Steven Brill’s new book, “Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools,” was “reviewed” yesterday by the New York Times education reporter Michael Winerip. Winerip’s weekly crusade against education reform in the pages of the Grey Lady is a study of those who find satisfaction in fomenting the divide between hard-working teachers and those who support elements of education reform, which are not, by the way, mutually exclusive groups. Winerip’s shrill jeremiads tolerate no critical thinking or nuanced perspectives: it’s all angels and demons. In fact, at the end of the piece Winerip almost seems disappointed at Brill’s conclusion that meaningful education will only come about by collaboration with teacher unions. Guess it doesn’t fit into his black/white paradigm.
Anyway, here’s Mr. Brill’s reply to Mr. Winerip:
I appreciate that Mr. Winerip thinks I have “seen the light” at the end of the book. What he doesn’t realize, though not for lack of my trying to explain it to him, is that I was simply reporting what I found over two years. I was not trying to render, let alone reconcile, a verdict for or against his (anti-reform) point of view.
However, despite his distinguished prior career as an reporter, I am not surprised by the apparent anger in Mr. Winerip’s opinion column, let alone his decision to distort my book by ignoring all in it that describes teachers (and even teachers’ union leaders) in a positive light and strains to explain, and depict from the classroom, how difficult efffective teaching is. When he talked with me, it was almost as if he’d been waiting to unload on me for years. He freely cast epithets, some profane, at many of the men and women portrayed in the book, and refused to consider that his reporting about alleged “skimming” of the best students at the Harlem Success charter network might be based on faulty data. (Though he did, I guess in attempt to humor me, chuckle when I tweaked him for ignoring in a prior article that I was the product of Queens, New York elementary and middle public schools, before winning a full scholarship to go to a prep school – whereupon he repeated this revelation in this article.)
After he slammed a phone down on me on Friday when I tried to get him into the weeds of that Harlem Success data, I sent Mr. Winerip an email urging him to reconsider. I never received a reply. Whether my reading of the data on Harlem Success is right or wrong (and I believe it is correct), I think his approach to dealing with the issue, let alone the near-venom of his piece today, speaks for itself.