Bashing the parents of the students you teach, especially those who fought to get kids back into your classroom and freed from irrational and harmful totems like face masks, is apparently a good career move for some New York City schoolteachers — and profitable, too.
Bobson Wong, a 17-year veteran math teacher, was just awarded $20,000 and the MfA Muller Award for Professional Influence in Education for “influencing the teaching profession in exceptional ways” and his “ability to have a positive impact within [his] school community and drive change outside of [his] own classroom.”
On Twitter, meanwhile, Wong regularly and publicly shares his disdain for the parents of his students who advocated opening schools — in Marxist, classist language.
“When I see the ‘keep schools open’ screaming about ending mask mandates from the comfort of their home offices in their posh neighborhoods unaffected by COVID, I shake my head. Centering your convenience at the expense of everyone is the embodiment of privilege.”
Wong might want to seek out an English teacher for a refresher class in irony. No single profession had their “convenience centered” more than unionized public-school teachers who fought to keep them “working” from home and made sure they were first in line for vaccines (and did not have to return to work after being vaccinated!).
The teachers union also successfully fought off the reasonable request to livestream class lessons when up to two-thirds of students were at home because of New York City’s insane union-driven cohorting system, which did nothing to lower transmission of COVID and did so much to deny so many public-school children stranded at home days, weeks and months of in-person school.
Teachers, ER doctors, EMTs, firefighters, cops, corrections officers and MTA bus drivers and subway conductors who worked through the pandemic could help explain to Wong what “centering your convenience” and “privilege” actually look like.
So could the parents, mostly moms, who left the workforce and had careers end or stall so they could do the jobs that teachers were still being paid to do — you know, teach kids. Wong has an impressive pedigree: He’s a Bronx Science graduate with a BA from Princeton and two master’s degrees. He may well be a great math teacher.
But one wonders: Wouldn’t all those degrees and nearly two decades of teaching math imbue some basic numeracy? New York’s extended school closures and lockdowns did nothing to slow or stop the COVID transmission that ravaged our city in spring 2020. In the end, New York state fared worse than Florida, our polar opposite when it comes to pandemic policy, in terms of mortality rates.
New York’s self-inflicted economic damage, youth mental-health crisis and devastating learning loss are what we open-school parents were trying to prevent. And we were right to do so, Mr. Wong. We were also brave, stubborn, resilient and, eventually, immune to the lame and ridiculous accusation of privilege tossed around by you and so many others.
We did not have the privilege of letting your vitriol bother us — we had to do the hard work of getting schools open.
Maud Maron is a co-founder of Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education (PLACE-NYC) and former Democratic congressional candidate.