Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

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.

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Why Does the NY Times Pay So Much Attention to An Accused Teacher and So Little to the Common Core ?

October 10, 2014

Over the past several years the New York Times, the paper of record and all that, has published article after article, editorial after editorial praising the wonders of the privately owned experiment on American children deceptively called the Common Core State Standards and painting all who opposed the instantly sacred writ as little more than right wing nut jobs. The paper has done all it can do to hide the fact that the Common Core exists solely because a private citizen, one Bill Gates, has decided that it is his right to undermine democratic process and dictate public policy even as our spineless politicians have helped him every step of the way. The information about the genesis and financing of the Common Core, though obscured and hidden, has been flushed out and is available to those who seek it. See especially the work of Mercedes Schneider. Apparently the New York Times does not seek it.

With this in mind, I read with astonishment the almost granular description and psychological profile of the life of one Sean Shaynak, a high school teacher arrested for multiple counts of sexual misconduct with his students.
The story is disturbing and disgusting and, yes, newsworthy but I have to ask myself: why does the horrific behavior of a single teacher merit such research and scrutiny while the imposition of a radical experiment, increasingly loathed by American parents, students and teachers, and created by an unelected, unaccountable monopolist given what results in a free pass by the paper of record?

Consider simply the level of research — research reminiscent of a NY Times profile of a presidential candidate — that went into the ridiculous citing of Shaynak’s favorite Pretenders song as he rode down the highway of life toward ignominy and worse. Try to find an a commensurate example of research in any NY Times article on the provenance of the Common Core or any of its principal creators and you will search in vain.

Consider that the admittedly sordid allegations against this one individual, horrible that they are, affected a tiny proportion of one school yet merited the front page of the most important paper in America while the stealth creation of a radical privately owned imposition that is currently upending almost every school in the country is scarcely worth a mention.

Something is wrong. Very, very wrong.
What is really going on here ?

Moskowitz Again Uses Children As Political Props and Tabloids Cheer

March 5, 2014
Moskowitz  surrounded  by  some of her 7000 supporters, some as young as five.

Moskowitz surrounded by some of her 7000 supporters, some as young as five.

For the third time in as many years, Eva Moskowitz, czarina of the Success Academy charter school empire and heroine of the campaign to privatize our public school system, has used school children during school hours as political props and done so with absolute impunity. On the contrary, judging from the ecstatic headlines of today’s tabloids, you’d think the employment of school children for political gain is a noble act.

The first time Moskowitz politicized children was in the aftermath of a lawsuit filed jointly by the NAACP and the UFT based on the historic case of Brown vs Board of Education. Both the NAACP and the UFT filed against what they perceived were “separate and unequal “ facilities in the school building Harlem Success Academy, “ co- located” with PS 149 in Harlem. The case is still pending. In protest of the suit, in an act of political surrealism increasingly common in the privatization campaign, Moskowitz led a group of almost entirely African American students to the Federal Building on 125th in Harlem where she held a rally against the NAACP in front of the statue of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

The second such use of children was when Moskowitz employed hundreds of students as ambulatory human advertisements for mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota by marching them over the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle of a school day.

Yesterday, Moskowitz went further still, much further still, bussing thousands of children to Albany as part of a rally organized by something called Families for Excellent Schools.
Who paid for such an event?
I have a hunch if was the same people who are lining the re-election campaign coffers of Governor Andrew Cuomo who — Surprise! Surprise! — appeared at the children’s crusade rally to express his love for charter schools, if not for adequately funding public schools.

Meanwhile, the press media went gaga over Eva’s event, with not a single questioning word about the use of children for political gain.
It should be noted that any NYC public school principal or teacher who attempted such a stunt would be removed from her position post haste with ringing condemnations of child abuse and the like from the very same New York Daily News and New York Post. It should be noted that, unlike the Divine Ms. Moskowitz, NYC principals are one and all beholden to rules such as the following from the Chancellors Regulations: Section 1. C. 2, which refers to activities during school hours: “Personnel may not be involved in any activities, including fundraising, on behalf of any candidate, candidates, slate of candidates OR POLITICAL ORGANIZATION/ committee during working hours.”

