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Fri Mar 9, 2012, 01:58 PM

A Witch Hunt Against Teachers by Lois Weiner

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2012/weiner070312.html


A shameful witch hunt against teachers is underway, a full-blown hysteria being fanned by the media working hand in hand with politicians. In one of the crudest efforts to manipulate public opinion, as Juan Gonzalez reported, Mayor Bloomberg solicited local media to obtain the teachers' ratings under Freedom of Information laws and publicize them.

As detailed in a union official's recent blog entry about a teacher hounded about her rating, the attacks on teachers are quite personally vicious. The vituperation recalls not so much the McCarthy hearings as the Salem Witch Trials. The attacks have a venom generally reserved for oppressed minorities. When women are accused of doing harm to children, there is often a sexual subtext to the charges. So it is worth pondering that the New York media have bombarded the public with exposÚs about child molestation in schools while the controversy about the publishing of teacher ratings has been percolating.

<snip>

As I explain elsewhere, teachers' unions are the main obstacle to creating a new kind of schooling, one that is like a shopping mall . . . or a "retail outlet" as a prospectus to investors phrased the "new mindset." The new economy, it's been decided for us, requires a new kind of educational system, one controlled by corporate chieftains that trains workers to compete against one another throughout the world for low-wage jobs. As Rahm Emanuel's off-hand comments about the bottom 25% of Chicago students illustrate, the rhetoric of equal educational opportunity used to defend standardized testing to judge students and teachers is pure propaganda.

<snip>

The opposition that Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee have expressed to publishing teachers' ratings -- but not to the testing -- has been described, accurately I think, as a "good cop/bad cop" strategy. On the one hand, this development signals a success in defending the dignity of teachers as workers and human beings. The media's teacher-bashing in its present form is likely to diminish. On the other hand, new weapons of mass destruction are being launched against public education. Instead of teachers as a group being blamed for children's lack of achievement, only the "bad teachers" are going to be targeted. And who are the "bad teachers" in this new campaign? Those who oppose what's supposed to be right for kids, the use of standardized testing, charter schools, privatization -- and destruction of teachers' unions. Hollywood will once again enter the fray of school politics, with a new propaganda vehicle, Won't Back Down, an action film, funded by the same right-wing think tank that produced Waiting for Superman. This time Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal will carry the message that good teachers don't need or want unions or any of those "selfish" (so un-mother-like!) desires like pensions, good salaries, limited working hours.

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Reply A Witch Hunt Against Teachers by Lois Weiner (Original post)
Starry Messenger Mar 2012 OP
drweinerlo Mar 2012 #1
Starry Messenger Mar 2012 #2
proud2BlibKansan Mar 2012 #3

Response to Starry Messenger (Original post)

Sun Mar 11, 2012, 07:45 PM

1. Role of the unions in defending teachers

I'm delighted to see my piece excerpted. Thanks! Question: I wonder why the sections of the article in which I point out the complicity of the New York unions have been cut. Here's the content that was cut in the excerpt:

"Teachers have been an easy target, and so, alas, have been the teachers' unions. Though they are cast as shrewd and powerful, nationally both teachers' unions are quite disoriented about how to respond to the assault on them and unwilling to mobilize their members. Used to lobbying and cutting deals with friendly politicians, teacher union officials mostly don't understand what's happening."

Then after the second snip I write:
"But how should we deal with this hysteria being stirred up? The New York City teachers' union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), decried the ratings and attempted to suppress their publication. Instead, it should have launched a public campaign to discredit the tests. But UFT officials couldn't do this because . . . the state union, which UFT officials control, signed off on allowing 40% of teachers' evaluations to be based on their students' progress on standardized tests and applauded it as a national model. The union's own poll, however, showed that a vast majority of parents believe there is too much emphasis on state testing in public schools."

I encourage readers to read the unexpurgated version! It hurts to know what the unions are (not) doing, but that's part of the story.

Lois Weiner

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Response to drweinerlo (Reply #1)

Sun Mar 11, 2012, 08:10 PM

2. Oh hey! Welcome to DU, Dr. Weiner!

It's against the rules to post whole articles here on DU, I wasn't meaning to expurgate. Thank you for posting more! The whole thing is incredible. I could only post a few paragraphs. I also encourage people to go to the link and read the whole article.

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Response to drweinerlo (Reply #1)

Mon Mar 12, 2012, 11:21 PM

3. Welcome to DU!

There is a 4 paragraph rule here when posting unoriginal content. You are welcome to post your entire piece. But Starry Messenger may only post 4 paragraphs.

It's a great piece. I hope you stick around and share more of your work with us.

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