Steven Brill responds to Michael Winerip

By Steven Brill
August 29, 2011

This is a response to Michael Winerip’s review of “Class Warfare” in Monday’s New York Times.

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 a 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.

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Mr. Brill, you failed to report what was really happening in the Rubber Room last year and thus it is hard to value your view on education. So many of the political prisoners in the Rubber Room filled you in on what is going on – class warfare, with power mongers taking over the schools by falsely accusing dedicated teachers and trashing them. Many of them told me how they explained the corruption to you and held high expectations you would report it. You really let them down. It is hard to see you, with your background not in education, and your unwillingness to report the truth, as anything but an opportunist wanting to cash in on privatization. One sided reporting certainly suggests that. Kudos to Mr. Winerip for seeing through you. If he appeared to be unloading on you, it might be that he has captured the spirit of so many dedicated teachers who have suffered from propaganda such as yours. If you are going to write about reform, you need to balance it with the truths you will find at EndTeacherAbuse.org and WhiteChalkCrime.com. When you don’t, it speaks volumes.

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