Archive for January, 2011

Educators 4 Excellence: Brought to You by the Insidious Arm of the Disgustingly Rich

January 29, 2011
Brought to you by Bill Gates and and a whole host of hedge fund managers !

Brought to you by Bill Gates and and a whole host of hedge fund managers !

After a bit of pondering, I’ve concluded that from the list of cynical, disingenuous, insidious and astoundingly arrogant characters that make up the relentless billionaire backed hydra-headed campaign to privatize American public education, few are more cynical, disingenuous, insidious and astoundingly arrogant than Mr. Evan Stone and Ms. Sydney Morris, the two 25 year old teachers who founded and front Educators 4 Excellence (or E4E), a recent recipient of a $160,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and so much more. Gates, as anyone paying attention to the issue can attest, is the self-appointed de facto national education policy maker and as such he would top the list referred to above.

On Wednesday, January 25, 2011 Stone and Morris and their eight month old organization were the subject of not merely a luminous article but also a positively worshipful editorial (“ Teachers For Excellence” ) in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.

All that was missing was an audio of heavy breathing. But who knows what next week will bring.

The Post was only the latest in a long line of major media attention this bold young lion and lioness have garnered. They’ve been praised in The Wall Street Journal and all but genuflected to on Fox’s Varney and Company. This virtual shill convention must be seen to be believed. On it Stone not only compares himself to the founders of the United Federation of Teachers who risked their jobs and pensions to build the union this man is being paid to discredit but Varney and another talking head go much further: they liken Stone to the founders of American unionism itself, repeatedly referring to him and his front group as “ revolutionary.” The entire preposterous dialogue is entirely scripted and vehemently anti union.

Throughout it all, Stone humbly accepts this absurd comparisons and praise, oblivious to the fact that real fathers of unionism — men such as the Molly Maguires — would have hung the likes of corporate shills like Evan Stone from the nearest and highest tree.

It gets weirder: Despite the fact that he’s been teaching for three years (and has a completely unremarkable record at that) Mr. Stone was invited to sit on an education policy panel featuring the brilliant Diane Ravitch and then-Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky (currently employed as Cathy Black’s brain.) Then there’s the elevated crowd they’re suddenly hob-knobbing with, not to mention and the A List funding their work has inspired.

Helping Gates help E4E is a Who’s Who of the corporate education reform campaign, which, like the Tea Party, is a billionaire backed media effort passing itself off as a “grassroots” “movement. ” Among the prime movers of the E4E arm of the movement are John Sabat of mega hedge fund, SAC Capital, John Petry of Gotham Capital, and Whitney Tilson’s omnipresent front group, Education Reform Now and Democrats For Education Reform

And these are the only one’s I’ve been able to find out about.

And just who are this wunderkind who have created ex nihilo “a powerful group of teachers more concerned with kid’s futures than the fine print of their labor contract? ” Who are these youngsters “ giving parents new hope and making leaders of their union sweat. “? What exactly are they doing that’s causing all this excitement and raising all this money – not mention the sweat?

Fearless Leaders

Fearless Leaders

Have they created some wonderful new pedagogic method that will help our children grasp the fundamentals of math and science?

Are they proposing some revolutionary teaching method that will explain to students why the USA has the greatest disparity of wealth and poverty in the Western World?

Are they teaching their charges how to feed themselves in a world without work?

Are they for standing up to the billion dollar corporate scam that is the standardized test industry?

Are they horrified at an education so impoverished that is renders our children culturally illiterate?

Are they incensed at the state of an education policy that leaves our children virtually defenseless against an increasingly predatory pop culture?

Are they bucking the ever-metastasizing corporate hijacking of every aspect of reality including our schools systems?

No, no, no.

Nothing like that for these mavericks. Like the motto of Bloomberg’s DOE, the concern of E4E is
“ putting children first.”

Oh.

