Monday, August 29, 2011

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Everything but the Truth

Mike Winerip's column today gives us a pretty forceful rebuttal to Steven Brill's latest adventure in teacher-bashing. Specifically, he finds a pretty bald-faced falsehood. Did Brill even bother to check this stuff before publication? Hasn't he got an editor?

He notes that charters are criticized for having fewer children with learning challenges, but “none of the actual data supports this.” 

Actually, it does. According to the city, in 2010 P.S. 149 had more children poor enough to receive free lunch (76 percent vs. 67 percent for the charter); more children for whom English was a second language (13 percent vs. 1.5 for the charter); and more children with disabilities (22 percent vs. 16). 

This, in my view, is typical of what gets written about public schools--unchallenged nonsense presented as unvarnished fact. And even Winerip neglects to note the degree of disability. It's far more likely that more disabled students wind up in public schools. I can't imagine Eva Moskowitz picking up alternate assessment kids who will neither receive a traditional diploma nor embellish her statistics.

Brill sees career teachers as lazy slobs sitting around and waiting to collect pensions. That's the favorite stereotype of the "reformers," so why not toss it out yet again. No stats, no support, just tar working Americans as a bunch of lazy bastards. But what's the alternative? Charter school teachers are harried, overworked, and underpaid, and appear unable to sustain what's asked of them for any substantial length of time. This, of course, is the vision of the "reformers---"cheap, replaceable McTeachers for poor kids. (Brill sent his kids to private schools, so that won't be a problem for them.)

It's pathetic that at this point in our history Americans can be manipulated to believe that teachers and other working people are responsible for the excesses that have scuttled our economy. We should be thankful for the few prominent voices, like Winerip, that will speak the truth.
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