You may remember Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of the LA Teacher’s Union. Myart-Cruz was one of several union leaders around the country who pushed to keep teachers from returning to school last fall and even earlier this year. While the union demanded teachers be fully vaccinated before returning to classrooms, a private UTLA Facebook group warned teachers not to post photos of their spring break vacations because it might not look good.
Last week Los Angeles Magazine published a story based on an interview with Myart-Cruz. If you’re thinking she might have had second thoughts about shutting schools down for 18 months, think again:
After settling into in a swivel chair and slowly removing her zebra-print face mask, the 47-year-old lightning rod for controversy calmly sets her hands on the table and begins issuing a series of incendiary statements that almost seem aerodynamically designed to grab headlines and infuriate critics. Like this one: “There is no such thing as learning loss,” she responds when asked how her insistence on keeping L.A.’s schools mostly locked down over the last year and a half may have impacted the city’s 600,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade students. “Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup.” She even went so far as to suggest darkly that “learning loss” is a fake crisis marketed by shadowy purveyors of clinical and classroom assessments.
This is, unfortunately, not the first time I’ve heard this stupid argument. The head of the San Francisco school board was saying essentially the same thing back in February when presented with evidence that shutting down schools widened the achievement gap: “They’re just having different learning experiences than the ones we currently measure, and the loss is a comparison to a time when we were in a different space.”
It’s astounding to me that people this clueless are in positions of power over education. But this is how many on the left see education, as a chance to promote left-wing causes, never mind minor things like kids learning their times tables. But LA Magazine notes that kids in LA weren’t learning much of anything because most of them weren’t even logging on for classes.
Last spring, for example, an astonishing 64 percent of L.A. Unified’s middle- and high-schoolers—some 129,000 kids—were not actively engaging in the district’s online learning program, according to a report by the nonprofit advocacy group Great Public Schools (citing the LAUSD’s own internal analysis). Hardly any of the district’s 229,000 elementary school students were logging on at all.
But Myart-Cruz had other priorities in mind. And those other priorities still might determine whether or not kids in LA get back to classrooms this fall or continue with hybrid classes.
What was particularly alarming to parents in the lead-up to the school year was the prospect that L.A.’s schools might continue with hybrid learning into the fall. Nothing she said during our interview would have done much much to allay those concerns. “We will be going back to the table for that conversation,” she said about the prospects for fully reopening in the fall. The end game, she insists, “is getting back into schools as safe as possible,” but she is bracingly honest about that not being her only goal. “Are there broader issues at play? Yes, there are,” she says. “Education is political. People don’t want to say that, but it is.”
There’s no doubt the UTLA is political. The spent the last year focusing on “racial justice, Medicare for all, the millionaire tax, financial support for undocumented families, rental and eviction relief” and so on. As you could probably guess, any resistance to efforts to push leftist views even as children were not learning their times tables was automatically viewed as “white supremacist.”
She posted an article to Facebook in which a school superintendent in Chicago charged that parents pushing to get kids back in the classroom were fueled by “white-supremacist thinking.” “Right on!” Myart-Cruz wrote approvingly, going on to claim that she and other UTLA staffers were being “stalked by wealthy, white, Middle Eastern parents.”
Myart-Cruz even ordered a “study” to identify the race of her most prominent critics. One of those critics, a parent named Maryam Qudrat, actually got an email from the UTLA asking detailed questions about her ethnic background. “Cecily Myart-Cruz made this whole thing into some sort of racial war,” she told LA Magazine. Again, is anyone surprised by this? When all you have is a race hammer…
But the victims in this battle are kids. Research from the NWEA suggests Black and Latino students have suffered greater learning losses as a result of being kept out of classrooms than white and Asian students. So the idea that Myart-Cruz is fighting for social justice is the opposite of reality.
The story ends by quoting a friend of Myart-Cruz who said, “Cecily wishes the world could be more like a classroom where she could get people to break down the boundaries between them and make them into a community.” He added, “With her in charge.”