With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fighting the pissants

Leave it to Alan Gottlieb from the Education News Colorado, to accuse my teacher/blogger brother Fred of trotting canards. We in the Klonsky family don't like to talk about this publicly, but since the L.A. Times set the tone by publishing the names and test-score rankings of individual teachers, I think it's only right, in the name of transparency, to inform parents that Fred has had this trotting-canards problem since his was a kid. My folks took him to the best doctors, but, alas, no cure was found. If some parents decide to seek another teacher for their child, it's perfectly understandable.

Fred quacks back: “Trotting out the canard?” Isn’t “canard” French for goose?

Posting at Huff, Gottlieb has even more brilliant observations to offer us re. the L.A. Times value-added fiasco, starting with his classifying all public school teachers as "insiders" and "choice" proponents, corporate reformers and Duncan as "outsiders" He goes on to admit that, "the methodology may be imperfect. Some teachers can't be evaluated based on value-added criteria. Yes, some embarrassment will result," but what the hell, publish anyway.

They used to teach ethics back when I was in journalism school. I guess things have gotten more technical and innovative since then, especially out there in Colorado, where they've dropped trow as low as it goes in hopes of attracting some Race To The Top money.  So far, no good.

Arne Duncan takes, pretty much, the same line as Gottlieb (or vice versa). He's critical of the poor tests we use. He doesn't think that these tests should be the only criterion for evaluating teachers. Yada, yada, yada. But still, he applauds the L.A. Times for doing just that--allthough with some qualifications. As the New York Times reports
In a speech last week, though, he qualified that support, noting that he had never released to news media similar information on teachers when he was the Chicago schools superintendent.“There are real issues and competing priorities and values that we must work through together — balancing transparency, privacy, fairness and respect for teachers,” Mr. Duncan said. On The Los Angeles Times’s publication of the teacher data, he added, “I don’t advocate that approach for other districts.” 

Another soldier in the pissant army is Jack Shafer. Writing in Slate, Shafer, salutes the Times for "bravery  to express in liberal, union-enslaved Los Angeles."

What can you say in response to that? Except, thank god we live in a country where even pissants can publish. 


  1. If my fancy Chicago private high school French (same high school as Arne Duncan! Hyde Park turns out all these fascists, what gives??) serves, canard is duck, not goose. I guess I'd better duck before taking the Klonsky name in vain. Thanks for calling me an unethical pissant. Name-calling really elevates the debate. Since when does expressing one's opinion in an opinion piece constitute a breach of ethics? Is it possible for someone to disagree with you and still have good intentions? Just wondering.

  2. I don't really think canards trot; it's more like a waddle.

  3. Jem'e excuse. Duck not goose. But defending a practice and methodology you admit is flawed and punitive, while attacking those who oppose it. Ethics? Mon dieu! Can't one disagree with someone who has bad intentions?
    Fred Klonsky

  4. Alan Gottlieb said:

    I guess I'd better duck before taking the Klonsky name in vain.

    Yer damn skippy.

  5. Alan,

    Now let me get this straight.
    You, a media publisher, backed by a rich private foundation and a charter school association, launch an unprincipled attack on teachers. You call for debasing them by name in the mass media for no reason other than they may be teaching kids with low test scores (possibly for reasons associated more with poverty, health or poorly resourced schools than anything teachers can control). You do this even knowing that this process is at best, "imperfect" and that leading experts in the field have been harshly critical, not only of the unethical publication of individual names, but the entire value-added type of evaluation itself. You do this knowing full well that the consequences entail these teachers possibly losing badly-needed income, having their careers ruined, or even fired and jobless, with no income or health insurance for their families in this time of economic crisis. You then refer to these same teachers as "insiders" (a pejorative term in the world of ed politics). Having done all this, you then want to criticize me for referring to those like you and the Slate writer, Shafer as "pissants."

    OK, even given all the above, and because I'm bigger than that, I humbly apologize for my choice of words. I know it must hurt to be singled out like that in the public media. Forgive me.

  6. I have to point out that even if you don't give a crap about the well-being of the teachers, if these ARE decent teachers who are being shamed and possibly ruined based on the Times' attack, it's their students who will lose if they're hounded and shamed out of teaching. And of course, since everyone involved acknowledges that these measures are a badly flawed measure of teachers' abilities, yet uses them to attack and punish teachers just the same, it is quite likely that decent teachers will be hounded and shamed out of teaching.


  7. I agree with you, Mike. He's a pissant. Just look at his actions. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck....


  8. Gottlieb wrote in Huffington: But then "insiders" like Klonsky make arguments so specious that it makes me think the more we know the better, even if the information is far from perfect. ...

    You know him no apology. He is a pissant.

  9. His intentions aren't good.

  10. Wow...this is fairly nasty stuff. Makes you wonder why blogging often gets such a bad rap. Some of this makes Fox looks like an objective balanced news source. Oh where's my EdWeek?


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