The Crucible – NYC and The Department of Education’s Mass Hysteria

Public Shame and the Mass Hysteria that Follows

Martha Corey: I, sir, am innocent to a witch. I know not what a witch is.
Judge Hathorne: If you know not what a witch is, how do you know you are not one?

 ~  The Crucible, IMDb quotes

The activities of McCarthy and his followers gave birth to the term McCarthyism.

This term is used in reference to “sensational and highly publicized personal attacks, usually based on unsubstantiated charges, as a means of discrediting people thought to be subversive.”(Grolier, 1996)

 In the 1950’s,  mass hysteria swept the country through McCarthyism.  Arthur Miller wrote “The Crucible”, linking the Salem witch hunts to this mass hysteria.

This week, Bill Gates deserves the “Pants on Fire Award”  for his PROPAGANDA performance in his recent Op Ed, Shame is Not the Solution/.   Gates had this published in the New York Times, claiming to be concerned about the shame teachers may feel about having their rankings published for all to see.

Question:  But how is this related to mass hysteria?  What is the history of mass hysteria in the United States?

 Steven Stein, on February 28, 2011,  wrote in his blog Blame It on Steinski:  A few examples of mass hysteria in US history (and a new addition)

“A few months ago, a friend asked me my opinion as to how the right-wing craziness we’re witnessing in this country came about. Unfortunately, I couldn’t marshal a coherent response at the time, and fell back into pounding on the table, hollering and cursing. It bothered me that I didn’t give him a decent rundown of what I consider the history of mob madness in the US, and I’ve finally gathered a few examples of a true American tradition – Fear of  The Other.” ~ Steven Stein

 Stein goes on to list 6 incidents of mass hysteria in American history:  

1)The Salem Witch Trials (1600s) … “An American Inquisition, which prepared the way for many movements that came after.”

2) Lynching in the United States (1860 – 1960) … “All governments – state or federal – and their agencies (like the cops) simply ignored this. You could buy picture postcards from proud local merchants of notable area lynchings.”

3)The Red Scare and The Palmer Raids (first 1919 – 1920) … “The Palmer raids were essentially the illegal kidnapping and deportation of any “radicals” (i.e.; labor and union leaders) who appeared on a list compiled by the US Attorney General.”

4)Japanese American internment during WWII (1942) … “Without trial, these people had their businesses confiscated and their homes stolen (permanently) while they were moved to godforsaken settlements hundreds or  thousands of miles away from their homes.”

5) The Second Red Scare (1940′s – 1950′s) – McCarthyism, Joe McCarthy, and the blacklist … “One of the truly wild (and modern) forms of manufactured political hysteria (see what I’m getting at?) was the rise of an alcoholic Senator named Joseph McCarthy after the end of WWII.” 

6)Satanic Day Care Scandals (1980′s) … “Was there satanic abuse? Hell no. Almost all of the people accused were acquitted, and successfully sued their accusers for millions of dollars in damages and settlements. But the newspapers and TV networks reported this garbage with straight faces, in the same “he said – she said” fashion they report any accusation today.”

# 7 becomes The Teacher Witch Hunts:

Gates’ notorious partner, Rupert Murdoch and his writer, Georgett Roberts took it too far on February 26, 2012 when they used the Scarlet Letter “F” for failure as they  branded one teacher as “The Worst in Queens” in his rag, The New York Post.

Rupert Murdoch’s NEW YORK POST

Brands NYC Teacher with “F”

Here is Murdoch’s New York Post piece,

written by Georgett Roberts,  

that sets out to begin the national teacher witch hunt!

Queens parents demand answers following

teacher’s low grades


Last Updated: 7:03 AM, February 26, 2012

Posted: 12:07 AM, February 26, 2012

The city’s worst teacher has parents at her Queens school looking for a different classroom for their children.

Pascale Mauclair, a tenured $75,000-a-year educator at PS 11 in Woodside, ranked among the very bottom out of more than 12,000 fourth- through eighth-grade math and English teachers citywide.

“I need to speak to the guidance counselor and switch my daughter to another class or change the teacher,” said Md Haque, 42.

“Every parent expects their children to grow up smart, and it takes a competent teacher for that to happen.

“My next duty is to find out from the guidance counselor what is going on with this teacher.”

Pascale Mauclai

Pascale Mauclai


“Another parent whose son graduated last spring from the same school was outraged that Mauclair cannot be fired for low ratings.

