Monday, August 28, 2017

Reformy Chalkbeat Still Sucks

A lot of my ATR friends, among others are impressed with a recent piece in reformy Chalkbeat. After this blog and several others complained about the preposterous one-sided coverage of the issue, it's nice they finally took some time to actually talk to actual members of the Absent Teacher Reserve. There are great quotes, and the writer picked a very good one to title the story. It's a good story and she did a good job.

But this doesn't take reformy Chalkbeat off the hook for years of biased reporting. Chalkbeat began with promise and though I saw reformy leanings, it did attempt to give voice to a variety of points of view. One feature it had was a nightcap, where it went out of its way to give voice to independent voices, like bloggers and lesser known publications. It managed to show diversity back in those days.

Another thing Chalkbeat used to have was a vibrant comment section. They had a sidebar with recent comments inviting more, and it drew a lot of people in. Now you have to not only open the story, but also click on a "view comments" link before you can even see them. Often they're dominated by some guy who hates teacher pensions, and whatever the ostensible topic is it's all about why teacher pensions are the ruination of western civilization.

The problem is that Chalkbeat is an education publication, and therefore ought to be expert in education. When I read their stories, and I do so far less than I used to, I see reporters getting a story, going to the usual subjects, saying this is what they think, and that's it. Astroturf orgs like Students First NY, E4E, and "Families for Excellent Schools" pay people to talk to the press. Their leaders pay these spokespeople to take certain positions, i.e. anti-public school positions.

Now it's nice that Chalkbeat has heard our voices and gone out and found some ATR teachers to speak to. I certainly hope they expand on that and continue to reach out. However, that doesn't change the status quo or get them off the hook for all the times they've published reformy nonsense with no balance. Hey, you can call yourself Families for Excellent Schools, but when you're funded by hedge fund bazillionaires who wouldn't send their kids to public schools on a bet, the likelihood you actually represent working families is virtually nil.

There is a place for subjectivity. Right here, for example, I don't pretend to give all sides. I can only paint what I see. It's not my job to go out and find out exactly why the reformies think we should do more work for less pay. It doesn't much matter to me because they're wrong anyway. Our children will grow up to be working people. The notion that worsened working conditions will help our children is absurd.

Chalkbeat hasn't thought that through yet. I don't recall reading in Chalkbeat that the American Statistical Association believes that teachers influence test scores by 1-14%. I don't see the views of real education thinkers like Diane Ravitch there all that often. I frequently see pieces there that not only ignore UFT rank and file, but can't even be bothered getting a quote from leadership.

The rule over there is formulaic crap. What does E4E, whose leaders taught five minutes in public schools, think about the new UFT Contract? Why did Eva Moskowitz decide to sneeze in a blue handkerchief rather than a pink one? Why does Mayor de Blasio suck? Why are ATR teachers a scourge on Life Itself?

These are not the big questions. And at a crucial juncture like this one where the free press is under veritable assault, we need truth. We need genuine and multiple voices, not just a reinforcement of corporate crapification. It's funny how Trump cries over fake news simply because it's not favorable to him. The fact is here's an outlet that he'd probably be entirely comfortable with, simply because it reinforces all his insane notions about public education. Ironically, though Trump would love it, this leaves Chalkbeat as largely fake news. Having one lucid moment does not preclude being stark-raving mad, and having one fair story doesn't preclude overall reforminess either.

If I want to see out of the box thinking I'll read Diane Ravitch. And I do, in fact, all the time. If reporters from Chalkbeat have read either of her last two books, I see no evidence. Paid advocates quoted in Chalkbeat do not represent New York City schoolchildren. They represent forces pushing for privatization. If those are Chalkbeat's primary sources, they may as well just give it up and have Betsy DeVos and her staff write it.

That would certainly delight Gates and Walmart, both of whom fund Chalkbeat.
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