Thursday, July 10, 2008

NYC DOE Monitors Blogs in Search for 'Truth'

Before we start, note that the UFT also has a similar "unofficial" squad - oppressive agencies with things to hide do this sort of thing.

"We try to keep track of what people are saying about us, and we respond periodically," a deputy schools chancellor, Christopher Cerf, who came up with the Truth Squad concept, said. "Because we believe in the truth."

Cerf must think he's going to replace George Carlin with this line.

The first time I met DEO press chief David Cantor occurred when I attended a Klein press conference at Tweed. Before being admitted, he took me aside and said, "What exactly is the story? I hear you have a blog." Meaning: how can you be an objective reporter?

What? People at this level are aware of a fairly minor blog like mine? I could see the Unity/UFT yokels being interested since the main object of ed notes is to reach rank & file teachers. But the DOE?

I responded that for the Wave I was both a reporter and a columnist and I was there in that capacity. And so what if I have a blog? I was admitted and since then Cantor has never been less than accomodating.

Leonie Haimson and the NYC Public School Parent listserve and blog appear to be a major target because of her dead-on analysis (did they follow her to Monday's Ed Notes gathering in Rockaway?) Ed Notes is probably not high enough on the list of the elite 24 blogs and listserves being monitored by the DOE press office but they do have one person monitoring Alexander Russo's This Week in Education which often links to Ed Notes. Russo has a fun post on the story today. As does Eduwonette.

Is this what Joel Klein meant when he said his people work 14 hour days?

Elizabeth Green in today's NY Sun:

Employees at the city Department of Education's press office have a new assignment: They are to scour a group of 24 education Web logs, e-mail Listservs, and Web sites in a hunt for factual errors and misinformation. Department officials are calling the unit the Truth Squad.

The squad's latest triumph should appear today on a Listserv operated by the parent organizer Leonie Haimson — in the form of an e-mail message arguing that Ms. Haimson's characterization of summer school programs as underfunded was incorrect.

Press officers have also posted responses in the form of comments to the blogs they read.

Link to the Sun article.


Anonymous said...

I'm actually pleasantly surprised that the DOE has people on staff who know how to read.

Anonymous said...


Re: NYC DOE Monitors Blogs in search for "Truth"

This story certainly goes to the heart of the mindset of those "living ghosts" of Boss Tweed, who now occupy the former headquarters of that nefarious historic character from another age.

The name "Orwell" came up in this story as well as a reference to the so called "Ministry of Truth" in the immortal work "1984", which masterpiece so perfectly was able to forecast events that were to come fifty years after the novel was penned.

Perhaps some have forgotten the chief "job" at the "Ministry of Truth", of the book's tragic main character.

It was his thankless task to sit all day and clip news items and/or other items of information from wherever, that did not tow the "official party line" as well as Official State Doctrine, and then feed those items, (might one label them as items of "inconvenient truth"), into an air tube that sucked such items of unwelcome information, into some form of permanent "black hole", never to be seen, read or known of again. As if they never existed.

Actually, that precise "job", if one can apply the term "job" to such a sick and pathetic occupation, still exists today.

Except now, rather than have to engage in the unnecessary labor of being forced to resharpen one's scissors, once a week, one need only stare at a computer screen.

And when from time to time, as apparently occurs more and more often, the "truth monitor" sees something on the computer screen that might be considered unwelcome
news or information, (at least in that "truth monitor's" opinion), then he/she, if the offending item is appearing on for example the well known "Craigslist" online, need only press a single key.

No need to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Just one stroke of a key, as the cursor points to any one of the upper right hand corner "liquidating" choices, (for example "prohibited")- and puff, within hours the unwelcome item has been "pulled" or "scrubbed" from Craigslist, as if it had never existed.

Such are the marvels of modern technology. Out with that old fashioned pair of granny scissors and in with that shiny new laptop.

