Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wayne Barrett Is Shocked, Shocked

It's important to Wayne Barrett that you know he is progressive.

I am a progressive, 

How can you argue with that? After all, that's clear. You are, therefore, supposed to take his argument against union that much more seriously. But that's not all:

...have been one since the 1960s, when I became a New York City public school teacher for a few years and learned that my union, the United Federation of Teachers, was much better at representing my interests than those of the kids I taught. It shouldn't have come as such a surprise.

Wait a minute. Is Barrett stating that the United Federation of Teachers represents the interests of (gasp!) teachers? Now I'm shocked too! But what Barrett also does here is advance the meme that the interests of teachers are counter to those of students. Why aren't we out rallying for more work for less pay? After all, isn't that what the children of America need?

Despite Barrett's boast of how amazingly progressive he is, teacher v. student is precisely the argument you'll hear from Michelle Rhee, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, Chris Christie, and virtually all other supporters of corporate reform. Are we to determine, then, that there is no possibility they could be wrong? That appears to be the conclusion. Were Barrett to oppose abortion, gay rights, or a woman's right to choose, I can only suppose there'd be universal opposition to those issues as well. Barrett continues:

Seen through a progressive lens, all that should matter in these school skirmishes is whether a charter, a contract or an employment rule benefits students. Whenever progressive Democrats instead choose teacher power over the futures of minority kids, they are putting a big bucks lobby ahead of a core but comparatively powerless constituency.

It's pretty remarkable that Barrett forgets all the money billionaires Gates, Broad, and the Walmart family have invested in charters. Does he seriously expect us to entertain the outlandish notion that they are powerless? Does he expect us not to realize all the power and money they put behind charters? Does Barrett expect us to ignore the fact that their money dwarfs that of unions, or that Gates' has basically imposed his agenda on the nation, with the full cooperation of President Barack Obama?

Does he expect we don't know the attrition rates of charters? For example, the fabled Eva Moskowitz Academy just graduated its first class. Over half of its students not only disappeared, but were not even replaced. Are we to ignore that, as uber-progressive Barrett did?

You may, for example, have gotten the impression, when the WFP appeared poised last month to nominate charter foe Diane Ravitch to oppose Gov. Cuomo, a charter champion, in his reelection bid, that these nonprofit-run public schools are a Republican hedge-fund conspiracy. That's what the WFP, a sometimes-blunt instrument exploited by the interests that bankroll it, and 75-year-old Ravitch, the adopted guru of the UFT and de Blasio administration, would have us believe.

I wonder why Ravitch's age is of any relevance to Barrett's argument. Nonetheless, it's one of the most preposterous arguments I've ever seen, particularly if Barrett is as progressive as he claims. There's no evidence whatsoever that Ravitch was poised to win the nomination, and if that's not clear to you, you can ask Zephyr Teachout. Teachout lost the nomination, and it's pretty clear the teacher union did not support her.

As if that's not enough, the fact is the UFT, far from labeling them a "Republican hedge-fund conspiracy" not only supports charter schools, but has opened and co-sponsored them. AFT made Bill Gates the keynote at its convention. UFT and Ravitch differ on not only issues like charters, but also mayoral control, Common Core, and VAM ratings, all of which UFT has supported and Ravitch has opposed.

It's remarkable that someone as "progressive" as Barrett fails to comprehend the corporate influence on the modern Democratic party.

Even Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham professor who ran unsuccessfully against Cuomo for the WFP designation after Ravitch dropped out and now plans to challenge him in a Democratic primary partly because of his "support of corporate school reform," is the protégé of new charter school backer Howard Dean.

This is classic guilt by association. Barrett, despite acknowledging her opposition to Cuomo's corporate reform, sees fit to extrapolate Teachout's positions from those with whom she's acquainted rather than her actual words criticizing Cuomo's education positions or the obvious act of her opposing him.

Aside from the pyrotechnics involved in constructing Barrett's arguments, it's pretty disappointing that the self-styled progressive appears to oppose higher wages for those of us who, unlike him, have chosen to continue to educate all of New York's children, whether or not they meet the selective standards of Eva Moskowitz. I'd say one bottom line for anyone progressive is supporting working people. And lest Barrett shed further crocodile tears for the children he sees as well-served by charters, they will grow up and need jobs too.

It's my hope that we can offer our children something better than what Walmart has spent millions and millions creating for them. And like many of my colleagues, I'm poised to support real progressives to counter the Walmart message.
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