Thursday, August 29, 2013

Urban Ed Blog Takes Shot at Peter Cunningham

....people on the other side will respond with public jeers and snickers and will invoke the children in order to marginalize these very real concerns and discredit the people who express them. This is how their kind always responds to criticism and dissent. ... Urban Ed
Our pal at Urban Education exposes Peter Cunningham, who used to work for Arne Duncan, after he went after Diane Ravitch's new book we are all so excited about. (I'm going to every Ravitch event here in NYC -- in fact I would pay her to carry her bags as she goes around the nation promoting the book. (Hmmm, what a great documentary that would make as she interacts with anti-deformers around the nation?))

Here are excerpts:

Ed Reform Gone Wrong: How Teachers Are Required to Engage in Unethical Conduct

I was just recently reminded of this trait (of discredit critical professionals) when I read this piece by Peter Cunningham, former media relations assistant to USDOE Secretary Arne Duncan. He went to great lengths to discredit Diane Ravitch, who works harder than anyone else in the country to responsibly criticize the Ed. Reform movement under the Obama administration. Apparently, Mr. Cunningham, who is now a privately paid consultant for the very same US Department of Education he once worked for (see his Linkedin profile here) wasn't happy that Dr. Ravitch is about to release a new book which squarely takes aim at the reform movement itself, including the need to spend so many oodles of public money on private consultants (like him).  Views expressed in the book, if well received, might possibly change public opinion and threaten to bring policy changes that may effect the bottom line of his very own company; Cunningham Associates.

While it would be unfair for me to opine that Mr. Cunningham's true stake in this discussion is to advance his own personal profit, it should be pointed out that it was unfair for him to leave the bio  "Former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach, U.S. Department of Education"  under his byline as he entered this discussion of "Ravitch vs. the Reform Movement". I say this because he left out the fact that he is now a paid consultant. Cunningham Associates is nowhere in his byline. But that's what they do: They level hard and harsh critiques on dissenters without making clear what their stake really is, where they're coming from or how they might personally -financially- benefit from continuing the current policies. This is why I cringe whenever anyone says the profession of teaching has changed for the worse without attempting to offer any proof. Profit making reformers like Mr. Cunningham will take to the public airwaves and simply slay us (smote, I believe, may be a better term) with snickers and jeers and a good dose of discredit.
Read it all: 

I left this comment:
Excellent points. All that lamenting and hand wringing sometimes irks me too. No matter how much that goes on -- and it does have some impact in turning the discussion -- the only true solution is to organize and activate people to take action. For me that has always started with the one institution that if turned around would be a key player in the fightback - maybe THE key player -- is the union. Imagine if the UFT had fought a full frontal war against ed deform. It might be bloodied but the teachers in this city would be much more prepared to engage in this political war. Instead we have people angry, disillusioned and weaponless. And that takes me to why I have put my flagging energy into building MORE even with some of the problems we have seen crop up -- the only game in this town for teachers. A MORE chapter in every school will do MORE to change things than anything I can think of.
I'm leaving these comments on all the blogs. We can't only be keyboard warriors. So few people read the blogs relative to what I view as the target audience --- UFT members which is the group I hope to organize into an effective force. In fact I know that most of the activists in MORE do not read the blogs which I believe is a mistake since they miss so much of what they need to really  do the organizing work necessary -- knowledge is power.

But I see every day as the infrastructure of MORE grows and starts accomplishing things just how important that aspect is. You need active bodies to do all that work -- just our little 5 person newsletter committee has put in a lot of work getting it ready -- intense work at times. One little aspect of the overall work. Look at the job Julie did on the evaluation -- she has worked with others to hammer out a lot of points -- MORE has an eval committee and a contract committee -- each group is in many ways semi-autonomous so it can work under its own rules.  Actually, these points are fodder for a separate post. So signing off for now.


  1. Thanks so much for the shout out! I do get the point you're making and I am at the moment, quite happy being a keyboard warrior. As you point out, some of my genuine allies don't seem to be interested in what we have to say in the blogosphere, unless we're a mean jerk or something. So, on the one hand, why bother?
    And then on the other hand, there are people like you who successfully live in both worlds and understand how each works. So when you say it takes more than being a keyboard warrior, you (are about the only person on the planet who) sound(s) quite credible. So, as always, your thoughts leave me thinking.

    Thanks again!

  2. I mean not necessarily getting involved deeply in building an org like MORE but in some level of activation at the school level -- going beyond closing the classroom door but taking an interest in the school community or at the very least the union in your school. Ideally, become a delegate -- which might seem a waste of time but if MORE can get something going help at the very least build a true opposition within the DA -- it would take say a hundred people acting in concert to have some impact to counter the Unity machine there. The union will never change based on the elections but only as school are captured by the opposition and begin to affect the DA. Given that only 800 people show at DAs this is possible. I can see a day where enough people can force changes - and if not I can see a mass walkout and demo in front demanding changes.


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