Monday, July 27, 2020

NY Times Education Reporter Eliza Shapiro Doesn't Know What Teachers Do

Every day I'm surprised. There's just never a bottom. A man can get up and say the most vulgar things you've ever heard and get elected President by every possible measure (except votes cast). That same man can then spend four years indulging in the most juvenile insults, outlandish conspiracy theories, and tell so many untruths it becomes impossible to count.

The NY Times, though, is something altogether different. They see things from a far more exalted plane than the rest of us, and come down from their pedestal every now and then to let us know important things we won't find in any other paper. For example, amidst a crushing pandemic, the Times is there with a vital story on how Americans are so threatened they need to turn second homes into primary homes. What an ordeal (and what a comedown from going to the Cape, or renting that chateau in the South of France).

NY Times education reporter Eliza Shapiro is focused on whether or not teachers are childcare providers. While it's true a lot of children spend their days with us, we simply are not. Our job is to support children and help with with education, not to watch them while mom and dad go to work. Our absence from school buildings doesn't help anyone, but the fact is we too have children, and we too have to worry about where they are and what they're doing.

We live in a country that doesn't much value childcare. When my daughter was very young, it was so expensive that it made a lot more sense for my wife to stay home than for us to pay for a service. It's also true that the people who do the actual work aren't compensated well. Instead, the companies or bosses who hire these people make the money. That's the American way, I suppose (and that's another issue altogether).

It's upsetting, nonetheless, to see this from someone who's ostensibly an authority on education:

This, of course, is an attack on our union. We are demonized because we have the will and ability to fight back. That's not a bad thing, Eliza Shapiro, and rather than attack us, you ought to work toward empowering these lower-paid workers of whom you speak. (As a matter of fact, Ms. Shapiro, and the NY TImes, UFT represents some childcare workers. You ought to know that.)

Furthermore, this tweet has the effect of pitting us against whatever other union reps childcare workers, which we are by no means attempting. By standing up for ourselves, you might think, we are somehow hurting others. That's preposterous. I'm bone weary of hearing such nonsense, and it's worse when it comes from a faux-authority like the NY Times.

Furthermore, it seems to endorse the argument put forth in the embedded tweet, that we ought not to argue we aren't childcare providers. This tweet takes the argument of one teacher boasting of her master's degree, and stereotypes all of us as suggesting we're superior because of our education level. As recently as yesterday I wrote that all jobs are important, and that less prestigious jobs are often more important in fundamental ways.

In the backyard behind mine there's a childcare facility. Before the apocalypse I'd see children playing there all the time. Often balls and toys would come over our fence. Every now and then they send some forlorn little kid to ask if she can go into the backyard and retrieve her ball, or doll, or whatever. Frequently they'd inadvertently pilfer my dog's toys and have the children play with them.

Okay, I'm not crazy about these people. I don't like seeing my dog's toys stolen. Beyond that, I don't think I'd want my kid to play with toys someone else's dog is using. Regardless, their job is not my job. It doesn't make me better than they are, even though I don't go around stealing doggie toys.

However, it doesn't make me worse either. I've watched for decades as media has vilified unionized teachers for the crime of devoting our lives to teaching America's children. The Times is right there with the Post and the News when it comes to attacking us and supporting blithering nonsense like Common Core and junk science evaluations for teachers.

I remember, decades ago, reading an outraged commentary in the Times about how teachers had a February break and it was tough for parents to find childcare. Evidently, no one had bothered to tell the Times reporter that the DOE was proposing not to have classes, but rather to force teachers to come in for PD that week. That was my first critical look at NY Times education reporting. I'd argue that both the News and the Post do better jobs of reporting city education, and by a wide margin. While the Times does great stories now and then, I don't look to them for regular coverage.

I'll agree on one thing--there is a child care crisis in this pandemic. I can tell simply by looking at the empty backyard behind my house. The answer, however, is not to put childcare workers at risk, and the answer isn't to put teachers at risk either.  The answer is something closer to have a government that's responsive to the needs of working people, rather than the whims of criminal demagogues.

However, there's something fundamentally unsettling about a reporter from the so-called paper of record not being able to differentiate between teachers and child care workers. That's beyond the pale.
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