“I think she should be out,” said Rosa Bivar 41. “Let her go, and take the money, her salary and give it back to the school — they need the money.”

Teachers have been silenced as their union, United Federation of Teachers brought suit and lost an appeal when fighting against the publication of the teacher rankings.

Meanwhile, Arne Duncan, our nation’s US Secretary of Education  sets the stage for a National Teacher Witch Hunt as he praised the effort, saying “Silence is not an option.”  

“In releasing the reports, New York became only the second city in the country where teachers’ names and ratings have been publicized. In 2010, The Los Angeles Times hired a statistician and published its own set of ratings, in spite of fierce opposition from the local teachers’ union. Many thousands of people visited the newspaper’s Web site to check the rankings, though, and Arne Duncan, the federal education secretary, praised the effort, saying, “Silence is not an option.” ~  by Fernanda Santos and Robert Gebeloff, Teacher Quality Widely Diffused, Ratings Indicate,  New York Times 

Question: Who is behind the reports and publication of teacher’s names?  Where does the data come from?

Answer:  –  Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Mayor Bloomberg, and Joel Klein, with the blessings of Arne Duncan and Barack Obama!  

“This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the NY Board of Regents approved the state’s sharing of student and teacher information with a new national database, to be funded by the Gates Foundation, and designed by News Corp’s Wireless Generation. Other states that have already agreed to share this data, according to the NY State Education Department, include Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisiana and Massachusetts.

All this confidential student and teacher data will be held by a private limited corporation, called the Shared Learning Collaborative LLC, with even less accountability,  which in July wasawarded $76.5 million by the Gates Foundation, to be spent over 7 months. According to an earlier NYT story,  $44 million of this funding will go straight into the pockets of Wireless Generation, owned by Murdoch’s News Corp and run by Joel Klein.”  ~ Leonie Haimson, Confidential Student and Teacher Data to be Provided to LLC Run by Gates and Murdoch


“The data came from a program launched in 2006 under then-schools Chancellor Joel Klein in New York’s continuing push for test-based accountability in schools. Since then, Mr. Klein has advocated to make the reports and teachers’ names public.”  ~ Lisa Fleisher, Teacher Rankings Opened to View, The Wall Street Journal

and…the media, just like in all other “mass hysteria” incidents plays the heavy role of spreading the hysteria.

The data was handed to the news media on CDs, which contain spreadsheets listing teachers’ scores for the 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years. Roughly 12,000 teachers were given teacher data reports each year.

Charter school and special education teachers were not included; the city says it will likely release their rankings on Tuesday.

The teacher rankings began as a pilot program four years ago to improve instruction in 140 city schools. It has turned into the most controversial set of public school statistics to be released by the Bloomberg administration: individual rankings for roughly 18,000 math and English public school teachers from fourth through eighth grades….

SchoolBook intends to publish the rankings as part of a list of teachers at the affected city schools. ~ SchoolBook, City Teacher Data Reports Are Released  [Note: SchoolBook is a subsidiary of the New York Times

Meanwhile,  these teacher’s lives hang in the mass hysteria created by public humiliation.

Teachers, understandably, along with more than 600 parents so far, are outraged!  Ben Chapmann and Tina Moore write in The New York Daily News, Teachers Call Release of Rankings a Witch Hunt, Inaccurate:

“Many parents, though, bristled at the rankings, with more than 600 signing a petition against their release.

Over and over, teachers questioned the accuracy of the reports, based on a formula that compares how students’ standardized test scores with a predicted score based on income level, attendance and other factors .

Gary Malone, 38, of Whitestone, said his ranking dropped from the 88th to the 38th percentile between the 2008-09 and 2009-2010 school year.

The 11-year veteran whose score had a more than 30-point margin of error — said he couldn’t fathom what could have caused such a precipitous drop.

“I don’t know what possibly could’ve happened to make me go down 50 percentage points,” said Malone, who teaches eighth-grade English at Junior High School 189 in Flushing. “These ranking are inaccurate.

“I am a very hardworking teacher and I know that I am ‘highly effective,’ whether or not the random ranking I am assigned from year to year says the same.”

Elizabeth Phillips, the principal of P.S. 321, said she worries that the best teachers will leave the system because of the rankings, which she considers unfair.

“We have great teachers with very high scores, very low scores and middle scores,” she said. “It is wrong to call a great teacher a failing teacher because a few kids got three or four questions wrong one year rather than two or three questions wrong the year before.”

