Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What Makes Gotham Schools (and What Does Not)

In many ways I love Gotham Schools. I read it all the time. I particularly like the morning feature, which gives me all the local headlines, and the nightcap, which selects blog posts and opinion pieces. They can be valuable time savers for the busy teacher-blogger, constantly searching for things to write about. But I've also gotten a lot of email about a slant there, and indeed I'd miss a lot if I didn't regularly look elsewhere. A UFT source complained loudly to me that they were "bought and paid for." Yet when I looked up their funding, they particularly mentioned Ken Hirsh, an avid charter supporter, and the AFT.

I contacted my UFT source and said if Gotham was bought and paid for, we must not be getting what we bought and paid for. (In fairness, the AFT invited Bill Gates to its convention, so perhaps, in a way, we're getting exactly what we paid for.) Gotham has also run some very good stuff, including stories about how the DOE loaded closing schools with high-needs kids. If I recall correctly it's also acknowledged the connection between Gates shills ERN, E4E, and DFER, what I'll call the axis of evil.

The last few days, Gotham has provided some very interesting links. Here's one informing us that Michelle Rhee is campaigning against LIFO. To me, that's a little dog bites man. There are two more links to the Post, and it seems to me that every anti-union screed, every boneheaded editorial the Post puts up gets a link. Yet the NY Times lead editorial about the union-busting tactics of the GOP was not deemed worthy.

Last night's wrap-up, unsurprisingly, contained a link to Ruben Brosbe's blog. Gotham has featured Brosbe making wildly inaccurate claims about multilingual materials available to ESL families. He's also made outlandishly uninformed statements about teacher sabbaticals, and written stories about his students vomiting, noises he heard while eating lunch, his sick day, and other topics equally banal or distasteful. Gotham linked to a charter supporter who found the notion of taxing those who made over 200K per year quaint and outdated. Better to fire teachers, further overcrowd classrooms, and reduce health care to the poor, one can only suppose.

Last night Gotham neglected to link to its own columnist, UFT Chapter Leader Stephen Lazar. It somehow managed to miss two excellent pro-teacher Diane Ravitch columns, here and here. It's also entirely overlooked this NY Times profile of the billionaire Koch brothers who not only funded Governor Scott Walker's campaign, but also support his current efforts. Doubtless they plan to spread the Wisconsin model to the rest of the country--they are important and noteworthy. But for some reason, Gotham Schools doesn't appear to share that view.

Again, if Gotham wishes to be objective, it behooves its writers to portray voices from all sides, even those not favored by charter supporters. If I get 100% of the crap from the plainly biased New York Post, I fully expect to see 100% of Diane Ravitch's expert analysis too, at the very least. While excluding Ravitch may follow in the footsteps of Oprah, and NBC's so-called Education Nation, it's not remotely objective.
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