2010-07-16 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Bloomberg’s Way: Demonize Those Who Don’t Agree
Commentary By Howard Schwach

Mayor Mike Bloomberg is a consummate businessman, so we have to expect him to act like a businessman.

He wants to “sell” his product, which in his case is him.

He lets nothing get in his way.

If you work for him and you disagree, better pack your bags and hit the highway.

If you don’t work for him and you disagree with him, then he uses his great wealth to demonize you, running ads day and night and issuing press statements stating that you are the problem and he is part of the solution.

How dare the teacher’s union state that his control of the schools has been negative? How dare they say that mayoral control might not be the best idea?

Better blow them out of the water.

What do you do?

Fund a series of ads by an organization that never existed previously, that say the teachers are not only the problem in the decline of the schools, but that they are attempting to keep their jobs by getting in the way of real reform.

Get your media baron friends to run editorials demonizing teachers, calling them greedy and obstructionist.

Hold lots of press conferences, telling the city how obstructionist the teachers and their union have become – how they are destroying education.

Tell lies about how great your stewardship of the schools has been, even though the real tests – the ones you and your state Regent stooges don‘t control – show there has been little to no improvement in either reading or math scores.

Follow the old saw, “If you tell a big enough lie long enough, people will begin to believe you.”

Get your supporter, businessman Steve Brill, to write a long piece in the New York Times Magazine, entitled, “Is This The Teachers’ Unions Last Stand,” that tells all of the lies that Bloomberg has been pushing for years.

Brill postulates that the public schools are hopelessly broken and that it’s the teachers’ fault.

He calls for more charter schools, more schools that are not unionized.

He compares two schools in Harlem – a new charter school and a public school, crowing that the charter school is doing much better.

He never mentions that the charter school virtually excludes those who most need educational help — special needs kids and English Language Learners.

While all the parents of the kids in the charter school chose that school and agreed to volunteer specific hours, the great majority of the kids in the public school are homeless or come from one-parent families in which the parent is busy staying alive and cannot get much involved in his or her child’s education.

Any teacher knows that those things make all the difference in the world – not whether or not the school is unionized.

What Bloomberg and the others are doing is transforming teachers into the new lawyers, the new used car salesmen, the new real estate brokers. Turn them from the hard-working dedicated people they are into a group that is obstructionist and greedy, and whom you can no longer trust.

It doesn’t take much. Only money and media access, two things that Bloomberg has in excess.

Robert Kolker, writing in New York magazine, understands.

“There may be no more vilified profession in our culture these days than teachers,” he writes. “It’s quite a comedown: Teachers were once the immaculate Sidney Portier in ‘To Sir, With Love,’ or the avuncular Gabe Kaplan in ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ – selflessly devoted, connecting with kids who’d be lost without them. Today, the most compelling image is a New York teacher in the rubber room – those holding areas where teachers wallowed at full salary for months or years waiting to hear the charges against them. The rubber room went away last week, but the image of lazy, entrenched, unioncoddled, no-show employees endures – this for one of the most demanding, socially-valuable professions there is. How did it happen?”

It happened because the mayor wanted it to happen just that way.

Publicize all the bad things that the minority of teachers are involved in –lesbian teachers making out in a classroom; the millionaire teacher who was running a business out of the rubber room; teachers who run up a large pension by working impossible hours.

Then, run those ads, full of lies about how wonderful things have become and how the teacher’s union is greedily trying to stop all the progress.

Run those ads over and over again. Editorialize every week about how the teachers are destroying all the educational progress the mayor and his chancellor have made.

Tell the big lie over and over again.

Even a national magazine such as Newsweek can buy the lie. It recently did a long story calling the teachers the problem in modern education.

Then, they put their magazine up for sale.

As for the teachers, there is little response to the big lie that is being told, except in the UFT’s house organ newspaper.

There are not many people anymore who seek teachers’ input on educational problems.

The big lie has overtaken the truth, and nobody wants to hear the truth.

Least of all Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his pet chancellor, Joel Klein.

Somebody once said, “The truth shall set you free.”

In Bloomberg’s city, the truth will make you a demon.

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