The DOE: Dystopian Morass of Self-Contradiction

Nov 2, 2020 by

During this plague year, when recreational activities are minimal, the Department of Education has demonstrated uncharacteristic leadership by adapting an old party game to a timely application: musical chairs.  They are using policies instead of chairs. 

When the music stops, as it does often during a news cycle, the players are left scrambling.  The DOE’s twist is that everybody gets to be the odd one out. It may smack of malicious mischief, but it’s nothing more than further proof that the DOE is a dystopian morass of self-contradiction.

When this school year started not so long ago, parents were given the option of having their children participate in “blended learning”, in which they would physically attend school at least once and be educated online for the rest of the week, or alternatively opt for “remote” instruction from home in a fully “virtual” setting. 

Because of the uncertainties related to the spreading virus and the prospect of a vaccine, parents were at least pleased by the DOE’s assurance that they could change their minds, pending contagion-related data.

As it turned out, the majority of parents didn’t want to gamble with their child’s safety and in an abundance of caution chose to keep their kids at home for the time being, at least.  Far fewer students appeared in schools than the DOE had projected and they, forever besides themselves, are at a loss how to identify staffing needs and deal with a scenario constantly in flux. 

Their calculations must be driven by reliable information that isn’t amended whenever the earth completes a rotation on its axis. 

That was true from the “get go” and the DOE should have established a sound and practical policy, gotten the word out and stuck to it. Instead their planning was all over the map, which means it was nowhere. They improvised their changing tune and threw the home-lives of students and their parents into disharmony.

So late last week, Chancellor Carranza, stopped the music and abruptly notified parents that there would be a brief window of time in early November when they could sign up for “blended learning” but that their decision would be irreversible for the duration of the school year, come what may.  If they made an affirmative decision and safety conditions or other factors worsened, they’d be out of luck.

“That’s life in the big city”, eh, Chancellor?

In theory and selective practice, keeping one’s child home could under those terms be construed as educational neglect.  Withdrawing one’s kid from a hazardous environment could provide a legal excuse for a charge of child abuse.  That’s a stretch, but this town under DeBlasio has been stretched to a point of ridiculous elasticity in a host of manifestations.

Most New York City public school kids have not met their teachers in person yet. Even “remote” learning has been spotty.  Many dozens of thousands of kids still don’t have computer access and even those who possess devices have been beleaguered by frequent technical difficulties that have badgered and crippled the teacher-student connection, both in terms of audio-video links and in the ineffable relationship that is essential to teaching and learning. 

The “glitches” have made a mockery of what had been a promising alternative to bodily presence in a vulnerable building.

So the chancellor,  counting on it’s being harder to hit a moving target as his policies are being shot full of holes by increasingly incensed critics, may be yet again changing the tune of his out-of-tune policy. 

Just three days after reversing his original policy on school attendance, he seems to be reversing his reversal by piping “we can absolutely consider another time period where students and families can opt back in…Change is the only thing we can count on!”

Change and daftness!

The DOE is at fault for the continuing drama of screw-up, but they are not guilty of deliberate sabotage. 

Except for one spoiler, all reports of this story are pretty much unanimous in this conclusion. That exception is The New York Post, which in an editorial indicts the United Federation of Teachers, claiming that Chancellor Carranza just wants to keep the teachers union “happy” and consents to be their puppet.

It is incomprehensible, even given the Post’s ancient hostility to the UFT, why they would make such a ludicrous charge?  What would the teachers union gain by the multiple changes in DOE policy?  Absolutely nothing. 

It’s too bad that the Post reverted to its discredited attacks, as they’ve done some decent investigative reports lately.

The record shows that with indefatigable energy and focused efficiency, the UFT has honorably and collaboratively labored every step of the way to safeguard our kids from peril without sacrificing their right to a quality education.

We’re living in strange times with even stranger attributions.

Ron Isaac

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