Thursday, March 05, 2015

Crains NY Snags the Coveted Lirtzy Award

 by special guest blogger Harris Lirtzman

I'm pleased to announce here on NYC Educator the recipient of the first "Lirtzy" award for "Most Dubious Education-Related Newspaper Headline of the Month."

It is common knowledge that education reformistas, which now includes a particularly virulent strain known as "Cuomistas," engage in a black art known as "FUD."  FUD stands for "Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt" and is a marketing ploy that goes back at least to the 1920s.  Create enough FUD and you can convince people to do almost anything you want them to do.

It should surprise no one that education reformistas, almost all of whom have emerged during the last twenty years from the bastions of their corporate headquarters to lead the assault on public education, would bring with them as part of their arsenal a form of propaganda that works so very well for them in the private sector.  FUD was brought to perfection in the 1970s, when IBM used it to persuade its customers to continue to use its products rather than those of its "sketchy" competitors. By spreading questionable information about the drawbacks of competing ideas, Corporate America discouraged decision-makers from making informed policy assessments based on the merits of the case.  By the 1990s, FUD was generalized to refer to all kinds of disinformation used as propaganda in the corporate and public policy domains.

Many of us spend a lot of time trying to refute the most pernicious forms of FUD used by corporate education reformistas to create hysteria and panic about the academic performance of American students and the greedy incompetence of American teachers.  It's a game of "whack-a-mole."  An egregious example of FUD batted down over there is simply reformulated as a pernicious example of FUD over here.  We exhaust ourselves trying to use "facts" and "evidence" to counter the range of deceit, lies and misinformation reformistas use to promote charter schools, vouchers, tax credits for private schools and, now, the Cuomista "education opportunity" agenda.

The media partners in the reformista/Cuomista coalition have shown remarkable creativity using FUD to advance their masters' policy objectives.  Do rapacious school teachers sexually assault their students?  Of course they do, by the hundreds.  Are "ineffective" teachers impossible to fire under any circumstance because of that tenure thing?  Of course they are; it takes eons to fire a single one.  Do vampire teachers suck the life-blood from innocent citizens with their outrageous pensions and health care plans?  Yes, they do, and they will bankrupt entire cities and states unless the reformista program is adopted right this minute.  Are teachers' unions the mos nefariously powerful organizations in the country concerned only about preserving their jobs and enforcing thousand page contracts?  Why bother asking, of course they are, and they couldn't care less about the children they teach while they use all that power to corrupt otherwise virtuous public officials like Sheldon Silver.

Last week, I came across one of the stranger examples of FUD that I've even seen in a New York publication. The headline for its main piece of the day, which reported Governor Cuomo's release of his report on failing schools and the aggregate teacher effectiveness ratings in those schools, told us that "91 Schools Have Been Failing for a Combined 642 Years."  I paused.  What was I supposed to do with this startling new knowledge that 91 City schools have been failing their students since 119 years before Christopher Columbus set foot in the New World?  Evidently, the paper, Crains New York, thought that this very disturbing news would impart an especially FUD-like urgency to the Cuomista program.  But how would the Cuomista program punish the Aztecs and Mayans for their failure to establish accountability measures for their school teachers?  Surprisingly, Crains New York had no advice to offer on any of that.

Crains New York had reached a very high and distinguished level of FUD-like confusion and misdirection concerning education policy in New York State that I thought should not go unrewarded.  I decided to establish the "Lirtzy" for meritorious FUD-making that recognized the "Most Dubious Education-Related Headline of the Month."  There are only five criteria for judging submissions and the "Lirtzy" goes to the headline that meets at least four of them with appropriate usage:

1.  Incendiary Intent
2.  Pointlessness 
3.  Libelous Characterization
4.  Impracticality of Redress
5.  Uniqueness of the Accusation

All the headlines that referred to sexually compulsive teachers who can't be fired or which condemned teacher tenure were disqualified for lack of uniqueness and excessive pointlessness.  The only other contender for the month was the headline, from the Daily News, "Thanks to Governor Cuomo, Preet Bharara and Sheldon Silver It Was A Great Week for Education Reform," which was disqualified because it lacked incendiary intent and libelous characterization but which did get a bonus for pointlessness and a one-time-only credit for inscrutability.  In the end, the Crains New York headline was intentionally incendiary in a very pointless manner with just the right tone of libelous characterization and a clearly impractical form of redress for any education policy maker born after 1373.

Congratulations, Crains New York, you have reached a finely crafted form of FUD never before seen in a New York publication and raised reformista panic and fear in service of dubious public policy to a new level, one perhaps not to be seen again soon.
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