Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Blogger Goes Silent

Some people howl at nothing. Some howl at the moon. For more than ten years, a New York City teacher, writing under the pseudonym Reality Based Educator howled at all the right people, at all the right times and in just the right places. He called it quits this week and that's sad news for anyone who cares about a robust amount of education and political information.

My routine has been the same almost every day for about six years. I wake up at 4:15, kiss my sleeping wife and kid and go down to start coffee. While it's brewing, I scan the NYTimes and read Perdido Street School blog for previous day's news. After that, I'll take in the rest of the Times, have a banana, then finally jump in the shower.

Every day, for six years, it's the the same thing. Wake, coffee, (Times) Perdido Street are the first three steps of my day. Perdido Street is what I call an important blog. It's smart, well detailed, very well sourced and consistently published. It is the brainchild of one person -a New York City teacher- who, many years ago, decided to grab his laptop and blog.

If the NYC DOE were an office, the New York City Edu bloggers would be the office water cooler. They are the most infamous, independent minded (sometimes cantankerous) group of teachers alive today. They each share the same qualities of being well-informed, widely read and not really giving a crap about being mainstream. These are probably the reason they have a fair degree of influence over how education stakeholders see things in the education reform movement.

By their very existence, Edu-bloggers work against the tide. New York is, after all, the Main Stream Media capitol of the world and that old-world media relegates itself to a narrative they have decided to offer. When it comes to the topic of education, they have proven themselves to be heavy on punches and headlines, yet light on fact and almost non existent on detail. Edu-bloggers work against this narrative and offer facts and details rooted in a bit more truth and a lot more common sense. The bloggers are the ones who tell you that war is not peace, that freedom is not slavery, and ignorance is not strength. And they have a plethora of facts and details at the ready to back then up should anyone ever question them.

The good bloggers frequently and accurately dispel doublethink and put out truth and common sense. 500-700 words every day is no easy thing. Yet  RBE managed to do it longer, and better, than most.

The only person to consistently call out Andrew Cuomo, on a day to day basis -even when Cuomo's popularity was high and the whole state somehow trusted him- was this one blogger. It wasn't a professional member of this press who did this and it wasn't a political or an Albany blogger. Those people are all compromised because they depend upon their sources and need to preserve those relationships more than they need to write truth. Andrew Cuomo's great gift is to exploit this and to compromise the very people who are depended upon to deliver that truth. The only person -in the state- who has consistently called out Cuomo -even when it wasn't popular- was a person we'll only ever know as RBE

Remember this. There will be a quiz on it someday.

When Andrew Cuomo first got elected, this teacher, who had long since written one of the most popular education blogs in New York, completely changed the focus of his writing in order to focus almost exclusively on Andrew Cuomo and the mounds of unadulterated bullsh__ that Cuomo & Co. shoveled. Each day, sometimes several times each day, RBE would bring to his readers the key aspects of many Cuomo related stories from the main stream press and explain, in careful detail, how utterly full of sh*t the administration in Albany was and how -and often when- teachers and public school parents would be hurt. RBE would scour the internet, finding any source about Cuomo that was published and respond to it on his blog. Very often, this would happen before reporters had even had a chance to read and responded to it on their twitter feeds.

Since the governor was entwined with education from his first days in office, RBE paid careful attention to education related issues as they pertained to the political world. When polls were published showing a shrinking popularity for the Common Core and the tests that we all associate with it, RBE blogged about it -and he would remind his readers how much Cuomo quietly supported the CC and tests and openly wondered how much longer the governor could endure such low numbers on issues he was behind.

When Cuomo cancelled the Moreland commission in exchange for an on time balanced budget, it was RBE who pointed out the cronyism involved with that -a meme upon which the District Attorney for Southern New York would later build. And when Preet Bharara subpoenaed those files, it was RBE who first spelled out the 'uh-oh' associated with it.

This was every day, often several times each day, for several years.

And RBE published almost as quick as he read -beating all of us bloggers and many (many) times other professional news organizations to the punch. A new poll out on the Common Core? RBE would blog it first. A surprise Cuomo appearance at a Charter School rally? RBE would blog it first. A snow storm on the way and Cuomo closing a major Long Island highway because of it? RBE would blog it -first. This is why so many of us came to Perdido Street School for information: That's where it all was!

He once mentioned to me in a comment that blogging sort of becomes a part of of you. It certainly was part of him. He was right, by the way. If you don't watch yourself, blogging becomes a part of your daily routine -almost as natural as flossing your teeth or checking your email.  While writing is wonderful, it does take up hours of your life, often at the cost of other things you could be doing (things like enjoying your friends, or reading a book, even watching TV or playing a video game). I don't blog very often anymore and the time it took from the other aspects of my life is a major reason why. To that end, I'm glad that my colleague-turned-blogger will have so much of his time back and I hope he uses that time wisely, for his own, exclusive benefit.

But it has to  be said that he leaves behind a now almost silent scene and hundreds, if not thousands of readers (more than 3 million page views in all) who have no comparable place to turn for a daily dose of Cuomo or other real events. No one in the State of New York can connect the dots between Cuomo and our profession -speaking at once  accurately, often and with brevity- as this one New York City public school teacher. Where many of us look at the news papers and see no dots worth connecting, this one teacher sees it all ('Children screaming ... Boys sobbing ... Old men weeping in the parks'. No shit.. this guy sees it all!!)'.

I'm sorry I took its existence for granted. If I had known that Perdido Street would someday end, I would probably have appreciated it more while it was here. But I'm grateful to my colleague, whoever he may be, and hope that someday our paths cross again.