Read more:

Question:  But now that this release of data and Teacher Witch Hunt has begun, what will teachers, administrators, parents, and children do about the mass hysteria?  Are the masses REALLY going to believe the “junk” THEY call data?

“The two most common elements in the world are hydrogen and stupidity.” ― Arthur Miller

So far, New York’s United Federation of Teachers has filled the inbox of  UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, with emails of outrage.

“In the days leading up to the release of ratings for thousands of New York City public-school teachers on Friday, hundreds of e-mails poured into the in-box of Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

“Enough of cooperation,” one member of the union wrote to his leader. Others prodded Mr. Mulgrew to stand up against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, describing him as “untrustworthy,” in what he said was a call to arms of unparalleled intensity.

“How many times do we have to get kicked in the teeth before we realize we can’t work with these people?” John Elfrank-Dana, a union chapter leader at Murry Bergtraum High School in Lower Manhattan, asked during an interview, echoing what many of his fellow teachers have said in recent days on Twitter and on various blogs.” ~ Fernanda Santos and Anna M. Phillips,  With Release of Teacher Data, Setback for Unions Turns Into a Rallying Cry, The New York Times

There are some other sane voices speaking out, such as education blogger Valerie Strauss,  The Answer Sheet,  The Washington Post.  She writes:

NYC releases teachers’ value-added scores —


This is a quote from a Feb. 16 release from the New York State Department of Education announcing that agreement:

Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall. Teachers who are developing or ineffective will get assistance and support to improve performance. Teachers who remain ineffective can be removed from classrooms;” (emphasis is mine)

As noted by education historian Diane Ravitch in her New York Review of Books article titled “No Student Left Untested,” the fact is that for some teachers, “[t]he 40 percent allocated to student performance actually counts for 100 percent. Two years of ineffective ratings and the teacher is fired.” A teacher could have exemplary ratings for all other measures, but if the test scores are terrible, the teacher is rated terrible.

Today, people in New York smart enough to know better — people like, for example, Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, who went ahead and released the scores anyway. In fact, Walcott had the chutzpah to say upon the release of the rankings, according to the New York Times:

“I don’t want our teachers disparaged in any way, and I don’t want our teachers denigrated based on this information. This is very rich data that has evolved over the years…. I don’t want our teachers characterized in a certain way based on this very complex rich tool that we have available to us.”

Rich data? Who is he kidding other than himself?

Meanwhile, people in the Obama administration who should know better, including President Obama himself, have pushed for test scores to be a part of teacher assessment. And now states around the country are adopting these methods.

The U.S. Education Department likes to say that it actually supports “multiple measures” in teacher evaluation. But a system of “multiple measures” that includes standardized test scores and makes them important — and in some cases, as we’ve seen, exclusively important — is neither fair nor necessary.

There are high-performing school districts, such as in Montgomery County, Md., and Fairfax County, Va., where teachers are evaluated on a range of measures without standardized test scores in the mix — and the system somehow managed to get rid of ineffective teachers anyway. But these systems, under federal and state pressure, are nearing the day when they will have to change their educator evaluation systems to include test scores, even though these systems work just fine without them.

Segments of public education had enough trouble before standardized testing became the be-all and end-all of assessment in the era of former president George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, and now, Obama’s Race to the Top.

With apologies to Neil Young, “Ooh, ooh, the damage done.” ~ Valerie Strauss

As to the men responsible for branding these teachers’ rankings, I ask:What brand shall we give them in return?  What scores will we give them in the mainstream media?

 I think it is time we take out a few ads and give the Witch Hunters some labels of our own.  


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10 responses to “The Crucible – NYC and The Department of Education’s Mass Hysteria

  • Tom Kinsolving

    Superb blog, brimming with explosive indictments, one after the other, of the worsening crisis in our endangered national public education system. I’m a retired public school teacher that witnessed some of the very same poisoning that was filling up my schoolhouse.
    It’s perfectly appalling and, yet, just as was pointed out here, the “witch hunt hysteria” is much like that of the past–most of the public hoodwinked into thinking these insidious public officials are on “the right track” to protect and preserve our future as a nation.
    They couldn’t be more mistaken. But by the time this colossal blunder is realized, and most of the public schools have been “corporatized” and turned into widget factories for our children, it may very well be too late.
    Let’s hope that people come to their senses before that terrible scenario comes to pass.

