Monday, July 16, 2018

Poor Eva Needs Space

I was pretty surprised to see a link in today's Chalkbeat newsletter to a piece about how Eva needed space for a new Moskowitz Academy. Eva, who makes $782,000 a year, is in a real pickle. Evidently the city is reluctant to close another school so she can push her way in. It's tragic. What awful discrimination. Where are kids going to sit to pee their pants during test prep? Where is Eva going to store the extra sweat pants to give the kids who pee themselves?

I don't link to the 74, where the article is, but it was hard for me to cry for poor Eva. I mean, why doesn't she take a few of the millions she raises from her hedge fund supporters and buy a damn building? In fact, why is she taking tax money at all? She can't be bothered to sign the pre-school agreement every other provider signed. Once she does that, she can't do Any Damn Thing She Feels Like, and that's a great injustice somehow.

As part of a school that's obliged to follow chancellor's regulations, as part of a school in which denying students' basic biological urges constitutes corporal punishment rather than Just Another Day, it's hard for me to muster sympathy for Eva Moskowitz or her mission to take space away from us, the community.

It's particularly egregious because I've been teaching in real public schools since 1984. The one I've been in since 1993, Francis Lewis High School, suffers from rampant overcrowding and has done pretty much as long as I can remember. While I don't make students sit until they pee themselves (because I'm evidently not dedicated enough to be Moskowitz Academy material), I have been experiencing outlandish overcrowding situations since well before Moskowitz Academies even existed.

One day shortly after 9/11, an assistant principal walked into my half-classroom, really angry.

"Why didn't you observe the moment of silence?" he demanded.

"What moment of silence?" I asked.

"We just announced a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11," he said.

"Well we don't have a loudspeaker so we don't have the announcements," I told him.

He didn't like that. He tried approaching the situation from another angle.

"Why are those kids sitting on the radiator?" he asked.

"They don't want to sit on the floor," I told him.

I followed him out of the room and asked us to help us get a better room. That, evidently, was not as important as the moment of silence or the unacceptable seating arrangement. He stormed off without answering my question. He was soon promoted to principal.

Another time I was in a bowling alley-shaped room. It opened onto several fragrant dumpsters. There were twelve rows of three seats each. Once, after a test, the AP security came in and started screaming at one of my students. The student was wearing earphones. He had finished the test and was bothering no one. The AP dragged him out and wrote him up. I complained to the AP that he should have spoken to me first. The AP gave me a dirty look. He was also promoted to principal, though not quite as soon.

I did a year in a music room. It was very large. We had a piano, and a board with musical staffs on it. It was OK, expect when the music teacher next door decided to play Flight of the Valkyrie at top volume. However, he generally did that no more than once a day, every single day. I politely asked him to close the door. The first time or two, he complied. Then he decided the hell with it, everyone needs to hear Flight of the Valkyrie each and every day, or what's the point of life itself? One day I'd had it, and I walked over and slammed the door so loud it was perceptible above Flight of the Valkyrie.

The music teacher was horrified by this. He complained to his AP, who called me into her office and screamed at me for ten minutes. I defended myself, explaining how being polite had not proven effective, and she told me I had no right to do what I did. I referred to the situation as "bullshit," and she was horrified by my awful language. She went on about that for a few minutes before throwing me out of her office. She retired before they could promote her to principal.

I also taught maybe twelve years in crumbling trailers. I'd walk in to find the floors covered with sheets of ice. Sometimes some genius would leave the AC on all night and all the seats would be wet with some sort of AC mist. Sometimes there'd be no heat. Sometimes there'd be no AC, and you can't imagine how hot it would get in those oversized tin cans. Sometimes the custodians would be in a wacky mood and throw snowballs at us through the broken windows. Sometimes the marching band would come by playing Louie Louie while my poor students tried to take a test.

Twenty years later, the city is building an annex for us. When it's finished, maybe we'll get some relief. It took a little longer because I haven't got a hot line to Joel Klein so he can give me Whatever I Want, Whenever I Want. I had to get elected to the UFT Executive Board and get Ellie Engler to call up the school building authority. It's not a perfect solution because we all know well the city, rather than utilize this to help us, could simply overcrowd us further to make things even worse.

However, I don't feel sorry for Eva Moskowitz, who manipulates her kids to protest in Albany on school days, who terrorizes children to artificially boost her stats,  holds "got to go" lists, boasts of how wonderful her schools are, sheds the majority of her students well before they graduate, and blames our public schools for their lack of progress when they return.

I'm sorry for the poor teacher who had to write that thing. Maybe she doesn't know any better. Who knows? Maybe she's drunk Eva's Kool-Aid and thinks she's doing God's work. Maybe she'll become a principal for having written this thing. Maybe she wrote it of her own volition.  Maybe she doesn't understand the shelf life of a Moskowitz Academy teacher, and maybe she doesn't understand the value of due process.

Still, I don't feel sorry for the Moskowitz Academies. Screw Eva Moskowitz. Screw Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein, who enabled her. Screw the propagandists who sing her praises while ignoring the overwhelming majority of her students, and ours, who she ends up hurting. If Michael Bloomberg had to send his kids to public schools, there'd be no overcrowding anywhere. Instead of engineering giveaways to developers, we'd be building schools for the children of New York City. Instead of helping Eva with her corporatist self-serving shell game, we'd be improving education for all.

Make no mistake, that's what we'd be doing if we had a collective conscience.
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