It should be noted that NYC teachers are expressly forbidden from as much as wearing a political button and are liable to face disciplinary charges if they do.

It should be noted that charter schools such as Success Academy never tire of promulgating the fiction that they are public schools rather than private organizations unaccountable to public oversight that have the great good fortune of being publicly funded.

Moskowitz rationalizes using children in her overtly political actions by claiming that the children, some as young as five or six, are engaging, not in scripted play-acting or political brainwashing — but rather, in civics lessons. As far as I can see, this absurdity – along with the presumption that children can truly comprehend the complexities of the assault on public education and the place of charter schools in this battle — appears to be completely unquestioned by the press. Consider the New York Times account of the event which, while more truthful than the nonsense in the Post and Daily News, makes no mention whatsoever of Moskowitz’s unseemly use of children.
Under the absurd banner of the “War on Charters”, the Post has no problem insinuating that that children bussed to the state capital were in fact “supporters” of charter schools.

Kids Are Adults too.

Kids Are Adults too.

Indeed, in their silly comparison between the sizes of Moskowitiz’s rally and that of Bill de Blasio’s rally for universal pre-K, both the News and the Post seem to consider the kids as you would adults.

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It’s hard to say what is more disgusting: Moskowitz’s shameless use of children enlisted for the building of her publicly funded empire ? Cuomo’s shameless pandering to her billionare backers and contempt for the millions of non-charter school non -billionaire backed students and parents ? Or the media’s celebration of both ?

Meanwhile, there is Bill de Blasio, continuing to call for funding for universal pre-K, a program that will unquestionably improve the lives of millions of children, especially the poor, and simply the right thing to do, being jeered and lambasted in the press for drawing a smaller crowd than that of the bussed in kids.

I look at this kind of stuff and feel ashamed to be an American.

Thanks to Michael Fiorillo for his help with this post.

Students First NY InJect Racial Politics Into Battle over Common Core

December 11, 2013

It was with deep and increasing sadness that I read the steady stream of emails coming in real time from my colleagues attending New York State Commissioner of Education’s John King’s Common Core “listening tour” which set up base in Brooklyn last night. The sadness did not stem from the fact that my colleagues were essentially silenced by a calculated maneuver by Michelle Rhee’s Student First NY organization to ensure no voice but theirs was heard by bussing people in early in order to gobble up all of the speaking slots, even as they reportedly repeated the same lines over and over again.
I expect such anti democratic machinations from all corporate education reform front groups, that much the more from anything associated with a ruthless monster like Rhee. What saddened me was the conscious injection of race into what us is ostensibly meant to be an airing of pedagogical policy. The line of thinking I read about again and again and again was that if you opposed the Common Core Standards – presented somehow as a matter not of pedagogy but of civil rights — it was because you are a racist and you did not want children of color to succeed in school.

That’s it.

This is very, very ugly and purposely divisive stuff. Indeed, it could scarcely get uglier or more divisive.

But in a way it makes sense: an ugly, brutal and suicidal sense but sense anyway. It is a kind of toxic combination of cynicism and desperate hope, one in which you have the city systemically starving schools in impoverished and minority neighborhoods and the predatory cunning of the corporate education reformers of which Common Core is a crown jewel preying off of that poverty.

For when you ram into existence, by some of the most insidious and antidemocratic processes possible, a billionaire backed experiment on the children of an entire nation; an experiment created by some of the most arrogant and ruthless souls on earth (Bill Gates, David Coleman); an experiment based on nothing but endlessly repeated rhetoric and slogans (“making kids college and career ready”) and one that that has been greeted by parents and teachers alike with incomprehension and disgust, you would do well to have evidence of the amazing success you claim such an experiment brings.

