Wearing Anonymity

I wear my anonymity loosely. It’s mostly fine if you know who I am. It’s Google I want kept in the dark.

“Mostly” in that sure, there are people out there who would be very happy to see me lose my job, and I’d just as soon those people didn’t have the opportunity to put together a campaign to get me fired. While I have just recently obtained tenure (whooohoo!), I’m not at all sure that tenure would protect me in this circumstance. Despite all the whines, teachers with tenure are fired all the time. The administrator just has to want it. Just ask Natalie Munro, a tenured teacher who blogged about her “lousy” students and was gone within two years. I despise Munro’s behavior, but I believe her over the administration when she says she had no problems before her blog.

For the record, my school administrators think I’m terrific, and I admire their work. I have never knowingly said anything offensive or critical about my co-workers, bosses, or students. Even when I’ve disagreed with them, my disagreement has been couched as “choices are hard”. I love my current school and I’ve always loved all my students at every school.

But we teachers aren’t guaranteed first amendment protection, and the rules on blogging are very fuzzy. My administrators know about my blog; I hope they check in on it periodically, although that’s unlikely. None of that would save me if there was the wrong kind of fuss.

For this reason, I don’t tell people who I am without asking that they not disclose this information online. Gender, location, name, all left out of the discussion. Every person I’ve informed of my identity has complied with this request. The bulk of the people I’ve told were journalists. The rest were mostly professors or policy wonks. And this number is very, very small–no more than 15-20 people.

That means if someone out there in the wide world of the internet says “Ed Realist is Mark Murgatroyd from Chicago” or “Ed Realist is a San Francisco-based teacher who hates Asians” or “Ed Realist also posts as Lance Jackson” or “Ed is one of those rare women who speaks honestly about race and IQ”, that person did not get this information from me. In some cases, they believe they have guessed my identity but are speaking of it, wrongly, as a fact. In others, they read this information at another site from another person who did not get this information from me. In still other cases, they may have heard the information second-hand offline from someone who did get it from me, although I doubt that last one. I’m not important enough to discuss offline.

I’m not commenting about the accuracy or inaccuracy of the information. Nor do I want anyone to go out there and build a case for me being person X or person Y. I’m not saying “nyah, nyah, you can’t catch me, coppers!” My blog has gotten much, much bigger than I ever dreamed. I would have kept age, parental status, and a few other details back had I known. Anyone who wanted to build a logical case to strongly suggest that person X is me could probably manage it.

For this reason, I try very hard not to be coy, give hints, or deny. Someone claims I live in Location Y, I respond I’ve never mentioned my geographic area online. Someone claims I’m a man or a woman, I respond that I’ve never mentioned my gender online. Someone claims that I’m teacher X, I respond that I’ve never identified myself online. I like to think that’s why I’ve managed three years of anonymity, but then maybe no one has ever cared enough. I hope I’m still unimportant enough that this post won’t lead to speculation about my identity.

I would appreciate reader consideration when characterizing me and my work. I’m a teacher. I used to be a tutor and test prep instructor. Anything else I mentioned on my blog you are free to use, but try not to overstate.

If you’ve read someone comment about my gender, location, or identity, please remember they did not get this information from me. No reason to get into a pissing match, but a link to this statement would be appreciated.

If you think you know who I am: You might be right. So what? What is it you hope to achieve by posting about your guess? If you’re wrong, you could be hurting another teacher. If you’re right, then you could be putting me at risk of losing my beloved job. If that’s what you want, well, then I guess I can’t stop you.

But you didn’t get the information from me.

About educationrealist

25 responses to “Wearing Anonymity

  • Mark Roulo

    So my takeaway is that Mark Murgatroyd is Lance Jackson 🙂 And also a woman.

  • Polynices

    Interesting. I could have sworn that at some point you said something that clearly implied you were a woman. That made me think that you weren’t trying to cloak that part of your identity. But maybe I imagined that?

    Anyway, I do hope that you’re able to remain as anonymous as you want. You provide a great service and I wouldn’t want to see you suffer any consequences.

