Dropout Nation wasn’t the only outlet that took notice of American Federation of Teachers’ New York City honcho Leo Casey’s piece proclaiming that former CNN journalist Campbell Brown, New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson and others of committing “the equivalent of a blood libel” because they dared to point out the AFT affiliate’s essential complicity (and that of the national union) in criminally abusive and harassing teachers on payrolls. BuzzFeed also stumbled onto Casey’s words of ridiculousness and even got Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League to shame Casey for being ”inappropriate and over-the-top” (although Foxman also noted that hounding Casey and the AFT over it would just mean a waste of the organization’s time). That was apparently enough for Casey to issue a non-apology apology of sorts. Expressing regret for “disturbing” Foxman, Casey still defended his claptrap, declaring that “the slander” against teachers supposedly leveled by Campbell, Wolfson and others was so “beyond the pale” that “it evoked that comparison for me.” Essentially, Casey declared that it was those nasty school reformers who made me do it.
As Dropout Nation Editor RiShawn Biddle noted yesterday, Casey can hardly justify the piece. For one, neither Brown nor Wolfson nor anyone else mentioned by Casey have said accused all teachers of engaging in such misconduct. What they have rightfully said is that the AFT aids and abets bad behavior by defending policies processes that make it difficult for school leaders to actually lead their schools — including the ability to hire and fire teachers who are criminally or educationally incompetent — and dishonor the high-quality teachers who work hard all day to help all children succeed. By defending these dismissal policies, the AFT is helping to foster the cultures of low expectations and abuse (educational and otherwise) that lead to 150 kids every hour dropping out of school into poverty, prison, and despair.
Casey’s use of “blood libel”, especially given that the term doesn’t fit the issue at hand in any possible way, shows that he is unworthy of any serious consideration. The fact that Casey conflates rightful criticism of the AFT’s positions, especially in light of the moves by affiliates in New York and California to beat back efforts to make it easier to remove dishonorable teachers, with the generally high regard for teachers among reformers and others (especially since in many states, teachers are forced to pay into AFT and National Education Association coffers, regardless of whether or not they want to be members) is also indicative of his sloppy thinking (and that of education traditionalists who tend to do similar conflations). And the fact that he continues to attempt to justify his statement even amid evidence that it was unjustified once again highlight’s Casey’s penchant for demanding civility from others that he doesn’t engage in himself.
Once again, Casey does neither himself nor the AFT any favors. But then, that isn’t shocking. As Instapundit‘s Glenn Reynolds noted earlier today in his comments on Dropout Nation’s report, Casey’s statement is “ typical of all sorts of folks in dying blue-model enterprises these days”. And the AFT’s old-school union model is one of them.
Update (5:06 p.m.): The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement today condemning Casey’s use of the term. The release notes that Casey has “reached out to ADL to express regret”. The new question is whether Casey will reach out to Brown, Wolfson, and others to express similar regret.
Update (10:00 a.m., August 8): Meanwhile Casey’s boss, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wrote on Twitter last night that Casey’s outburst “Regrettable use of words”, but justifies it by saying that Casey “was justifiable upset”. Sure. But then, as Dropout Nation has noted, this is nothing new.