In fact, that collection of words somewhat approximating a thought is all over E4E’s website, a website bearing the greatest collection of platitudes I’ve seen in a long, long time. Check it out for your self ! It’s a scream!

E4E are also deeply concerned about the prestige of the teaching profession and, while they don’t come right out and say it, more than a little embarrassed by some of the union protected scumbags they work with who very clearly do not put children first. Mr. Stone and Ms. Morris want these parasites out and “good teachers” in. And who can blame them? And after teaching for a full three years who can possibly question their judgment? Who dare?

Revealing the same totalitarian impulse shared by some of their backers and many cults, the site also implores you to sign a pledge that you agree to E4E’s “principles. “

The major principle of E4E upon which all other principles rest, of course, is putting the children first. The insinuation, of course, (their only identifiable talent appears to be insinuating) is that that everyone who is not in E4E is putting kids somewhere else. Again, who can question their judgment?

E4E also wants to “ have a voice in the creation of polices that affect their profession and affect their students.”

Well, who doesn’t?

But wouldn’t that mean you actually knew something about the field you wish to affect?
And wouldn’t such knowledge take time and experience to accrue? And don’t you already have a union representing these very things? A union, like all unions in the USA that is being attacked from all side and at times?

I’d like to believe that anyone entering a field as complex, as nuanced, and as unpredictable as education would have at least a little humility – at least until you have some idea of what you’re doing. Humility, after all, is what allows you to learn.

Mr. Stone and Ms. Morris, mind you, have both been unremarkable teachers for three years. This last year they have apparently worked but one day a week.

Yet, somehow they know all the answers. They don’t actually say they have all the answers. As I stated above, like everything else they do, they insinuate that they have all the answers.

Allow me to repeat something: Mr. Stone and Ms. Morris have been full time teachers for three years.

I may be wrong but they seem to be demanding the right to negotiate their contract and to do so not through the UFT but somehow around the UFT — the same UFT that provides them with every protection and benefit they have. They seem to be demanding nothing short of a seat at the table.

The big, big table.

And they seem to be demanding it for no other reason than to surrender everything the good and brave men and women fought for, everything good and brave men and women risked creating a union so that fools such as themselves might be treated as professionals and have some dignity.

Wow.

Even in an age as demented as is ours, does something about these two people and this organization strike you as insane? Does anything about these two mediocrities and their absurd, insidious organization merit the amount of media attention they’ve received? Does anyone doubt that the huge amounts of cash dropped at their feet is in direct proportion to the degree their masters believe they’ll succeed in undermining the UFT?

Allow me to state the obvious: to believe you can speak with authority about teaching, about contracts, about what is means to “put students first ” after three years experience is beyond arrogance.

It is beyond foolishness.

It is hubris.

And the idea that, after three years you should
“ have a voice in the creation of polices that affect their profession and affect their students” is mind-boggling.

Indeed, everything about these two people and E4E is simultaneously ridicules and disturbing. Outside of their preposterous (or super-natural) conceit of knowledge, Stone and Morris make several claims that display a staggering lack of integrity. They claim, for example, that they are not anti union.

This is a lie. A hideous, insidious lie.

Consider E4E positions on everything — particularly tenure and seniority — two subjects they display no understanding of whatsoever. Contrary to Mike Bloomberg and his pals at the New York Post– conscious liars all — tenure does not mean and has never meant ” a job for life,” a phrase they repeat as often as they can for no other reason than to stroke the blind rage of a citizenry increasingly jobless and terrified.

Tenure means due process. Nothing more and nothing less. It means a teacher cannot be fired on the whim of a crazy principal or because he or she has a nephew who needs a job. It is difficult to understand what Stone and Morris are talking about when they talk about tenure. They seem to want tenure to be something that is earned on an annual basis, meaning whatever it is they are asking for, is not tenure in any recognizable sense of the word.