    • livingbehindthegates

      Thank you Tom! I appreciate your very kind words and wish sadly that we were both so very wrong. Keep up the great work. I’ll work on connecting your blog to mine for some “cross pollination”. I don’t think it is too late. France 1968 comes to mind, when it took 3 weeks for France to become afraid of her people. We need a plan and we need to stick to the plan. A general strike would end all of this nonsense. Why are the people of America afraid to take this action?

  • barbara madeloni

    Great post-I am going to make sure all of the student teachers in English with whom I work get this. They can use it as one more example from history for their work with The Crucible. This witch hunt is part of a broader demonization and devaluing of the public good–public workers, public services- in order to privatize and create profit for the %1. Check out this radio program for more talking back to the dominant narrative and taking back our schools.


  • seattleducation2011

    My heart goes out to that teacher in the Bronx who got “fingered” by that rag.

    This is so unbelievable and unfathomable. This is education!? Only when people who have no clue about education or children but have a lot of money and ego get involved in issues that they have no business in.

    Their actions are horrific and have caused so much chaos and pain not only for teachers but for students and their families.

    These people have done so much harm and no good. Leave our children alone!


    • livingbehindthegates

      The teacher morale is at an all time low according to a MetLife survey and the responsibility lies with Bill and Melinda Gates, their MET evaluation program, their partnership with Rupert Murdoch, and these Teacher Witch Hunts they have started! You are right, Dora. My heart goes out to the teacher shamed by these people who believe they can take power over OUR education system without ANY professional experience! Who are THEY to think THEY can MEASURE and CULL children, families, and teachers by this horrific labeling and shaming? Why would ANYONE trust them anyway? Yes, they need to leave our children ALONE!

  • Andrew Murphy Earlton, NY

    I, for one, am SOOO tired of being “kicked in the teeth”!!! I’ve been READY and WILLING and WAITING for the revolution to begin…. Yet WAIT is all I do! Well– I write letters and call representatives… I watch as my union pres, Dick Ianuzzi, signs agreements that OK these INSANE evaluation criteria… when he should be jamming that pen …somewhere where it would make the RIGHT statement–that statement being “FUCK YOU!! Teachers AREN’T “THE Problem”!!! And I WON’T LET YOU CARRY OUT THIS WITCH HUNT ON MY WATCH!!!” But he’s cozied right up with the enemy… Locals need to have a fire lit under their asses and TAKE ACTION to END this madness!! Or soon we’ll ALL be out of work! (Due to “poor standardized test performance” of course!) What a crock of tepid shit! If you’re not standing up to this insanity, you are giving permission to SED, by proxy, to can your ass in the near future… YOU and I are standing in the roadway to corporatizing public education.. are you going to BLOCK the progress or cower by the gutter???

    • livingbehindthegates

      Andrew, I too have wondered why our unions have allowed the corporate edreformers to take one bite out of the elephant of public education at a time until we are left with the Teacher Witch Hunt. Yes, I understand that UFT appealed the decision to release the rankings: and lost, but they went ahead and sent all of the NYC teachers to work under those horrible conditions after losing the appeal, didn’t they? Why?

      I understand that the union leaders have accepted money from Gates. Why don’t they “DIVORCE” him and his money and take a STRONG stand, and STOP compromising with the edreformers who are killing us? At least 2 teachers have committed suicide due to working conditions. When will the unions stand up?

      I also understand that union leaders are groomed to the “court” of the 1% edreformers, to rub elbows with them, and to “compromise”. They RELY on union members to be the rowdy teen-agers who break the rules. So when are we going to rebel and stop going to work? What do you think?

      • hannahb

        Because they are in gates’ pocket at the top level, that’s why. duh.

        they will NEVER stand up. they are bought. almost all of them, even some that talk a good game.

        rebellion is all you have left, and teachers for the most part are good little middle-class go-alongs.

      • livingbehindthegates

        Bruce Levine, author of “Get Up, Stand Up – Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite” told me in conversation: “Public Schools are the most oppressed institution in America.” I thought long about his words. What other profession is so “top-down”? Why are teachers and children so oppressed by politicians and policy unlike other professions such as doctors and lawyers? In my opinion, after studying “Childhood in America” in college, I believe teaching is a profession dominated by WOMEN teaching CHILDREN. When our country began in Puritan times, women and children were both considered property by the rich, white, land owning males in society. Not much has changed and this paradigm continues in its strongest form through our public schools. When will women/teachers stand up for social justice and equity for children, for themselves? I wonder.

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