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The Virtues of Competition

If there is one article of faith among contemporary ideologues of the right, it is that competition solves all problems. For every issue and for every problem, an unfettered, laissez-faire market is the solution. Nowhere can one find this dogma more faithfully followed than on the editorial page of the New York Post.

Except when it is a competition from a teachers’ union.

Take the question of charter schools. The editorial page of the New York Post went apoplectic at the thought that the UFT might sponsor two charter schools, and that those schools might demonstrate the educational power of a school founded on principles of teacher professionalism and democratic governance. A series of editorials were launched against the UFT charter school application, in ever more strident terms. The climax of the effort was a not-so-veiled political threat against two prominent Republicans on the authorizing agency, the SUNY Board of Trustees, who have aspirations for state-wide political office. The application was accepted, and the UFT elementary charter school will be opening its doors for the first time in a few weeks. [We can't provide links to the whole season series of this editorial soap opera, for the earlier episodes are no longer free on the web, but see the season finale here.]

Competition in charter schools was the epitome of educational virtue, except when it was extended to the UFT.

Today’s New York Post editorial page contains an editorial denouncing this humble blog. If Andy Warhol was right, it looks like our 15 minutes of fame is coming fast.

The complaint is that our blog contains the disclaimer, on the bottom right hand corner, “The views expressed here are not necessarily the official views of the UFT, New York State United Teachers or the American Federation of Teachers. Anyone who claims otherwise is violating the spirit and purpose of this blog.” This disclaimer, the editorial proclaims, means that the UFT is not taking accountability for its views.

Of course, anyone with the slightest passing familiarity with the operations of a blog understands that they are “in time” operations, with quick responses to current events and debates. In short, they preclude the sort of careful deliberation and broadly based decision making that a democratic union like the UFT employs in developing official union positions. The function of our disclaimer is to make the distinction between what we do here, on the one hand, and the official positions of the UFT, on the other hand, quite clear.

And the author of the New York Post editorial knows this to be the case, although he chooses not to let his readers in on that fact.

Don’t take our word for it. The author of the editorial, Ryan Sager, has his own blog, Miscellaneous Objections. We read it often, because it brings a smile to our face every time Ryan quotes one of his editorials, without letting on that he wrote it, to support a point he is making. I guess this is the latest form of post-modern self-referentiality that us older folks, caught in the paradigm of providing logical arguments and evidence to support a position, just don’t get. And on Ryan’s blog there is a, well, disclaimer. It reads: “Ryan Sager is a member of the editorial board of The New York Post. (The views expressed here in no way reflect the views of The Post.)”

So there you have it. A little competition in the blogosphere getting to you, Ryan?

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10 Comments:

  • 1 Maisie
    · Aug 25, 2005 at 2:44 pm

    The Post, of course, has no ideological axes to grind. They’re dedicated to the classical journalistic ideals, right? Right? Wait. Oh no, never mind, for a moment there I was thinking that Rupert Murdoch controlled the editorials.

    P.S. Congratulations to Ryan Sager on recently getting his Bachelor’s. Does he know that all NYC public school teachers have Masters degrees?

  • 2 curious2
    · Aug 25, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Why does the UFT want to run charter schools? What problems in the public schools do they think they can improve upon in their charter schools? Is there a document that explains this?

  • 3 everyman2
    · Aug 25, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    I read three newspapers a day. I read the NY Times for the best factual information. I read the Daily News for information that is a combination of truth and fiction. I read the NY Post for laughs and twisted informtion, especially when reporting on unions and in particular, our own UFT.

  • 4 paulrubin
    · Aug 25, 2005 at 3:25 pm

    Why does the UFT want to run some charter schools? That should be obvious. It allows them to conduct a simple experiment. Is it possible to construct an effectively run school without total and blatant disregard of the work rules in the UFT contract, and where those workrules are to be changed, can those changes add to the professionalism and independence of the staff rather than detract from it.