This change, they claim, is necessary to keep teachers from becoming complacent and thus failing to keep the students first. Tenure, according to the Stone, does nothing less than encourage complacency. A complacent teacher, by definition, does not put students first. Stone knows. He’s been a full time teacher for three years.

Hmmm.

Can you imagine any real teacher espousing this condescending, toadying idiocy? Can you imagine any teacher with any understanding of the arbitrary viciousness of the DOE under Bloomberg even considering this lunacy? More to the point, can you imagine any one who is not a paid and protected agent of union busting billionaires even suggesting this stuff with a straight face?

Seniority, on the other hand, E4E wishes to abolish altogether. Again, they wish to do this not for reasons of selfishness, mind you, nor to please their pay masters but for the kids who deserve the best teachers.

And E4E, saintly and wise beyond their years, knows exactly who they are and how to identify them.

As Gates and Broad and Bloomberg know, even if the idiots running E4E do not, the abolition of either of tenure or seniority would spell the death of the union. That same union that, somehow, E4E is not against.

It would also instantly usher in an era in which teachers would be virtually defenseless against a growing army of vindictive and clueless administrators, already growing like a cancer due to absurd institutions such as Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy and Eli Broad’s similar “academy” for instant superintendents. Both, needless to say, have been created exclusively to stock as many schools and school systems as possible with the monstrosities that are the logical result of the insane idea of the principal as a CEO.

Somehow, according to E4E, teachers stripped of rights and due process would create a world that would be better for kids, a world where teachers could be free to put students first. Somehow this world would then attract and retain dedicated professionals such as themselves. Just as importantly, such a world would repulse and reveal all those clock-watching scumbags who seem to surround them and make them so sad.

They know. They have been full time teaching for three years.

Is it merely a coincidence that the policies lusted after by Gates, the Wal-Mart family, Democrats for Education Reform, Eli Broad and Mike Bloomberg’s DOE and every other union busting organization in the nation and the polices sought by E4E are exactly the same?

Not similar, here and there, mind you, but exactly the same?

Consider too E4E’s desire for the scam called “merit pay.” Forget for a moment that ample evidence shows that merit pay makes no difference whatsoever in what is chillingly called “student achievement.”

Consider too that if there is a way to distribute merit pay fairly it has yet to be discovered. Consider then that merit pay gives teachers every incentive to game the system, garner the best students, avoid those most in need, and destroy the collaboration necessary for any decent school environment to function, never mind flourish.

In short, the desires of E4E – which are the desires of every privatizer in the US of A – are fundamentally and profoundly opposed to the ethos of solidarity and fraternity that is at the core of any true union. And anyone who has any knowledge or understanding of what a union is — or for that matter of basic history — would find these positions and these people repulsive.

They would also find the attempt to pass them off as anything but repulsive as contemptuous.

The Post’s love letter to E4E centered on a “conversation” between the followers of E4E and UFT President Michael Mulgrew, whom the paper slanders as often as possible. I must admit that I was mystified why a man of Mulgrew’s statute and intelligence would dignify this ridicules and miniscule group with a meeting. Still, I must assume he had his reasons. From all accounts, the meeting was unremarkable – except for something former Chancellor Joel Klein said to Mulgrew before his the Klein’s departure: “Chancellor Klein told me before he left: ‘I’m going to pit new teachers against older teachers and I’m going to do it by trying to make it look like we’re doing layoffs.’”

Despite the fact that city officials immediately denied that Klein ever said this, the statement rings true to me. Very true.

In fact, after I read it the idea came to me that Klein may well have been referring to Mr. Stone and Ms. Morris. How else to explain the fact that two teachers three years into the job are allowed to work one day a week in a public school system? How is that possible? Who is permitting it? On what grounds? Who is protecting these horrible people?

One hint can be found in a Gotham Schools post of last year, which tells of E4E throwing a party to celebrate the DOE’s announcement that there would be no teacher lay offs. And who was their guest of honor? Why none other than that friend of teachers everywhere — party animal Joel Klein!

