Manipulating test score release: “First, you’ve got to get mad!”

Originally appeared on Bob Braun’s Ledger

Why is it important to write about Cami Anderson’s decision to manipulate the release of the latest results of state test scores? Here is why:

Imagine your life, your livelihood, is based on a set of numbers over which you have no or, at best, very little control.  Depending on how those numbers go, you will or will not have a job. Will or will not be able to pay your mortgage, your kids’ tuition, your car payments, your utility bills, your grocery tab.

Imagine these same numbers are important to a group of strangers who have a very different agenda than yours. Strangers who don’t care what happens to you or your life but they do very much care about their own ambitions.  One of them, for example, wants to be, of all things, the president of the United States. Another is a woman who, from a distance, would appear to mental health specialists as, at best, a narcissist and megalomaniac who thinks—for no good reason—she’s got the answers to persistent questions about the best way to educate children. There are others involved as well—unelected political bosses whose fortunes depend on how you are treated, legislators without spines, union leaders who are empowered to calculate risks for you but who may be factoring in their own chances of keeping their jobs.

Imagine, also, that, because your jobs are supported with public funds, legions of twits believe—without the least bit of informed evidence—that a national history that includes slavery, suppression, Jim Crow laws, economic inequality, and grinding racism, has less to do with whether children learn than your own personal contribution to a small number of kids. These sentiments are magnified by feckless men and women who call themselves journalists and commentators who couldn’t last five minutes in a classroom filled with children—who are accustomed to using the bathroom when they want to, dependent on the ability to chat up a co-worker at the next desk, who are paid to have opinions aligned, not with reality, but with the self-serving interests of the billionaires who own their media outlets.

They are all saying: It’s your fault that children can’t read. You—that nice young man or hopeful young woman who went to college and became a teacher because you admired men and women you met in school. Because you believed teaching was a noble and helpful profession. Socially useful rather than economically beneficial.

You joked, “Well, I’ll never get rich but I’ll be happy.”  Clearly, you won’t be rich, but the barbarians who run your schools are now determined you won’t be happy, either.

And, if you object, then you are accused of blaming the victims for their failure. You may even be accused of racism simply because you say the problem is bigger than teachers or their unions. This will be especially frustrating for you if, in fact, you are an African-American or member of another disfavored minority. You will be cursing your timing—just when the engine of public employment, including employment in the public schools, opens up to you, just when you have the chance to live the way your hard-working parents and grandparents should have been able to live—just then, know-nothings like Cami Anderson and haters like Chris Christie and opportunists like Cory Booker all band together and blame you. All band together and take away the jobs for which you worked so hard, into which you invested so much of your hopes and dreams.

If you can imagine these circumstances, you might have a small idea about how it must feel to be a teacher in an urban school district now. You are isolated, fearful, worried about the future. What happens to you and your career has far less to do with how good you are with a classroom filled with children than it does with a state filled with vipers like Christie, Booker,  Anderson, George Norcross,  Steve Sweeney, Joe DiVIncenzo.

And those are only the names you recognize. There are others—faceless, nameless strangers who, after having come close to destroying the nation’s economy through risky investments, now see the opportunity to make money by privatizing public education. All political subdivisions of this country together spend more than $650 billion on public education—money that, in the eyes of these oligarchs, could be put into play for investment and earnings for their benefit. So they can buy a second home on the Hamptons, buy a seat for their kids in colleges—including some of the best in the world—that are less choosey about SAT scores than they are about potential contributions to their endowments.

Looks like you’re trapped doesn’t it? Looks like you have very little control over your lives. Looks like you would have been better off taking courses to become an electrician or a plumber—or maybe no courses at all—rather than studying for four or six or eight or twelve years to become the best possible teacher you could be.

I don’t have a lot of good advice. I’m not drawing a salary anymore and I’m living on a pension and Social Security. It would be too facile for me to start shouting that you’ve got to do something. You’ve got to get up on your hind legs and yell, like Peter Finch’s character in Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network”: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

I can’t do that. No one can. And I understand completely why you can’t.

But, for so long as I can, I will be doing what, apparently, the mainstream media cannot bring themselves to do—writing stories about what a fraud Cami Anderson is and how wrong, just plain wrong, are those who support her, make excuses for her—and fail to oppose her as vigorously as their resources allow. I will get mad, even if you don’t.

Hiding test scores-or even just manipulating their release– is just another example.