Sunday, November 22, 2020

A Lesson for Those Who'd Vilify Teachers

It's always edifying to get the libertarian point of view, and it's not at all surprising to find it in the pages of the NY Post. Writer Matt Welch sheds copious crocodile tears over how schools are failing poor children. You know who they are. They're the kids UFT teachers wake up every single day to help and serve. Meanwhile libertarians fight to make sure they don't get health care, because that would be the end of western civilization. 

Welch is horrified that school buldings are closing. Why? For one thing, it's clearly inconvenient for him to care for his children:

I would have reacted sooner to the news that New York City is planning to shut down its public-school system, perhaps sometime this week. But there is a small kindergarten class in my house today, and I have a bunch of parent-teacher Zoom meetings scheduled for the middle school that my eldest has attended all of seven days this year.

So it's November now, and evidently Welch will be burdened with caring for his child even more than seven days over the next few months. Obviously, that's intolerable for a guy who needs to sit around and think of Very Important Stuff for Reason magazine. But his outrage doesn't end there:

Over the past month, the New York City school system has randomly tested more than 71,000 students and 42,000 staff, from 3,000-plus schools. Only 189 came back positive.

I'm thinking the libertarian press hasn't got time to research this stuff to thoroughly, and relies on publications like the NY Times (which Welch quotes). For some reason, the Times has a reputation as liberal, but for decades I've felt they hate teachers and everything we stand for. They have a history of hiring reporters who can't help but editorialize in news articles, and who never, ever talk to working teachers.

In fact, there has not been random testing in New York City. There's been voluntary testing, and every teacher in New York City knows it. Last I looked, only 15% of students had given permission to be tested, and no student has been removed from live instruction. I'm quoted in the Post today, in fact:

“The DOE testing is not random. It’s self selective,” said Arthur Goldstein, a teacher at Francis Lewis High School in Queens.

Teachers are asked to volunteer to be tested, he said. “The people who don’t want things stuck up their nose don’t get tested at all.”

If Welch had visited or researched a public school rather than bemoaning the undue burden of having to care for his children, he'd know that too. Of course, as is the case in articles like this one, we finally get around to seeing who is actually to blame for the horrible fate he suffers:

As the Reason Foundation’s ­director of school choice, Corey A. DeAngelis, has documented, the single biggest factor in determining whether a school system opens its doors is not the underlying COVID-19 rate but the comparative power of the relevant teachers’ union

That's us, and that's inevitable, of course. Who but teachers, the people who dedicate their lives to children, are ruining everything? Why couldn't we devote ourselves to productive punditry and podcasts, as Welch did? How dare we worry, simply because random testing simply isn't happening, and Welch's figures are absolute nonsense?

Welch, of course, has a very clever turn of phrase here, describing de Blasio's decision to close at 3%:

How did he arrive at that 3 per­cent figure? Let me put this as delicately as possible: He pulled it out of his ass.

You see what he did there? That was the nicest way he could put it. Imagine what this guy is like when he's angry. Now I don't know exactly how WHO and Andrew Cuomo came to the 5% figure. Why not 4? Why not 6? Is it that precise that it absolutely must be five?

What I do know is we started out in September around 1.5%. It's now double that, and the way this virus goes, I'd be surprised (albeit relieved) to see that number suddenly jump the other way. In fact, the UFT, unlike our counterparts in other cities, pushed to open school buildings, and did so despite vocal opposition from a good percentage of actual members. For that, of course, we are slimed by the likes of Welch. Perish forbid we should worry about our safety, or that of our students and families.

I know teachers who've died from COVID. I know teachers who brought it home to their elderly parents, with deadly results. They'll have to live with that for the rest of their lives. I'm not a huge fan of Mayor de Blasio, but acting with an abundance of caution in the face of a deadly pandemic shows actual thoughtfulness, and does not merit Welch's juvenile insults:

The only reason de Blasio came up with such an artificially low number is that it was the best this dolt could do in ­negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers.

In fact, the United Federation of Teachers had nothing whatsoever to do with this number. I've written for papers and I've been fact-checked. Clearly Welch was not. I'd argue pulling figures out of your ass entails making things up of whole cloth,  and that's precisely what Welch did in that sentence. 

I'm bone weary of being vilified for the twin crimes of devoting my life to teaching the children of New York City and demanding fair working conditions. Welsh is quite audacious to call his publication Reason. Given what he writes, Pulled Out of My Ass might be a more apt title.

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