school system, no place at all in a democratic society. Such education, however well disguised, has no place in our communities, our city and our nation.

Nicholas Kristof ‘s Grand Epiphany: Unions (At least in the Private Sector) Should Not Be Eviscerated

February 20, 2015

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I suppose in a political climate as demented and one dimensional as ours, one in which the Democrat president of the United States has been insidiously union busting since the day he entered office, one in which the Democrat governor of New York is actively union busting and talking about the public schools system as a monopoly, one in which
Governors’ Scott Walker of Wisconsin and billionaire Bruce Rainer of Illinois are succeeding in bringing their states back to the glorious 19th century, one should be grateful for any public utterance that does not portray unions as a collection of thugs and cigarette-smoking child molesters or parasites. I suppose my gratitude should be that much greater when such an utterance appears as a kind of mea culpa in as influential a publication as the New York Times. Furthermore, I suppose one should applaud that much the more any one who has the courage to publically admit they there were wrong as has the Time’s Nicholas Kristof in admitting his ignorance in regards to an issue as enormous and far-reaching as the presence of unions. This, even if in his admittance Kristof continues to reference deceptive mercenary blowhards like Stephen Brill, a man who has written so damningly of phantom public school teachers , and continues to point to demagogues like New York’s Police Benevolence Association (PBA) Patrick Lynch as representative of union leadership across the board.

That he would resort to lowlife’s like Brill as a source and Lynch as a model billboards Nicholas Kristof’s appalling ignorance of and distance from the subject of unions. Such ignorance and distance does, however, help explain Kristof’s decade long cheer-leading of union busting vehicles such as charters schools even as he fails to mention the protections he enjoys as a member of the Writer’s Guild, as do all writers employed by the New York Times. Such ignorance of and distance from the realities of unionism also explains Kristof’s paltry reasons for his qualified change of heart.

Kristof begins,” Like many Americans, I’ve been wary of labor unions.” Kristof’s wariness is the natural result of over three decades of ceaseless anti-union pro-corporate, fact free propaganda of exactly the same kind Kristof himself has, up to now, repeatedly and self righteously spewed. But Kristof still misses the much larger point. Like all Americans – every single one of us – Kristof has benefited from the mere presence of labors unions, regardless of his personal membership or lack there of.
It is a fact that the presence of unions forces the fruits of labor to be more fairly distributed and labor rights not merely to be created but to be recognized and respected. Kristof makes a reference to this later in his article when he writes: “Or look at American history. The peak years for unions were the 1940s and ’50s, which were also some of the fastest-growing years for the United States ever — and with broadly shared prosperity. Historically, the periods when union membership were highest were those when inequality was least.”
And again: They “unions” are pushing for a higher national minimum wage, even though that would directly benefit mostly nonunionized workers.”

These are, of course, facts that are well known to any one who has ever taken a course Labor History 101 or read a decent history of the United States. If we had an education system run by educators, these facts would also be known to every high school student in the nation. While new to the likes of Nicholas Kristof, the cumulative effects of unions have been known to and hated by industrialists and corporatists since the first union was formed, a truth of which that neo-liberals and millionaires wishing to be billionaires dare not speak. It is also a truth that 99% of Americans, many of those who would benefit the greatest from the presence of unions, either don’t know or, for suicidal ideological reasons, reject. And in this rejection lay their complete and utter immiseration,
a reality that their contemptuous masters — think of the relationship between the Tea and the Koch brothers — have long ago set in motion.

Remarkably, (or maybe not ) Nicholas Kristof also fails to even mention what has inexorably risen in the void created by the systematic destruction of unions: namely oligarchy. Indeed, an oligarchy that makes a daily and demoralizing mock of our pretense to democracy.
“To understand the rising inequality, you have to understand the devastation in the labor movement,” says Jake Rosenfeld, a labor expert at the University of Washington and the author of “What Unions No Longer Do.”
“All the focus on labor’s flaws can distract us from the bigger picture,” Rosenfeld writes. “For generations now the labor movement has stood as the most prominent and effective voice for economic justice.”

Instead, Nicholas Kristof puts forth the preposterous claim that “Union bosses” (note: not union “leaders” ) and the 1% are on equal ground in terms of power and the ability to destroy with absolute impunity.
“One of the things you learn as a journalist is that when there’s no accountability, we humans are capable of tremendous avarice and venality. That’s true of union bosses — and of corporate tycoons”.

Let me be clear here: Unions, like all human institutions, are inherently imperfect and, yes, at times corrupt and in need of reform. Still to compare union corruption and its effects to what has been wrought by corporations or politicians in Washington D.C. or Wall Street is obscene. Unions are not responsible for depleting the earth of its resources bringing about an ecological catastrophe we may not be able to stop, let alone reverse. Unions are not responsible for invading countries under false pretenses and murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Unions are not guilty of the pilfering of trillions of dollars from pension funds and implementing a myriad of sleazy schemes designed to rip off the trusting and that brought the world economy to the brink of catastrophe in 2008.
No. The people responsible for these atroctites or who cheer leaded these atroctites are the very same who are doing all they can to destroy the remnants of unionism here and around the world.

And they are doing so, of course, in the name of fairness and freedom.

Finally, in words that reek of self-congratulation, Kristof comes to understand what enlightened people as far back as the 19th century understood was their only road to dignity, social justice and a decent wage.
“This isn’t something you often hear a columnist say, but I’ll say it again: I was wrong. At least in the private sector, we should strengthen unions, not try to eviscerate them. “

How nice of Nicholas Kristof to arrive at that conclusion that unions should not be “eviscerated.” But note well, my fellow public school teachers, Kristof’s stipulating that the non-evisceration be limited “to the private sector ” which, in the all out war against all public institutions, should strikes us as particularly weasel-like and ominous.

Such words, in an article that ostensibly defends unions, could only bring comfort to the likes of Obama, Cuomo, Walker, Rainer and all their patrons who know that the first step to a “Right To Work” or union free nation is the evisceration of public unions.

Nicholas Kristof is not our friend.