Author: Larry Sand
Date: May 17, 2022
This is the eighth in a series of open letters to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. The first seven can be accessed here.
My Dearest Randi,
What is going on! It has been a year since my last missive, and I have not heard a peep from you. This is not the first time you have snubbed me, however. When I tried to say hi to you outside the Supreme Court after the Janus oral arguments in 2018, you refused to even look at me, and then turned to a newsman and launched into a kooky rant, insisting that unions “actually make communities safer and…the right-wing is threatened by that.”
Is it possible you are still ticked about our initial meeting in 2010 when Terry Moe, Rod Paige and I devoured you and two co-unionistas in a humiliating debate loss in New York City?
Worse, you’ve ignored all the heartfelt advice I have given you over the years, and I am really worried about you, girl! Most recently, you’ve had a whirlwind tour of all around silliness, half-truths, hyperbole and downright lies. Regarding the latter, you are beginning to make Bill Clinton look like Honest Abe.
In the silliness category, you recently wrote, “When crisis strikes, teachers are there.” What you should have said is, “When union bosses get teachers riled up, they strike” – as they have done most recently in Oakland, Sacramento, Minneapolis, and elsewhere. Teachers don’t strike for students, you silly goose! They walk out for higher pay, bigger budgets, less competition, etc.
Then there is the half-truth about your teaching career. In an article called “Choosing aspiration over anger,” you wrote, “I taught social studies and civics.” Not the first time you claimed to be a teacher. But when you look an inch or two below the surface, we see a teensy-weensy exaggeration. You say that you taught history at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn from 1991 to 1997, but in 2011, EAG News obtained your personnel file via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. According to the New York City Board of Education, you were hired as a substitute teacher in 1991, received a provisional license in 1993, and a certificate to serve as a substitute in 1994. Additionally, “A 1997 letter indicates you didn’t submit documentation showing you’d met requirements for licensure. No record indicates you ever served as a full-time teacher or were evaluated by a principal or other school official.”
Yet, you have never acknowledged these details or corrected the record. In fact, when you ran for president of New York’s United Federation of Teachers in 1998, your opponent Michael Shulman suggested that you were not a “real teacher,” saying, “She worked five months full-time that I’ve been aware of, in 1992, at Clara Barton High School,” Shulman was quoted as saying in the New York Times. He added, “Since then she taught maybe one class for 40 minutes a day.” I suggest that if there are any inaccuracies in the FOIL or Shulman’s comment, you address them ASAP.
In the hyperbole arena, you recently uttered something truly bizarre. After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Florida’s House Bill (HB) 1557, which disallows or limits schools from instructing children in certain sexual matters, you just went bonkers, claiming, “We have to let gay kids and gay teachers — frankly we have to let everyone talk about their lived experience.” That’s part of how you build relationships. That’s part of how you unite people. That’s part of how you save democracy.”
What?! My 3rd grade teacher, Miss McCormick, never delved into her sex life, thank God, and it did not affect my relationship with her one iota. She did teach me how to read, write and do arithmetic, however. And the fact that she never detailed her bedroom activities or lack thereof, hardly imperiled democracy.
Then you jumped the proverbial shark. Referring to the Florida law on a podcast, you blurted out, “This is propaganda. This is misinformation. This is the way in which wars start.”
Oy vey!! Calm down, will ya?! The law simply disallows inappropriate sex talk in schools. Sheesh.
Also, in January, you quoted an opinion piece by Atif Qarni, a former Virginia Secretary of Education. In a tweet, you wrote, “Racists … are showing up in droves to school board meetings, threatening members and superintendents with recalls, firing — and worse. It is dangerous. It is divisive. It is un-American. As Virginians, let us remember our history and not repeat the errors of our past.”
Girl, you stepped in it once again! Even you apparently realized that the comment was miles over the top and deleted it. But Corey DeAngelis wasn’t about to let you off the hook and retweeted the hideous post for all to see.
Last and anything but least – there are the lies. The lies! Old friend, it’s gotten to the point that if you told me you were lying, I wouldn’t believe you. I’ll start with the blatant CRT whopper. At an AFT conference in July 2021, you stated, “Let’s be clear: critical race theory is not taught in elementary schools or high schools.” Yet, one month earlier, your union tweeted that “critical race theory allows educators to give our students the opportunity to understand the full breadth and depth of the American society.” And if you really believed that there is no CRT in k-12, why on earth would you have Ibram X. Kendi, probably the most vocal and aggressive CRT proponent in the country, speak at a conference for your union’s teachers?
Then there was the Chris Rufo debacle. In a tweet, you “quoted” Rufo based on comments he made in a speech at Hillsdale College in April. You wrote “Rufo himself said ‘To get to universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust. To sow & grow that distrust, you have to create your own narrative frame, & have to be brutal & ruthless in pursuing it.’” Only problem is that you took what he really said and mangled it. And worse for you, he busted you on it publicly. Randi, you picked the wrong dude to tick off! He’s a smart guy, who actually backs up what he says with facts. In response, he threatened you in a tweet: “This is a doctored quotation. Delete it, or I will wage legal war against you—and, as you have made up the middle part of the quote entirely, I will win.” As a lawyer, you must have realized that you’d lose the legal battle with Rufo, so you shortly followed up by er, um, uh, clarifying what he really said in a tweet.
But perhaps your biggest fabrication, Randi – and, believe me, it ain’t easy to come up with #1, as there is soooo much competition – was during the Covid shutdowns, you kept insisting that “we’ve been trying to reopen schools.” But in reality, your union did everything it could to keep schools closed during the time of Covid. In fact, multiple studies have shown that the teachers unions were the biggest obstacle to school reopenings across the country. As Mike Antonucci reports, in every major school district in the country – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, etc. – your union’s local affiliates threw up roadblocks to getting schools up and running.
Randi, perhaps you are not aware that unlike the U.S., Sweden responded to the Covid outbreak calmly and rationally. Lockdowns were rare. The schools never had a mask mandate. Test scores have been normal. There is no talk about learning loss. And nationwide, their death toll is far lower than ours. Also, you should know that Harvard has just released the results of a study which showed a direct correlation between learning loss in schools that went remote and the poverty level of the schools in question. Really, makes you look like an insensitive bigot, Rand.
All the above makes it that much more amazing that in February, you announced that your union had launched a national partnership with NewsGuard. You refer to the outfit as a “leading anti-misinformation tool” which protects and champions legitimate journalism and fact-based reporting, and “will help educators and their students navigate a sea of online disinformation.” What are you thinking, Randi?! If NewsGuard is really serious about finding facts, the way you roll out BS, you could be the poster girl for “online disinformation.”
One last word of advice: As Mike Antonucci notes in a recent post, you have averaged about 47 tweets a day for more than 11 years. Maybe spend a little more time researching the issues instead of shooting your mouth off willy-nilly. You would be less likely to keep stepping in dog stuff, which you do on practically a daily basis.
In any event, at the least, please understand that my criticisms and suggestions are only made to help you going forward. Btw, Los Angeles is lovely this time of year, and if you decide to come out here, and aren’t miffed at me, we can do lunch – on me, of course!
Take care, old friend,
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Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.