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…



Is Jason Williams the Best Teacher in the History of the World?

Stand’s Jason Williams claims to have been nominated as teacher of the year in California after just two years in the classroom. But teachers in California aren’t even eligible for the award until they’ve taught for at least 8 years.

No doubt you are aware by now that Jason Williams, chief of the odious (and misnamed) Stand for Children in Massachusetts, was an OUTSTANDING teacher. For reminders of Williams’ outstanding-ness see here, here, here and here

But now it turns out that Williams is even more outstanding than we previously thought. After teaching for just two years at an Oakland, CA middle school, Williams claims to have been nominated as California’s Middle School Teacher of the Year. Pretty impressive, yes? Well, Williams’ accomplishment is even more dazzling when you consider that the California Teacher of the Year program is only open to teachers who’ve been in the classroom for at least 8 years… 

I know–I had the same thought. I bet Williams was SO effective that 2 of his years in the classroom were worth 4 years with your average teacher. (That seems to be Williams’ own view—he repeatedly refers to himself as a “life-long educator.”) In other words, surely the state of California had to make an exception when confronted with the sheer force of Williams’ outstandingness. But when an enterprising Boston teacher called the California Department of Education to inquire, he got the predictable response: laughter. Turns out that rules are rules, even for someone of Williams’ outstandingness. 

It’s fitting when you think about it. Stand for Children poses as a grass roots group while receiving millions from Walmart, JP Morgan and Bain Capital. Meanwhile Stand’s Massachusetts chief is a charlatan who has exaggerated his own teaching credentials in order to peddle phony edu-reform.