There are some great writers in the education blogosphere today, writers who focus on the facts and weave compelling arguments worthy of broader attention, notably Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post, Peter DeWitt at EdWeek, and of course the grande dame of education writers, Diane Ravitch. Their blogs show up in my news feed on a daily basis, reposted by teachers and parents again and again. Their authors choose facts and persuasive arguments over vitriol and personal attacks.
Certainly there is always room for good-natured parody, mockery or general snarkiness, but too often authors rely almost exclusively on a certain brand of media sensationalism at the expense of accuracy.
David Brooks, of the New York Times, wrote thoughtfully this past week about the rhetoric and ridicule leading up to and surrounding the recent tragedy in Paris.
“Most of us move toward more complicated views of reality and more forgiving views of others. (Ridicule becomes less fun as you become more aware of your own frequent ridiculousness.)”
Unfortunately, for every well researched, credible article on the net there are at least two or three blogs that fein authority on a subject and lean heavily on just such ridicule. They often preach fear mongering and divisiveness in an effort to enrage their followers with no real intention of winning people over to their views. And they are almost never based on fact.
One such post came across my desk this week by a blogger in New York City. The author, Arthur Goldstein, is a part-time teacher/part-time union rep in NYC. He’s actually written some pretty good articles, a number of which have appeared in the Daily News (I especially like his piece on teacher tenure published last July). But sadly this is not one of them. Rather, it is a regurgitation of personal attacks and baseless accusations against NYSUT’s leadership, a replay of skirmishes gone by (Mr. Goldstein ran, unsuccessfully, for NYSUT’s Executive VP position last April). These attacks sound more like sour grapes than scandalous revelations.
Mr. Goldstein recycles a string of predictable talking points which he has used many times before: NYSUT endorses Cuomo (not true), scandalous pension deals (see my response here), and painting UFT leadership as bullies. In fact, none of this holds water. His assertion that NYSUT’s Secretary-Treasurer, Martin Messner, and the union’s leadership are denying a former officer his severance package is an outright fabrication.
The new NYSUT leadership has never stood in support of Governor Cuomo. The NYSUT Board of Directors voted unanimously in August to not endorse the Governor. NYSUT subsequently sent nearly 400 delegates to the AFL-CIO conference in NYC and prevented a Cuomo endorsement by the state’s largest labor organization. This move was unprecedented and sent a clear message to candidate Cuomo – teachers in NY are a force to be reckoned with.
Mr. Goldstein uses an old Republican messaging strategy made famous by Lee Atwater and Carl Rove – repeat an untruth enough times and people will start to accept it as true. Thankfully, the facts say otherwise.
You don’t have to dig too deep into Mr. Goldstein’s blog archives to uncover other poorly sourced, unreliable articles that follow the same formula. A post from December claims that NYSUT Executive VP Andy Pallotta was planning on “sending a bunch of lucky NYSUT folks to a wing-ding over at the Governor’s mansion on December 31st.” Not true. Actually, NYSUT mustered over 100 teachers, parents, and students on a bitter cold New Years Eve day to protest outside the Governor’s mansion. Their message was clear – Cuomo is clueless about education and NYSUT demands that he keep his hands off of our public schools. It was quite a protest. I was there, Mr. Goldstein was not.
As New York’s education professionals face attacks from the politicians and bureaucrats in Albany and the billionaires on Wall Street, what we really need is a clarion call to stand as one union. It’s time for every teacher in New York to stand together, not support Mr. Goldstein’s brand of division. As we face the new year and the battles that await us, we can either drift toward disunion or trumpet one clear voice in support of public education in our state.
Rank and file teachers can get involved right now to support a unified front against the enemies of public education in New York. Speak up about your concerns and reach out with constructive criticism, but it is essential that we pull together toward a greater good for New York schools.
I’ll be standing up for my union and the kids we serve. Will you?