    I’ll be the first to admit the UFT doesn’t have all the answers. The administration of the DOE and Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t have all the answers. The teachers don’t have all the answers. The parents don’t have all the answers either. For that matter, neither does private industry. If UFT-run charter schools fail miserably, that provides truly useful ammunition for those who oppose the union. They’re the ones going out on a limb. Of course if those schools turn out to be well run, well isn’t that a scary thought for all the so called experts who would like to blame everything wrong with NYC public education on work rules rather than address the real problems:
    (1) insufficient funding as compared to others in the region when cost of living is considered and when the percentage of students with special needs is considered
    (2) teachers teaching out of license so now instead of having unlicensed teachers teaching math, now we have gym teachers teaching math
    (3) overreliance on english and math test scores to evaluate success which in turn has led to giving the kids more of those two subjects at the expense of every other subject in the curriculum
    (4) Standardized instruction in a system that’s so diverse and huge that you essentially don’t meet the needs on the individuals at all anymore
    (5) Continued lagging behind more progressive districts in the area of technology
    (6) only lip service paid to retaining teachers once you get them into the system
    (7) a total failure to recognize that as private industry comes back to life, teacher recruitment and retainment will go back into the toilet unless the underlying problems are addressed of working conditions, salary, administrative support, benefits, etc.

    I know from first hand experience under multiple principals, that when a school’s administration is working together with the faculty and parents, great things happen. I don’t need the UFT charter schools experiment to know it’s more than possible. But unless that triumverate works together we’ll hear a lot of politically motivated mis-used statistics and another generation of kids will lose out. The faster all involved recognize that each special interest group does in fact bring something useful to the table, the better. Whipping the UFT exclusively helps nobody.

  • 5 curious2
    · Aug 25, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    How will the union-run charter schools differ from current public schools? Paulrubin makes some points, but mostly by writing in the negative, so I am having trouble understanding what will be different. By the way, these aren’t leading questions — I really want to know!

  • 6 Labor Blog
    · Aug 25, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    UPDATE ON EDWIZE

    In a new record for Labor Blogs, Edwize has had its very own denunciatory editorial in the rabidly anti-labor New York Post in the very first week of publication. For our response, with a link to the editorial….

  • 7 redhog
    · Aug 26, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    Ryan Sager is all the rage. Let him stand in front of a classroom of average kids and ten minutes later there would be nothing left than some bits of bone, fibers of hair, and other odious DNA traces. The ghost of his ignorance would float over the chalkboard. That’s about all the substance he ever owned even in the flesh.
    In the New York Post, that bastion of bashing, he recounts the incriminating cries of teachers as posted on Edwize.org. What child-hating nerve of them to notice that salaries are tens of thousands of dollars higher inches and minutes away! What effrontery of teachers to expect that among qualified applicants, the one with greater depth of experience should prevail for a position!
    Does Ryan the Un-Sage feel that Congress should scrap the hallowed seniority it has instituted as a basis for committee selection?
    Would the surly lad allow New York public schools to shed the mantle, and throw off the yoke of morbid regulation and enjoy the freedom of operation in which his adored charter schools luxuriate? The strangling rules and “mandates” he scorns are from the Chancellor’s Office, not the UFT-DOE Contract. Oh yes, Ryan: there is no such thing as a UFT Contract. It’s a joint venture with the City.
    Sager is dismayed that “ a total of three (italics are his) posts urge teachers and parents to boycott Wal-Mart.� (The UFT has over 150,000 satisfied members.) Duty extends beyond the immediate challenge, Ryan. Would you oppose doctors, working in emergency rooms and seeing the effects of drug overdoses on our youth, advocating action to interdict dangerous products at our borders and in our communities?
    Thanks for your disclosure of the worst-kept secret in North America: that a newspaper and columnist “who shall remain nameless� are “teacher-union-unfriendly.� I thought your editorial board considers issues on their merits, just as they urge the teachers union to do.
    Ryan, let’s you and me and our readers meet at http://risaac.blogs.com
    Care to tryst at Happy Hour for some truth serum? It didn’t fall off a truck and sure as heck didn’t leap off the thick pages of a dense Chancellor’s memo. Just name the cross streets, Ryan. Any place will do except the dead zone outside Tweed.

  • 8 Mike in Texas
    · Aug 27, 2005 at 4:37 pm

    Its because when they meant competition, they didn’t mean from teachers, a group the Republicans cannot make any money off of.

  • 9 Leo Casey
    · Aug 28, 2005 at 9:34 am

    Curious 2:
    The UFT is doing charter schools to demonstrate the value of schools which are based on our core values — teacher professionalism, democratic governance and education for democratic citizenship — and to serve students in an underserved part of the city. We produced a multi-volume application for the SUNY Board of Trustees which shows how we would do this at great length, and if you are interested, I will send you a copy by e-mail. Just send your e-mail address to LCasey@UFT.ORG.

  • 10 curious2
    · Aug 28, 2005 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks Leo. I will send you an email.

    As a preview for others, I am curious to learn more about how teacher professionalism and democratic governance in the charter schools will differ from the situation in current public schools.