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Dear Mayor Emanuel,

rahm emanuel

Since the war on teachers is a right-wing cause that most Democrats have embraced as enthusiastically as the Republicans, I guess it should come as no surprise that we see those Democrats defending it with talking points that employ the exact same circular reasoning that the Republicans have browbeat all media outlets that don’t want to be labeled “biased” into accepting with regard to all other issues.

Mayor Emanuel, you have served as Chief of Staff to a President who has seen the obstructionism of those who block his policies, then run on a platform of “his policies have failed” and then, to add insult to injury, have the audacity to say that the problem is his unwillingness to work with them… “after all, other presidents have been able to work with Congressional leaders of the opposing party” (conveniently forgetting to include the fact that past Congressional leaders have not behaved as they have). You, of all people, should know better than to insult the people’s intelligence by asserting, as a given, the reasonableness of your demands and then to consequently conclude that the failure of the Chicago Teachers Union to cave to them is proof that theirs is a “strike of choice” that can be explained only by how unreasonable its members are being.

Such logic, which begs the question of “on exactly what do you base your assertion that your demands are so reasonable?” is always the kind employed by those who don’t have a case. If the mainstream media had any semblance of objectivity in these matters, any politician asserting the unreasonableness of his opponents would immediately be confronted with the response that the teacher in me would immediately come up with: “ok, that statement is called your thesis… now where are your facts, in the body of the essay, to support that thesis?”

If the aforementioned proponents of circular reasoning had any such facts, we would be listening to them now. Instead, we hear assertions of an assumed public support for tying teacher evaluation to test scores and to giving principals complete control over which ones get placed at their schools, based on the fact that the public opinion polls consistently show support for “accountability measures”. Rather than elaborate on just what in the hell that means, we’re supposed to just assume that the public supports measures that are doing the exact opposite of what they are led to believe the charter school movement is doing when asked that idiotically vague and loaded polling question.

If I’m wrong about this- if you truly believe that when the public says they want to “hold schools accountable” that they understand that to mean NOT holding students and parents accountable… if you’re so sure that what they think our schools need is to lower their standards, not raise them- then it would be easy enough for you to prove it. Ask specific polling questions to ascertain the level of support for the kinds of things going on here in LA, with a school board bought and paid for by the Gates Foundation, another “progressive Democrat” mayor pushing the charter school agenda, and a union that doesn’t wish to stand up to them as their brothers and sisters in Chicago do.

Ask them to observe the student who divides his time in class between sleeping, playing with his cell phone and iPod, and to drawing penises on the teacher’s handouts, and then on test day bubbles in “C” all the way down so he can finish in five minutes and resume one of those activities… and then ask them whose fault it is when the result of that test doesn’t satisfy the Accountability Gestapo: the teacher, or that student and the parents who won’t discipline him.

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Ask them to watch the LAUSD principals, who do have free reign to hire whom they please, using that power to ask interview questions about their policy on failing students, so as to screen out all candidates who give the only sane answer, “my policy is simple, if a student earns a failing grade, he gets one”… and then ask them if they think that this approach of “raising the graduation rate” by issuing diplomas to more students who haven’t earned them is a good way to demonstrate improvement.

Ask them if, when they complain about unqualified teachers, they’re referring to those whom they believe don’t do anything… or if, like these principals, they believe that these are just the kinds of teachers we need, because the teacher who does nothing has no expectations for his or her students, and thus can easily justify giving them all passing grades for nothing.

ctu strike

Somehow, Mr. Mayor, I don’t expect the results of these polls will show the same overwhelming support for your agenda, upon which rests your assumption of how “unreasonable” those who oppose it are… any more than I expect the polls will indicate a public hostility to creating millions of jobs that justifies just how “reasonable” the Republicans are to block the President’s Jobs Act. If I’m wrong about this, it would be easy enough for you to prove it… but the burden of proof is on you.

The burden of proof should always be on the unyielding side to show that their demands are, indeed, so universally accepted as reasonable as to make the side that refuses to cave to them the one guilty of partisanship. Any respectable outlet of the mainstream media would enforce this as the rule. But no, showing all of their “liberal bias” they can’t seem to understand this. At best, they decide that “letting campaigns be decided by the fact-checkers” and exposing their untruths would be the real bias, and simply report that both sides are equally unreasonable and uncompromising. At worst, as in the case of the war on public education, they simply subscribe to the circular reasoning of the “education reformers” and make no attempt to hide their bias.

There may be nothing any of us can do about the way the media has been completely taken over by the charter school movement’s Thought Police, but that is no excuse for those who are supposed to be progressive making it worse. Shame on you, Mayor Emanuel, for taking advantage of the same Orwellian newspeak that has been used to stymie the progressive agenda you once fought for and using it to promote the far-right agenda of education privatization. And hats off to the CTU for their willingness to stand up to this abuse, something my union has consistently failed to do. Enough is enough, and it is well past time somebody said so.



Mark Bowen
Teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District
Board Member, Long Beach Community College District

Posted: Thursday, 13 September 2012