An editorial entitled “Heads of the class” in today’s NY Daily News is as much jaw-droppingly astonishing for its unabashed toadying to Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein as for its blatant belittling of teachers at 33 NYC public schools. Better perhaps that it be titled, “Kisses of the ass.”
Better suited to The Onion, the NY Post, or Fox News, this editorial once again demonstrates the stubborn media tendency to conflate student learning and good teaching with performance on standardized exams. The piece begins by congratulating teachers at 205 schools for their determination “to raise achievement among their students” by voting to accept the Chancellor’s privately funded pay-for-performance plan. The editors then demonstrate their weak vocabulary and overly colloquial style by adding that, “Teachers will get extra dough if their students improve by specified amounts on standardized tests.” "Dough?" Is this how a major metropolitan newspaper models English to its younger readers?
Having declared their position without the slightest sense of concern over turning public schools into mini-Kaplan and Princeton Review test preparation machines, the editors turn their sights at the close of this shameless piece on the 33 schools who rejected the Chancellor’s pay-for-performance plan. No attempt is made to explain those teachers’ decisions, no mention is made of their position that bonuses linked almost exclusively to standardized test results will weaken children’s education by encouraging excessive teaching to the test. The Daily News not only refuses to laud these teachers for their principled positions and their obvious belief in education as something more than two standardized tests per year, they refuse even to acknowledge the possibility of an alternative view, one not driven by simple human greed.
Worse, the Daily News editors take the opposite tack, the one followed by the Limbaugh’s and O’Reilly’s of the red meat, Red State world. It’s called ad hominem, literally “against the man,” and it means attack the opponent’s person, not his/her argument. They first observe that, “…the staffs of 33 schools declined to compete for bonuses.” Note the choice of words – not “chose not to accept” or simply “voted against,” but “declined to compete.” Oh, the cowardice of those weak-kneed, so-called educators! The horror! The horror! [Memo to Daily News: the last is a reference to Conrad's Heart of Darkness -- probably not found in a standardized exam question.]
Apparently feeling their critique still lacked adequate punch, the editors directed their final ad hominem flourish at those weak-kneed, sissy educators. With all the intellectual power they could muster, they administered their most devastating coup de grace. "How dumb can you get?” they asked. My ad hominem answer to those editors' question? Look in the mirror.