Wednesday, November 25, 2020

NY Times--Worst Education Reporting Anywhere

I should know not to be surprised when the NY Times runs opinion pieces posing as news stories. It's a hallowed tradition. The first time I noticed it was in the 1980s, when we got the February break that every other school statewide already had. The Times reported that this was detrimental to working parents. How would they take care of the children if school buildings closed? 

What the Times didn't know was that DOE didn't plan to open the schools that week. They were going to use the week for PD and have only UFT come in. So canceling the break wouldn't have helped these parents. Every working teacher in the city knew this, but the Times didn't.

We voted to authorize a strike sometime back in the early 90s. I remember being quite freaked out over it because I'd just gotten a mortgage and the Taylor Law would've placed me in fairly dire straits. Crossing a picket line wasn't in my DNA, so that would've been a big issue for me. I was pretty surprised to read, in the NY Times, that the strike vote was just for show and we wouldn't strike. That wasn't my feeling, and it wasn't what I was hearing from colleagues  This Times writer, evidently, had consulted a crystal ball rather than bothering to consult with those of us on the ground. And this ran, of course, in the news section.

Now, the tradition continues, I look at the Times analyzing the spot the mayor is in, and I see commentary posing as a news story. Of course de Blasio is in a tough spot, but it's not like that hasn't been the case ever since his  myopic and borderline delusional presidential bid. His DOE failed to plan for months after the debacle of school closings, and opened with a hybrid plan that had more holes in it than Swiss Cheese. People tell me the city paid someone millions to devise this plan. I'm a lowly teacher, and I could see what was wrong with it immediately.

So the Times reporter first finds someone from Educators for Excellence, the Gates-funded group that yearns to strike for more work for less pay. They may portray themselves otherwise, lately, but if you think teachers need protections like tenure, or actual power against vindictive supervisors, you might want to think twice before going to one of their pizza parties. And what do they get from E4E? They get a quote saying no one trusts the mayor. This is pretty much dog bites man.This notwithstanding, the entire concept of going to a group that really does not represent working teachers is bad reporting. Do anyone other than the NY Times (and Chalkbeat) really think E4E would do anything to imperil the Gates funding that keeps them afloat?

Next, the Times goes to the mayor, who says that educators want to be in schools. In one way, that's true. I think I speak for most of us when I say there's nothing I'd like better than going back to do my actual job. However, under current conditions, UFT viewpoints vary wildly. Mulgrew says at meetings that he gets a mix of comments, some wanting schools closed and others wanting them open. I believe that, but I certainly don't see it reflected in this story. In fact, there's absolutely no representation of teachers who think it's not safe enough to come back.

Underlining this is the Times' choice to interview a teacher from MORE, who speaks only of last March. I don't think anyone disagrees that the mayor screwed up royally by leaving schools open so long. Amazingly, the reporter doesn't bother to ask the MORE member about what's happening now. I can only assume that the reporter doesn't find that viewpoint newsworthy.

More to the point, the overwhelming majority of NYC students are not attending in the buildings. The Times reporter doesn't mention that, and doesn't appear to find it worthy of consideration. To me, this strongly suggests that New Yorkers don't trust the city school system to keep their children or families safe. That's significant, but not to the Times reporter, who writes this:

Parents spent days pleading with Mr. Cuomo to overrule the mayor and keep the schools open, and The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Cuomo spent last Wednesday looking for ways to allow the city to use different metrics to continue in-person instruction.

Which parents. though? Two-thirds of actual city parents chose not to send their kids in. This story seems to have erased those parents so completely they might not even exist. 

Of course, there is the obligatory attack on the UFT:

And the U.F.T., which supported the 3 percent number and encouraged the mayor to stick with it — despite a consensus view that the schools were operating relatively safely — is now facing fresh scrutiny from parents.

Again, which parents? Whichever parents they are much come from the minority that was sending their kids in. The fact is this union was the only major city union to have endorsed a school opening at all, and this happened despite a whole lot of members opposing it. Certainly MORE opposed it, though you wouldn't know that from this story. 

The 3% number was not created or negotiated by UFT. The 3% number represents the mayor acting in an abundance of caution, perhaps the best thing he's done during this entire crisis. It's better to stop at that bar than wait for it to explode skyward and become the disaster we faced last March. And yes, that's my opinion. This page is an opinion page. I won't pretend otherwise.

The Times, on the other hand, ran their piece as a news story. This story is clearly biased and belongs on the op-ed page. I'm not a journalist, but I know point of view when I see it. A lot of Americans do not, unfortunately. That's why people rely on Fox News and the NY Times education page, and that's nothing less than a tragedy for our country.

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