But since the creators of the Common Core — in an act of unprecedented and unconscionable hubris — did not even bother to field-test the thing, there is no evidence to be had of anything anywhere.
So what do you do when people start asking questions? How can you defend the indefensible? How do you support something with no evidence to support it with?

You can’t.

But you can try to change the argument. Ergo: the problem with the Common Core is not with the Common Core (which is perfect at conception) but with anyone and everyone who opposes it for any reason, no matter how sound. According to the New York Times, people oppose the Common Core is because they are Tea Party nut jobs or left wing conspiracy nut jobs. Or because they want teachers to coddle their kids. According to Arne Duncan opposition stems from the fact that suburban moms just can’t handle the reality that their kids are dumb and their schools sucks as badly as they really do.

All of this is ugly but it also silly. To introduce the element of race into this discussion in a nation where racism has been its most disgusting and perhaps most permanent reality is anything but silly.

Such a move is meant not to promote dialogue but to end it. No decent person wants to be called a racist or to be accused of promoting racist policies, which is what many at last night’s “forum “ apparently claimed opponents of the Common Core are doing. This line of thinking has no more credibility that those of Arne Duncan or Joe Bruni or Bill Keller and it should be given no more credibility. What is credible and what must be heard is the very real anguish and near despair that produced such thinking. It did not come out of nowhere.
In a few hours John King will hold another “forum” in downtown Manhattan.
I have no idea if Students First NY or some other billionaire backed front group will attempt to pull a similar stunt but this time around I will be in attendance, as will many of my friends and colleagues and I hope to speak to the issue at hand and not be drowned out by confusion and ugly corporate sponsored obfuscation.

Are New York Times Opinion Writers Too Coddled?

November 25, 2013

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For the fourth time in as many months the stately New York Times, “the paper of record “ and all that, has published yet another remarkably uninformed opinion piece attempting to defend the deceptively named Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by discrediting those who refuse to genuflect before them.

A vast and unprecedented national experiment on American’s children, paved by sound bites and steamrolled into reality by billionaires and testing companies, the recently implemented CCSS has been furiously rejected by an ever-increasing army of parents, disgusted and dismayed at what it is doing to their children. The standards, you could say, are going over like a lead zeppelin. Except that is, at institutions like the New York Times whose writers see light where parents see darkness and crazed Tea Partiers where others see concerned parents.

And once again the New York Times, here in the person of Frank Bruni, comes to the rescue with an article titled, “Are Kids Too Coddled? ” Like every one who attempts to defend an untested experiment, Bruni, like NYT’s writers Bill Keller, Paul Krugman and Charles Blow before him, has very few hands to play. One is to repeat ad nauseum the standards creators’ stated goals of inducing critical thinking skills, making students college and career ready (as if they are the same thing) and preparing them to compete for jobs in the super savage new global economy. One must repeat these aspirations as if they are hard proven facts. Indeed, as if constant repetition makes them into hard proven facts. As of now, defenders have nothing to offer but hope, a quality that has lost a lot of its market value following the election of Barack Obama. A second strategy, and one favored by the Times and Arne Duncan, is to attack the credibility of all those who dare question the Most Holy and Sacred Core.

Bruni was inspired to action by parental reaction against Arne Duncan’s latest insult. You know, the one about the “white suburban moms” whose kids the Common Core is exposing as “not as brilliant as they thought they were.”
Bruni looks not at the CCSS itself, of which he apparently knows only what is claimed for it in press releases, but instead follows “the fevered lamentations over the Common Core” to “ look hard at some of the complaints from the parents and teachers and factor in the modern cult of self-esteem.”

In short order, Bruin determines that the problem with the CCSS is not with the CCSS itself – a self evident impossibility for New York Times opinion writers — but that parents are surrendering to the impulse to coddle their kids.

Lord!