    • educationrealist

      Don’t think so.

      However, it’s possible you’ve read another blog refer to me as “she” and I haven’t corrected it. I also don’t correct bloggers that refer to me as “he”. I’ve never been referred to as “it”.

      • Roger Sweeny

        I think you a self-hating trans person (Maggie Murgatroyd?). Why else would you even bring up being referred to as “it”?

      • Mark Roulo

        “I think you a self-hating trans person (Maggie Murgatroyd?). Why else would you even bring up being referred to as ‘it’?”

        (lowers head in partial shame …)
        I have been known to use the “it” pronoun for folks with an unspecified gender. I’ve not referred to Ed that way … but it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility.

        What *I* want is an English 3rd person pronoun that covers the “has gender but I’m not specifying which one”. “s/he” isn’t that pronoun. I’m not holding my breath to get my wish any time soon (*).

        [I like using the ending “critter” for this sometimes, but it works best when used as a plural. For example, “I don’t think the congresscritters will go for that.”]

        (*) What I really want is 1st/2nd/3rd singular/plural where for gender I can specify masculine/feminine/neuter/has-one-but-not-specified/don’t-know

      • DensityDuck

        I always love seeing people who get so very, very angry about how English lacks a gender-neutral third-person pronoun but you can’t just use “they” because that is TOTALLY FOR PLURAL AND WE CAN’T EVER CHANGE THAT.

  • Jim

    I’m somewhat amazed that you are very concerned about what might happen to you if your identity were revealed since I’ve never seen anything on your blog that even comes remotely close to cause for being fired.

    Do you think that a lot of teachers today are afraid to express their actual opinions?

    • educationrealist

      I write about race and IQ. I write about Asians. I say that the reason for the achievement gap is probably cognitive. All of those things put me at risk. From a teaching standpoint, I believe I’m okay. I work hard at not criticizing anyone at work, and while someone might find my comments offensive, I think they would agree it wasn’t intended.

      • Lagertha

        I know…that is probably why I can understand the anxiety you have. I have always been very naive about how my opinions could make someone want to aggressively attack me in any way…doesn’t matter what side of the social/political group they identify with. To me, people’s obsession with YOUR identity, is once again, a sign of how society has changed since the internet. People want to know lurid details of others, they thoroughly enjoy schadenfreude, explicitly delight in hurting people ESPECIALLY, if it is on a blog and they can hide behind a pseudonym.

        Since I have been in my teens, I have sensed that the many people (at least in Western countries) have low self-esteem. And, people who have low self-esteem, and are insecure about numerous things (looks, weight, social currency, career-climbing, their financial situation) are predisposed to argue with or criticize someone they are intimidated by. A long time ago, a gay friend of mine said that “you and your blue eyes don’t get that most people are evil layabouts (his word for people who, in his words, were incredibly average) who have nothing better to do than bring you down” – of course, we were talking about the cut-throat professional world of the visual-creative sector where there are huge egos everywhere and competition is not for the timid. Godspeed.

  • amac78

    Dear ER, Thanks for this. You’re talking about doxxing, an online practice that is either vile (if you value free exchange of ideas about controversial topics), or virtuous and fun (if you are a Social Media Justice Warrior, or its right-wing equivalent).

    The pseudonymous blogger Scott Alexander has discussed this sport a number of times, e.g. here.

    When it comes to Google, it’s probably insufficient that 99% of your readers are decent people.

    • educationrealist

      Wow. I only started reading Scott Alexander recently, but it’s so weird to see comments from people on the left. And they’re freaky scary, which is why I am, in the end, just a skosh over the line of right of center.

      Yeah, I know it’s called “doxxing”. That’s a new term. Used to be called “outing”.

  • Red

    I’ve read most of your essays and it never occurred to me that you might be a woman. The HBD, all the math, the profile picture…..

  • Phillipmarlowe2terry

    Thanks for this post. I appreciate it. I understand things better.
    As for your blogging, I really enjoy how you make the connection between what goes on in the classroom and what the policy wonks think and write about.