Can you imagine any self-respecting teacher in all of NYC inviting this loathsome person to your party? Can you imagine Joel Klein showing up at a party held by any other group of teachers besides these champion ass kissers? Klein, mind you, is the man who needed police protection at PEP hearings.

The more you look at E4E the sleazier it gets. Nothing makes sense with these people or this organization. Nothing, that is, except that in exchange for being shameless shills for their billionaire backers and conscious operatives hired to undermine the UFT as much as possible, they will be given extraordinary privileges, protections and recompense.

Their work situation with the DOE should be investigated forthwith. It stinks to high heaven and points to collusion with the DOE.

Creatures of zero imagination, creativity and integrity, Mr. Stone and Ms Morris are of no importance in themselves for in themselves they are but ciphers and nothings who can only echo the weasel words of their masters and employers. What importance they and E4E does have is in what they reveal. What they reveal is the fragmentation of this nation. What they reveal is the logic of so many dwelling in perpetual survival mode where empathy is not and life is “an endless war of one man against all others.” What they reveal is a moral and spiritual void where only power over others is honored. What they reveal is the alignment of much of the media with the most anti democratic forces and individuals in the nation.

Above all these two fools reveal the ruthlessness of the dangerously rich who believe it is their right to strip us of our rights and to impose their will upon all they can, however they can. Mr. Stone and Ms. Morris are merely two willing and utterly shameless collaborators in that process. And rest assured, neither one of these “revolutionaries” have any intention whatsoever of working under the conditions they are demanding for others. Their job now is to tell others how to do their job — and how to put children first, of course.

They need to be exposed, all of them, as people who loathe democracy and the freedom of anyone other than themselves.

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Beneath Cathy Black’s Quips: The Real Scandal

January 24, 2011

Ever since I heard of the grotesques remarks of glossy magazine publisher/ Chancellor of Education Cathy Black to a group  of parents and politicians at a public meeting downtown    — the now infamous quips about birth control and Sophie’s Choice — something about the reportage of the incident gnawed at me.    Like everyone I spoke to, I too was stunned and disgusted by the words of this woman who, through the breathtaking hubris and ruthless machinations of a single man, the Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg, has been recklessly elevated to a place she is daily demonstrating she has no business being anywhere near.

But there she is.

The foolishness of Bloomberg’s choice and the cluelessness of Black, even when she’s been scripted, becomes more and more obvious by the day. Here’s what Black  had to say recently in an “ exclusive interview” on New York One concerning the prospect of laying off teachers due exclusively to Wall Street malfeasance on a staggering  scale.   ” We know,” says Black, ”  study after study shows the most effective people in front of our students, are the best teachers possible.” (http://www.ny1.com/content/top_stories/132569/ny1-exclusive–schools-chancellor-backs-proposal-to-overhaul-teacher-layoffs)

I think I know what Black is getting at with this nonsensical sentence — but that’s only because I know she’s parroting Bloomberg’s union busting sentiments calling for unilateral destruction of seniority rights for teachers. All for the good of the kiddies, of course, for Mr Bloomberg,  unlike his weak and cowardly predecessors at City Hall  is always  and always putting the children first.

The rational for Black’s  sentiment is  the commendable idea  that children should have good teachers. The goal is to undermine the teachers union.  The short term strategy , however, is to set one generation of teachers against another generation of teachers, the better to divide and conquer.  The long term idea seems to be to  reduce teachers  to part of a disposable, interchangeable work force,  not unlike, say,  fast food chain employees.

Think of all the money the city can save on pensions.

Of course, what “study after study” Black is referring to,  if indeed such “studies” exist at all, remain conveniently unidentified.  At any rate, I do not think it unfair to ask why the Chancellor of Education of the City of New York, she who is in charge of the edification of  over one million children, seems so often to struggle  to  express herself  in coherent sentences or with appropriate images.