Even as I share Mr. Bruni’s disdain for the once faddish “cult of self esteem, “ I can honestly say that I have seen very, very, little evidence of such a cult in all my years teaching. What I see daily, however, is lots, and lots and lots of evidence of the cult of the Common Core. That which one shall not question. That which thou shall obey. That which knoweth all. And as for coddling, musing over their anemic arguments, I could not help but wonder if the editors of the Times are coddling their opinion writers — at least when they are writing about the Common Core.

I’m not joking. Consider Bruni’s article. Bruni begins with an anecdotal story about a silly decision made by administrators at a school near Boston, fattens it up with more meaningless anecdotes about sports leagues where no one loses and high schools with 30 valedictorians that have no conceivable connection with the rage and disgust parents feel about the effects of the CCSS on their kids. Or the intrinsic data mining. Or the high stakes testing that are part and parcel with the scheme and of which Bruni says nada. Zilch. Nothing.
As a non-coddling editor (or even a high school English teacher) I would never accept Bruni’s specious attempt to wed the wholly unconnected scenarios. I’d send him back to work. Not, it seems, the Times.

Consider that the Times were apparently fine with the fact that the only two people Bruni actually bothered to speak to — education entrepreneur and “architect of the Common Core” David Coleman and Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy — could not have been more predicable or less challenging interviewees. Or had greater stakes in seeing criticisms of the CCSS dismissed as political lunacy or psychological weakness.

Were the editors of the Times worried that talking to real parents who have concluded that the CC is damaging to their children might be damaging to Bruni’s self esteem?
Consider Bruni’s s bi-partisan expansion of nut-job opponents of the CCSS complementing fellow Times writer Bill Keller’s earlier depictions of CCSS opponents,as Tea Partiers. Were the editors concerned that indisputable facts from some of the “ left-wing paranoiacs” ( Diane Ravitch, for example, along with millions of American parents) who Bruni sees “imagining some conspiracy to ultimately privatize education and create a new frontier of profits for money-mad plutocrats, — (many of whom who are named as benefactors of Tucker’s NCEE and every other “reformer” front group) “might shatter Bruni’s fragile sense of reality ?
Note to Bruni: Former Assistant Secretary of Education and Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error, is subtitled, The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.)

Are the editors of the Times so concerned with sheltering the psyches of their opinion writers that they allow them to publish on vast, far reaching and shadowy issues like the CCSS while not requiring them to do the slightest bit of research into who funded such programs and why? And how they dare impose such a thing on an entire nation without as much as a field test ?

Will America be allowing pharmaceutical companies to do the same if desired by Bill Gates and the Business Round Table ?

I don’t know about you but such lousy writing and thinking sure smells like coddling to me.

Addendum: I learned only after I had written this piece that Bruni is a food critic, a fact that partially explains his complete ignorance of the subject on which he pontificated but does not excuse his arrogance. The fact that the New York Times allowed a food critic ample space in which to babble on about education is merely a continuation of their unstated but apparent belief that just about everyone is an expert on education excepting the people actually engaged in it on a daily basis, which is to say, teachers or, through their children, parents.

Post script: Herein is a link to an article in a mainstream news outlet reporting a secret meeting of millionaires and billionaires, among them Gates, Bloomberg and Jeb Bush, all whom are deeply involved and invested in “education reform. Mr. Gates claimed the meeting concerned the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which it may well have done. But anyone who has been in anyway following anything that has been done in education for the past decade knows the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation has bankrolled and largely dictated just about every aspect of it. They also know that Arne Duncan takes his marching orders from Gates and that the Common Core is largely the product of Gates and his Foundation. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive of “education reform” without the Foundation. This, despite the fact that Gates is a private citizen and the DOE is a vital public trust.
Given this, I would love to hear Mr. Bruni and anyone else who speaks so contemptuously of “left wing paranoia” explain this little gathering of concerned citizens.