  • Actuary

    ER, I was hoping you would write a piece about the cheating culture in colleges (Around 75% of all US college students cheat) and how Americans “cop out” and avoid hard subjects like Math and Physics and go for easier majors like English to boost their GPA.

  • GSP


    I am a new reader of your blog and greatly appreciate your candor and emotionally detached discussion of data. From what I’ve read so far it’s outside your core interests, but I’d love to see some posts from you discussion possible mechanisms of change to the educational system. The system is entrenched at so many levels, I really can’t see a viable way to even begin to move the needle.

    From a political standpoint, it would be suicide to promote tracking, as by definition, a majority of children will be left out of the top tier. It’s too easy to whip the public into a frenzy over exclusion when 85%+ of peoples’ children will be excluded from the most prestigious and lucrative tracking tiers. Dead in the water.

    Colleges and Universities, minus a small slice of top programs are first and foremost business. Changing admissions standards to reflect actual ability is a poor business decision as the pool of paying customers is greatly diminished.

    The concepts are critical to discuss, so a core group exists to affect change when the opportunity arises. Unfortunately, I can’t see how this can happen until an utter collapse occurs.

    • Mark Roulo

      “From a political standpoint, it would be suicide to promote tracking, as by definition, a majority of children will be left out of the top tier.”

      *IF* properly presented, I don’t think this has to be the case.

      I’ll illustrate with an example from Little League, which my son has played since he was 5.

      Several years ago, my son was going into his age 10 season. He could, if he wanted to, try out for “majors”, which is/was usually 11 and 12 year olds but will take talented 10 year olds. Or he could play one more year of “minors,” which is mostly 9 and 10 year olds and a few not-very-good-11-year olds (all 12 year olds must play majors).

      My son played one more year of minors as did a friend of his (we didn’t coordinate this … we found out when the season began). We knew the players in the league fairly well and (a) both boys were almost certainly good enough to be selected for “majors”, but (b) both boys probably would *NOT* be good enough when competing with 11 and 12 year olds to do well. They’d sit on the bench more and play the less desirable positions when they did play. Both boys had a great season playing in minors (“great” = did well and had fun). They both moved up to “majors” the next year.

      The next year, in majors, my son had a kid on his team who was 10. This kid (or his dad) had made the opposite choice from ours the previous year. The kid was good enough that at age 10 in minors he would have been one of the better kids (so more and better playing time, leader on the team, etc), but as a 10 year old he was *quite* overmatched by the 11 and 12 year olds in majors. It went very poorly (which was sad). What could have been a year where he was one of the stars on the team turned into a very bad year.

      So … I don’t think it has to be automatic that all parents want their kids in the top track no matter what. I want my kid in the *correct* track for his skill level and I have at least one example of another parent who feels the same way. If we could come up with moderately objective tests for each track, I think parents would quickly learn to prefer the *correct* track rather than the one where their kid was overwhelmed all the time.

      • GSP

        I hadn’t considered the sports analogy prior to your post. I’d like to think the same objective thinking would prevail, but I am not optimistic. While I do believe a majority of parents harbor at least a somewhat realistic view of athletic ability, I don’t think the same can be said yet for academic achievement. That said, this is one thing I’d be ecstatic to be wrong about!

      • DensityDuck

        The problem with a sports analogy is that if someone declares my kid to be “not top tier” in sports, that doesn’t mean he won’t be allowed to go to the colleges that prepare you for a career beyond retail-or-food-service.

  • cro

    GSP, I cannot imagine that most parents are really realistic about their children prospects in either sports or academia when it comes to what they think they can fulfil. Most parents don’t have the emotional discipline to be realistic.

    ER, I know who you are….BARACK OBAMA.

    …and I’ve known all along. Clever Mr. Obama, but not clever enough!

  • Gordo

    You talk a lot of sense and address taboo topics, therefore you are better remaining anonymous, this is a controlled, skewed and unnatural society in the West now.

  • Same Thing All Over Again–But Events Happen | educationrealist

    […] **Please don’t speculate, particularly to others. Remember how I wear anonymity. […]

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