And if one has wireless connection to the internet, then by all means why languish all day in one of those echoing marble walled rooms at Tweed if one can relax on some pristine beach in Aruba and fulfill his job responsibilities just as efficiently.

Click, click, click goes the trolley.

Who will make it first into the Guiness Book of Records for "disappearing" the most items of unwelcome information appearing on the internet, in a single day.

Thus, at the same time more and more teachers are being "disappered", into the so called "Rubber Rooms", simultaneously, the things those "disappeared" teachers are having the audacity to write, are being "disappeared".

How do I know? It just happened to me yesterday after I posted a story on Craigslist about the obscene and disgraceful way the NYC DOE Medical Bureau continues to use that Office to claim certain teachers are "unfit for Duty".

Such a claim made by the DOE Medical office gets a perfectly dedicated educator, even with 20 years experience, booted off salary faster than a speeding bullet.

Forget about languishing in some windowless "Rubber Room" each day, with the countless legions of other "disappeared" teachers.

The people at the ever so architecturally elegant Tweed Courthouse, in their infinite mercy, often relieve teachers of the indignity of languishing in some DOE gulag with other offenders.

Of course in doing so, they also relieve that teacher of his/her salary. Anyway, "let them eat cake" said the Queen.

I have humbly requested Education Notes to publish and make available to its readers, the story I posted on Craigslist about the ongoing abominations and atrocities that take place at the DOE Medical Bureau, a story that was "disappeared" within hours.

I know there is a lot of information "Ed Notes" feels has to get published and made known to its readers.

But the fact that a story about how the DOE Medical Office "disappears" people, was itself immediately "disappeared" from the internet should certainly give one reason for pause and reflection.

Surely, (it seems to me at least), that last thought should serve as a good reason and recommendation
for Ed Notes Online to publish a story that some censor deemed worthy and deserving of being "disappeared".

Thus, this is a story within a story and surely it would seem, is torn straight from a page in that great work of literature: "1984"

If such a story should appear anywhere, this is the place. I hope that happens.

But then how can my own opinion in this matter possibly count? I am a teacher who has himself- been "disappeared".

David Pakter

Anonymous said...

But they can only read between the lines on unlined stationery.

ed notes online said...

Posted by Leonie Haimson on the listserve:

See Elizabeth Green’s story in today's NY Sun about how seven DOE PR officers monitor 24 key education blogs and list servs, and occasionally try to refute the critiques within them, including this NYC education news list serv.

They call themselves the “Truth Squad” but we know that the members of our list serv are the real truth squad. I am glad, however, that the powers that be feel compelled to respond to some of our observations, even though it is so often done in a perfunctory and unconvincing fashion.

As I was quoted in the article, "It's good that the press operation actually hears our complaints, because Joel Klein doesn't seem to."
The article does not come as much news to me, since we all figured out more than a year ago that this was happening.

We had a fun time when the now-departed but not-forgotten Robert Gordon, author of the highly flawed “fair student funding” scheme who was the first Tweedie to subscribe (Feb. 9, 2007). Gordon answered some of our questions, unsatisfactorily – and then quickly unsubscribed. (Mar 21, 2007)
David Cantor, the chief press officer, soon followed in Feb 28, 2007. Adina Lopatin, of the Accountability office, subscribed one week later, around the time that I’d attended one of their screwy focus groups for their screwy parent survey.
Though the NY Sun article says that only one person from the press office is assigned to each blog or list serv, actually three of them including Cantor subscribe to our list serv: Melody Meyer (in Apr 2, 2007) and Lindsay Harr (Apr 11, 2007).

Cantor started responding occasionally, in a rather perfunctory manner, to dispute our points; but not until December 11, 2007 -- nearly one year later, initially about the NY Mag article which quoted Klein as saying to parents that they could send their kids to private school if they didn’t like the class sizes in their public schools. It later turned out that Klein said something else very similar – that District 2 parents had “choices,” but when I asked Cantor what that meant, if not sending their kids to private schools, he never replied.
Since then he has interjected so rarely (only about ten times ) that the main effect of his desultory comments makes me suspect that nearly everything else that I and the other members of this list serv write, including some extremely inflammatory accusations, must be true. I also don’t get the feeling that poor David enjoys the task that Chris Cerf has assigned him to.

