I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, July 20, 2012

Reformyists Lose the Shanker Wars UPDATED!

UPDATED: See below: Shanker's daughter weighs in and blows Cerf's and Waters's myth to shreds! You won't want to miss this!

ACTING NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf recently invoked Albert Shanker, the legendary teachers union leader, in supporting Cerf's expansion of charter schools:
First, it is often forgotten that one of the first advocates for public charter schools was Albert Shanker, the former New York City teachers' union leader, who supported charter schools as a way to empower public school educators to innovate. While certainly charter schools are not the only schools that innovate, because of freedoms offered by the charter model a number of them have found new solutions ranging from new ways to use time, to incorporate technology, and to address the “summer learning loss” that affects all students. We as educators should be learning from these best practices, regardless of whether they come from charter or district schools, to help improve outcomes for every child.
Diane Ravitch called the ACTING Commissioner out on his nonsense:
 4. MOST IMPORTANT: In 1993, when Shanker saw that the charter idea was going to be used to privatize public education, he turned against charter schools. He opposed the takeover of the charter idea by corporations, entrepreneurs, and for-profit vendors. He became a vocal opponent of charter schools when he realized that his idea was embraced by “the education industry.” In his weekly column in The New York Times, Albert Shanker repeatedly denounced charter schools, vouchers, and for-profit management as “quick fixes that won’t fix anything.”
The very reformy Laura Waters, trying to play way out of her league, attempted to tell Ravitch that what Shanker said wasn't really what he believed:
Here's a fact.
If Albert Shanker was alive today he'd still be an education reformer and would support NJ's efforts to expand school choice for poor urban students.
Well, you know me: put a fish in a barrel, and I just have to shoot it:
Quoting Shanker out of context as a supporter of charter schools is like quoting Malcolm X on racism before he made his Hajj. It's like using David Brock's or Arianna Huffington's early writings to claim they support conservative positions, or David Horowtiz's to say he's really a leftist.

People change, Laura. Ravitch makes that explicitly clear in her post, and in her book (p. 122), which you and ACTING Commissioner Cerf really need to read. You'll see Dr. Ravitch has had her own epiphany, and implying that Shanker would support "choice" makes as much sense as saying Ravitch supports No Child Left Behind based on positions she held 30 years ago.
But Darcie Cimarusti is the one who really explodes this myth once and for all:
Before Water's derided Dr. Ravitch, who she acknowledges was a colleague of Shanker's, perhaps she should have talked to someone else that actually knew Shanker.   
Like his wife Edith.

Not too long ago, she put Joel Klein in his place when he too invoked Shanker to fortify his position (funny how both Klein and Cerf have tried...)  Here is what Edith Shanker had to say to Klein.

A few months ago, in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Joel Klein invoked Al Shanker’s name as an educator in support of today’s charter school “reform” efforts. Klein wanted the public to believe that Al was the originator of the charter school concept (he wasn’t) and that he would today be supportive of the charter school ”reform” ideology now being spread around New York City and the country as a panacea for low student achievement. Conveniently, Klein did not indicate that Al denounced the idea of charters when it became clear that the concept had changed and was being hijacked by corporate and business interests. In Al’s view, such hijacking would result in the privatization of public education and, ultimately, its destruction – all without improving student outcomes. (emphasis mine)
So can we all agree to put this myth away once and for all? After Albert Shanker saw what was happening to charter schools, he opposed them, because he saw they were leading to the privatization of public education. There is no debating this.

Still not convinced? ACTING Commissioner Cerf's boss, Chris Christie, also likes invoking Shanker's name. The difference is that Christie gets that Shanker was against reformy notions of "choice"; ask Matt DiCarlo of Shanker Blog:
This whole affair may be relatively unimportant in the grand scope of things, but it is still instructive. I am reminded how, back in January, Governor Christie was sent my original post on Twitter, and he responded as follows: “Just read it. Same old, warmed over union attacks sponsored by an institute named after union leader. Oh so objective! Thx”  [emphasis mine]
And who sent Christie that post from Shanker Blog? The essential @stopthefreezeNJ. They were having a remarkable Twitter war I documented last year in which Christie accused the teachers unions of opposing "choice." Yes, that's right: even Chris Christie understands that Albert Shanker was against the brand of "reform" he and Cerf are always pushing.

So, ACTING Commissioner Cerf (and you, Laura Waters): enough already. Saying Albert Shanker supported charters is like saying Bob Dylan was against electric guitars. This war is over.

Scene from "Sleeper" by mutleybird
- This district is what you'd probably call the Southwestern United States. That was before it was destroyed by the war.

- War?

- Yes. According to history, over 100 years ago, a man named Albert Shanker got a hold of a nuclear warhead.
There's a joke I never thought would have held up 40 years later.

UPDATE: Oh, my goodness! As if it weren't possible to debunk this even more, now even Albert Shanker's daughter is weighing in! She left a comment on Waters's post:

# Do not speak for Albert Shanker. — Jennie Shanker 2012-07-20 11:26
It was a pleasure and joy to read 2/3rds of your article, at which point your perspective takes its own course.
As his daughter, I treasure the testimony of individuals who knew my father and his work. Lately, it has been, frankly, dreadful to find his name associated with school "reform" that undermines public education. Without exception, these articles offer a few short quotes in evidence, always inappropriately pulled out of the context of his true mission and life's work.
I can tell you, absolutely and unequivocally, if my father was with us today he would be fighting side by side with Diane Ravitch to preserve and improve public education. The Washington Post re-published an excellent post from Ravitch's blog this week which very clearly articulats the differences between his vision of charter reform and the for-profit version championed by Chris Cerf and others in New Jersey.
Would he have told that NJ parent to send their child to public schools? Absolutely. As mentioned in the Post article, NJ public schools are among the highest performing in the nation.
Your appreciation for my father's work and vision was lovely to read. But your stance on this issue is diametrically opposed to his values and intent, and you are dead wrong to shame Diane Ravitch for her position. Indeed, if you consider your thinking to be in line with my father's, I recommend that you champion her work, as my family does. If anyone can speak for my father in this day and age, the person who should be most trusted is Dr. Ravitch.
It's unfortunate that many people who read your article will not see this comment. I would like to respectfully request that you reconsider further publicizing your characterizatio n of my father's position on this topic. From what is in evidence in this article, despite your love for the man, you are in no position to speak for him. -Jennie Shanker

Well, I think that's that, don't you?

I'm reminded of another scene from a Woody Allen film - this is one of my all-time favorite movie moments:

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