Why I’m Saying Farewell to EduShyster

It’s time for me to wave goodbye to the man with the outstretched hand…

Since I started this blog back in 2012, I’ve gotten occasional complaints that the name EduShyster is anti-semitic. When one of these arrived last week, I started to compose what has become my standard response: that whole books have been written on this topic, and that historians have traced the etymology of the word back to its very first appearance in 1843, in a New York newspaper crusading against political and legal corruption. And then I stopped. As any English teacher worth her salt can explain, meaning and context go hand in hand. Our current context is that anti-semitism has roared back with a vengeance and has taken up residence in the highest office in the land. Even the slightest possibility that I might be lumped in with that kind of hate is too much. Now is the time to speak up against all kinds of intolerance, and so I’m taking this opportunity to wish EduShyster farewell.

If you’ve followed the evolution of my blog, you know that I started out as an anonymous commentator, taking aim at all things education *rephorm.* Snark was my weapon, along with wine by the boxful—a sort of metaphor for the volume of intoxicants necessitated by the edupreneurial schemes and scams that I spent my days untangling. Along the way, the blog morphed into something more serious. There was so much I didn’t understand, and so I sought out people who knew things and used my blog as a way to make complex ideas more accessible. I also discovered that my curious nature—OK, nosy—translated into a reporting skill I didn’t know I had. I’ve now raised money from readers and traveled to Chicago, New Orleans and Michigan, talking to anyone who will talk to me, and producing actual journalism. Who knew??? Last year I launched a story-driven podcast series called Have You Heard that sought to *disrupt* the debate over the future of public education by passing the mic to parents and students whose voices are too often missing from the conversation.

Now it’s time for another change. As of 2/08/2017, the blog formerly known as EduShyster is the Have You Heard blog. Rolls off the tongue, right? While the man with the hand will still be making occasional appearances, this next iteration of my writing and podcasting will be unmistakably mine. I’ll be doing more long reported pieces, like this one, this one, this one, and this one. At the top of my list is a skeptical look at the latest edu-frenzy to sweep across Massachusetts: the empowerment zone. And believe it or not, after devoting some 10,000 words to our new Secretary of Education, I still have more to add—like what was really behind the shade that Eli Broad threw at Betsy DeVos. Season 2.0 of the Have You Heard podcast will sound different too. I’ve joined forces with Jack Schneider, who you may know on Twitter as @edu_historian. Our biweekly talk show on education in the time of Trump starts this week. (Note: you can subscribe on iTunes—just search for Have You Heard under news and politics).

Before I go there is one thing I could really use your help with. Now that I’m officially consigning @EduShyster to the dustbin of history, I need a new Twitter handle. If you have a suggestion send it to jenniferberkshire@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some work to do…

Jennifer

 

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14 Comments

  1. Thank you Jennifer. When I first heard the name of your blog it was really difficult for me to even say it given the long, and terrible, history that the word (and concept) shyster has for Jews. I really appreciate the change. And now I have one more reason, as if I ever needed any, to love you and your blog.

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  2. A wise choice. My one question: Will Have You Heard still be available in print form?

    You’re done a wonderful and much needed job. Keep at it! Come to Indiana soon please.

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  3. Thanks Jennifer,
    and I’ll still be following you. I really enjoyed that piece of long form writing about Michigan in the Baffler. You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.

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  4. While I knew the change was coming I did not expect such an eloquent articulate post about it. But why am I surprised, yoir brilliance shines brighter ever day! Keep on, keep on, let’s rise up!

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  5. The duality of it all. Had I not read about this on Diane R’s blog, I wouldn’t have been aware of what I had been missing, up to now. And if the change in name allows for new direction and growth, great. I find it somewhat ironic, however while looking into this a bit, that this article popped up:
    http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/id=900005387204/Is-Shyster-AntiSemitic

    It may be one of the items to which you were referring in you post. The irony is made evident from the beginning:
    ” After all, interpretation is a large part of what we do. The New York Observer, for example, recently (April 21) complained about the National Review’s use of the word “shyster.” According to the Observer, “shyster” is a “deplorable and demeaning word,” “not acceptable in polite company,” “offensive, redolent with prejudice and hatred.”

    As you know, the Observer is owned and controlled by Jared Kushner, who seems to have some peripheral relationship to Donald T. As an Orthodox Jew who is so closely tied to a campaign that bemoaned ‘political correctness’, what are we to make of this hyper (and misplaced) sensitivity of Kushner’s , who might actually qualify as one?

    Jennifer, you said:
    “As any English teacher worth her salt can explain, meaning and context go hand in hand. Our current context is that anti-semitism has roared back with a vengeance and has taken up residence in the highest office in the land. Even the slightest possibility that I might be lumped in with that kind of hate is too much. Now is the time to speak up against all kinds of intolerance, and so I’m taking this opportunity to wish EduShyster farewell.”

    I applaud your persistence #ShePersisted , but I’m somewhat uncomfortable with your unequivocal embracing of the co-dependence of meaning and context. Language, we know, is mutable, but its intentional abuse is only possible when the users of that language are indifferent and under-educated, and where the mechanisms that define that context are no longer organic, but intentionally manipulated. Is it possible that simply any word that had (to at least some of the population) an identifiable Yiddish component would be similarly seen as a ‘flag’. At some point, in the context of our current climate, the only way to assuredly avoid the anti-semitism you cite would be to eliminate all such references. Where does that leave us? In the current climate, we’d need ‘tolerance’ on steroids.

    Good luck. I’ll follow.

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  6. I always loved the name of your blog, EduShyster. I’m not sure if the new name has nearly the same ring, but good writing is good writing. The first post I ever read was the one about Bill Gates’ Magic Bracelets, and I thought it was a parody until checking the referenced links… Anyway, I always used to read the blog for the hilarious writing about serious issues, but now I come to read it particularly for the interviews. When those interviews are done with some that I would not consider “shysters,” perhaps the name doesn’t seem to fit as well. Nonetheless, I wish you continued success and will continue to be a reader of your blog.

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    1. Thanks, Joe! Your observation about the name not fitting as well for interviews with the um, non-edupreneurial set, gets at another reason why I was ready to make the switch. Now when I post interviews it will be my name you see. And I’m hoping that your “good writing is good writing” adage proves true 🙂 And thanks for being such a devoted reader!

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  7. Jennifer, I respect your reason for the name change. And I understand how you selected the new name. I do think it is unfortunate that the name no longer references education. When I post articles to my local’s page by Edushyster, lots of my colleagues read it. I post something from HaveYouHeardBlog, and the majority just scroll past, since there is no indication in the new name that it is education focused. But I will spread the word and encourage people to read. However, the bigger stumbling block for me is your new avatar/profile picture/personal icon (?). I just can’t take your page seriously with that cartoon staring at me. Please consider changing this. The headless man with the outstretched hand had a delightful bit of snark to it, but it was still professional and indicative of what your page was addressing. There is nothing professional about the hideous cartoon. Thanks for considering.

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    1. Hi there–While I personally loved the cartoon (I actually look JUST like that), it wasn’t exactly a fan fave, including by my #1 fan, the gentleman w/ whom I am co-located. So I’ll just have to enjoy it privately, as I do the appalling TV shows that are a mainstay of my viewing fare! As for not explicitly referencing education, I’d actually started to feel a bit hemmed in by the “Edu” in my name. Much as when I made the decision a few years back to come out from behind the veil of anonymity, the world already feels bigger. Thanks for weighing in!

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