None of this is particularly surprising, but what did surprise me is what I learned during a forum a few months ago, in April, on “Grading NY’s public schools.” During the question period, I asked Cerf a question. I began by introducing myself, but he quickly interrupted me to say, “I know who you are; I read your stuff every day.”

Every day? Not in my wildest dreams had I imagined that Cerf or anyone at that high a level at Tweed had the inclination or the time to do this. Sometimes I don’t even read myself every day – I’m too busy. I know my husband almost never does. I doubt most of the people on the list serv do.

But I was happy to hear this, if a bit surprised that Cerf had admitted this, for if I and others on our list can cause him one tenth the headaches that Tweed causes us every day, not to mention the other one million plus NYC public school parents -- that does give me a small sense of satisfaction.
After looking at the historical record, I now conclude that what probably started as a pure monitoring exercise, instigated by Cerf in Feb. of 2007 eventually turned into a rather lame attempt to beat the critics at their own game nearly a year later.
It was in October 2007, after all, that it emerged that Diane Ravitch had been taped by the DOE at various speaking events, and a file compiled of her remarks.

This news was also broken by Elizabeth Green in the NY Sun, following a vicious attack on Diane published in the NY Post the day before, in the form of an oped with the byline of Kathy Wylde, head of the NYC Partnership, but with information put together by the DOE press office. This was a terrific PR blunder on the part of Cerf and Co., as nearly everyone and their mother came to Diane’s defense – not that she needed their help; she offered her own eloquent response in the NY Post.

It was shortly thereafter, in Dec. of 2007 that David Cantor started commenting on our list serv, after the NY Magazine article was published that must have caused them much grief. It was only then that the vociferous rage of public school parents about school overcrowding, which had reached crisis proportions in certain neighborhoods, without the administration even so much as lifting a finger, began to break into the mainstream media.

In Elizabeth’s article, it says that “The squad's latest triumph should appear today on a Listserv operated by the parent organizer Leonie Haimson — in the form of an e-mail message arguing that Ms. Haimson's characterization of summer school programs as underfunded was incorrect.”

We’re still waiting for that email message, by the way. As well as answers to lots more questions we have posed to David Cantor over the last few days and weeks.
Chris Cerf, if you’re reading this, your press office is not doing their job!

Update: the article in the NY Sun has delighted the bloggers, of course, many who have blogged about it already -- for some links click here.

Anonymous said...

What's all the concern? It's not like the "Truth Squad" is actually a ministry of the "God Squad," right? After all, this expansion of the DoE PR Department was certainly long overdue. A strong PR Department is an essential part of any proper corporate makeover.

Anonymous said...

This is a serious problem. David Pakter clearly understands it well, even if he is a wee bit long in his explanation to make the case.

Perhaps the situation needs more graphic sound bites like:

"Herr Klein's Million Dollar Thought Troopers to enforce KorrectThink (tm)!

Herr Christopher Cerf, the Führer und Reichskanzler's Minister of Truth has set up a Thought Trooper Taskforce (tm) with a mission to eradicate all criticism!

Truth Squad? Très totalitarian!

We finally have it in NYC's Education System.
"Criticism is unwarranted."
"Resistance is Futile."
Teachers get Franz Kafka in the Rubber Room. Everyone else gets Orwellian Truths.

proofoflife said...

Holy Batman!

Richard Skibins said...

I love the Nazi comparisons. No different than Joseph Goebbels and the Nazo propoganda machine. The sooner we get rid of Klein the better. Maybe we can complain to the NYS Bar Association to get him disbarred.