Ron Isaac’s Commentary: UFT Goes The Extra Mile

Jul 28, 2021 by

The developers of the polio vaccine were greed-driven, because they owned stock in a triathlete-training company and wanted to ensure a bigger pool of fit potential consumers of their products and services.  It was not about seeking to help humanity, but rather a self-promotional trick to capture market share.

That would be the New York Post’s narrative, if they applied the same logic to it as they did in their story “UFT Offering Teachers $25 Per Hour To Sell In-Person Schooling” (7/17).

The pandemic caused a decline in public school enrollment. The Post says it “nosedived” and “plummeted”.  From their standpoint, that would be wishful thinking. 

But the reason the student population fell was that schools were physically closed. “Remote learning” was unpopular and not particularly successful, but there was no responsible, scientifically-driven alternative.  The emergency was unprecedented and the school system could have been better prepared. 

There were technical troubles involving the availability and functioning of computers and family lives and scheduling problems dislocated routines and disrupted family lives. 

But in September, all schools will be open and there will be no more “distance learning”.  We will be refreshed by normalcy.

For several reasons, some parents may be a bit reluctant. Their skepticism may be prompted by news reports of varying dependability.  They may have concerns, egged on by the Post, about possible new mandates, and a return to the bad dream of the last year.

The proper thing to do is to accelerate the justified restoration of trust.

In that spirit, the United Federation of Teachers, not waiting for the Department of Education to get off its haunches, took the initiative of encouraging parents to send their kids back to the school from which they were receiving a quality education prior to Covid. 

Fear of closure is the main stumbling block. Parents were traumatized by last year’s upheaval.  They would be well-served by accurate information.

Accordingly, the UFT, at its own expense, is training and sending volunteers to communities where they will make home visits, in effect as ambassadors of good will, bearing the refreshing and reassuring news that our schools will all be open for in-person learning in September.  The legwork is worth the payoff, which is the knowledge that our students are again on the best track to a fine education.

What’s wrong with that? 

The NY Post should rejoice, since they pushed for schools to be open even before it was safe to do so.  But their UFT-phobia overrides all else.

Such civic-mindedness from the teachers union raised a red flag at the Post, which  characteristically twisted its significance. They called it a UFT “charm offensive” to replenish the student population so that more union dues-paying teachers would be needed to staff classrooms.  Their spin was the more kids in school, the more big bucks for the union coffers.

For many months, the Post was ranting about school closures and blaming the UFT as obstructionists to re-opening. The Post has frequently insisted that the UFT has education policy-making politicians and bureaucrats in its pocket.  Now that the union, is seeking to encourage the same objective that the Post favored,  the Post doubles down on its attacks.

I do not speak for the UFT, but their goal seems simple and transparent: to address concerns, remove doubt and, where needed, restore confidence in the re-opening of schools by providing clear and reliable information.

What the UFT is doing is, of course, not analogous to the imaginary gripe against the developers of the polio vaccine, but the absurdity of the comparison illuminates the main idea.

By seizing the opportunity to show initiative by reaching out in a practical and persuasive way to strengthen community awareness, the UFT is acting dutifully and showing its collectively charitable heart.

Ron Isaac

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