Sep 4, 2009

Brill, Get the Real Story Straight

What follows is the response TAGNYC sent to the editors of The New Yorker magazine re: Steven Brill's article: "Klein and the NYC Teachers." Of course, TAGNYC's take is that the intent of the article is to enlist the public's acquiescence in the repeal of tenure laws. Brill's article proves that conventional journalism is moot. The real journalists are not the 'talking heads' or those writing for the established newspapers. Real journalism is being done on the blogs. The next Woodward and Bernstein will emerge from a blog expose.

Brill, Get the Real Story Straight.

How to respond to Steven Brill’s article about the ‘bureaucratic stranglehold’ unions have on school boards' abilities to fire teachers? For beginners, by stating that Steven Brill has not done his homework. If he had, he would know that a New York State law requires that all tenured employees, including teachers, be afforded a hearing prior to being disciplined. This due process requirement does not come from a union contract. Also, Brill would have discovered that Klein and his Department of Education are responsible for teachers waiting up to three years to get a hearing and a decision. He would have seen that teachers, once removed from a school, have no control over when hearings are scheduled nor does their union. Brill does sloppy journalistic work.

Secondly,this response is meant to state up front that Brill’s hidden agenda is to vilify the New York City teacher. Brill and 99% of his journalist cronies (Brill et al.) are akin to ‘ambulance chasers”. Like the classic ambulance chaser, Brill et al. have found that the dysfunctional entity known as inner city education is a reliable meal ticket. And like ambulance chasers, Brill et al. don’t have to break a sweat to exercise their profession. Just keep hammering on the usual scapegoats for the plight of the inner city schools- the teachers and their union. Pick up Klein’s press releases. Accept what Klein says. Print the fast story, the sexy story, the untrue story. Journalists are embedded within the military. Why not embed journalists within the schools to report the real reason inner city schools fail? Because it is so much easier for Brill et al. to feed into Bloomberg’s, Klein’s, Rhee’s, Duncan’s mythology that poor teaching is why inner city students do not achieve. Why don’t journalists spend time incognito in the schools and see the fingerprints of institutionalized poverty and the hopelessness it breeds, or witness the absence of effort on the part of too many students and lack of oversight on the part of too many parents, or chronicle the daily consequences of the decades long breakdown of respect for the authority of the teacher, or jot down the number of oversized classes and the number of special needs students interspersed in those classes. Brill et al. might talk to the teachers and record how few of them are aware of the federally mandated services that many of their students are not receiving. Will Brill et al. take note of the teachers’ inability to effectively remove disruptive students? During the school day, Brill et al. could check out the books that teachers are supposed to rely on as aides in the educational process. Do the books and other supplied materials (if there are any) reflect the reading levels of the students? Or will Brill et al. see a 12th grade reading level social studies text, purchased in 2002 by the Chancellors District for use then by students on a 3rd grade and below reading level. Brill et al. can examine the book closets and find evidence of 40 years of false prophets who have milked the educational dollars dry while leaving Johnny no better off academically. That might lead Brill et al. to research the many educational models that have been foisted upon teachers only to be replaced by the next magic bullet, putting teachers on a constant merry go round of professional development that waste teachers’ time and taxpayers’ money. (Whoa, this is getting to be hard journalistic work. Brill et al., are you breaking a sweat yet?) Now, talk to teachers and learn of the great hoax perpetrated by Bloomberg and Klein. Observe how teachers must participate in academic fraud intended to move kids out and lift graduation rates. See the frustration of the elementary and middle school teacher whose days are filled with teaching to the test, giving the test, reviewing the test, just in time to give the next test. While sleuthing within the schools, Brill et al. can observe how competent teachers are subjectively targeted for harassment and eventual placement in Rubber Rooms. Observe how teachers not as good are not hunted and harassed by administration. A real journalist would use journalistic cunning to question and figure out why this might be so. A real journalist would: Investigate the possibility that the Rubber Rooms exists to rid schools of any teacher unwanted by the principal for reasons not related to competence: Investigate the probability that the Rubber Room has been set up by Bloomberg and Klein to destroy tenure and due process rights: Acknowledge the reality that Brill et al. are dupes who, through their 8th grade level of journalistic reporting, are allowing Bloomberg and Klein to realize their goal of destroying teaching as a long term profession.

Oh, Brill et al., there is so much more you could learn and report on if you were only willing to do the work. You would see that Bloomberg and Klein’s eight year control of the schools has demoralized teachers, marginalized parents, taught students to lie by making them participants in the academic fraud rife throughout the system. It’s not about the kids. It is about political ambition and power at any price.

We demand that the press fulfill its role as the objective purveyor of truth. Go into the inner city public schools which are being dismantled for private persons’ political and financial gains. Objectively assess reality. DON'T ACCEPT WHAT WE SAY. Go into the schools and investigate. Go in without your cameras, without being guided to classrooms prepped for your visit. Go in and spend a year working in an inner city classroom and only then, claim the credentials to fulfill your journalistic duty to report the truth about inner city education. Report the truth about who is being sent to Rubber Rooms and WHY. You would then have to acknowledge that for the past many, many years, it is the New York City inner city school teachers who have kept the system going and have done so much for the many beautiful students that triumph despite the past and continued shabby treatment of the inner city school teacher and student by those in power to affect societal change.