According to the New York Times Black, who has no educational background whatsoever and has never been known to express the faintest interest  in a  field that is suddenly the obsession of   obscenely  rich America,  was selected by Bloomberg without so much as a job interview.

Think about that.

Previously a CEO in the age of their apotheosis,  Black  doubtless is used to being surrounded by sycophants and saying any damn thing that pops into her head without consequences of any kind. Hence her casual quips about birth control and her horrific reference to “ Sophie’s Choice.”

To her (kind of) credit, Black has apologized for her comments  — but only after they created a media storm that would not go away and that not even Bloomberg’s   minions or the man himself could   minimize.  But not for lack of trying.  Here’s Bloomberg   commenting on Black’s comments while pinch hitting for Cathy at a press conference and, incidentally, displaying the same verbal clarity as his charge: “When you go from the business world to the public world, it’s a very different world. People tend to take things out of context and maybe, I think, a little bit too seriously,” he ( Bloomberg) said. (http://www.dnainfo.com/20110118/downtown/mayor-bloomberg-defends-cathie-black-on-birth-control-joke-yet-again#ixzz1BoM06Udn)

Let us ignore Bloomberg’s first nonsensical sentence.  The fact that nothing Black said was taken out of context and that making references to birth control followed by an analogy to Auschwitz while speaking to a group of   parents angry because there are no seats for their school age children are, by any civilized measure, at the very least serious faux pas.

But this does not  seem to faze Mr. Bloomberg in the least.

Lighten up, he seems to be saying, she was only kidding.

No doubt she was.  At least about the birth control.  (And little doubt Bloomberg is beginning to fear that Cathy Black may well be on her way to playing the same role for him that former NYPD Commissioner/ convicted felon Bernard Kerick played for his predecessor Rudy Giuliani: the one  who calls his judgment into serious question.   And well she should. )

But back to the gnawing.

What disturbs me about the media coverage of the birth control incident is not  so much Black’s indefensible vulgarity and insensitivity , but the media’s complete lack of  interest in the horrific reality that was the genesis of her statement: To wit:  the enormous shortage of seats in schools for children of a  downtown neighborhood.

A little history: In the aftermath of 9/11 in an ostensible and heavily advertised effort to rebuild the devastated downtown area and reestablish it, after a long exodus  as a residential area, the city of New York granted permits for close to 14,000 apartments and gave developers enormous tax breaks to build them. Build them they did, and due to the tax breaks they did  so to a large extent on the public  dime.   The city’s pitch was to families.  The lure was the building of new communities.  The understandable understanding of these families was that new  communities, by definition,  would need and include schools.

And there’s the rub.  For all their ceaseless and deceptive self congratulatory blather about opening hundreds of new schools, what the DOE never says is that the Bloomberg administration, by design, has failed to build a single new school building.   Question: how is it that you open hundreds of “new” schools and at the same time invite charter schools   to take over existing district schools without only causing massive dislocation but also, in areas where the city population is growing exponentially, without a massive shortage of desperately needed and legally guaranteed seats?

Answer:  You can’t.

All you can do is set community against community, neighborhood against neighborhood, family against family in a demoralizing  battle for what is rightfully theirs.

Or you can send them packing.

Blogger Tricia Joyce, one of those who was lured downtown by the city’s promise of a new community, estimates that 37% of her neighborhood will have to leave if Bloomberg’s DOE cannot provide the schools and infrastructure that is needed and within the rights of residents.   There is no evidence  that the DOE has given the  matter five seconds of thought.  And therein, obscured by Black’s vulgarity, lies the real scandal: the spectacular mismanagement of the DOE under managerial divinity Michael R. Bloomberg.

Or not.

Like his barely concealed lust for the presidency,  our mayor may have larger things in mind: namely that under his control New York City’s public schools would be the  first in the USA to be totally given over to his beloved  private sector.   Given the relentless if insidious effort to privatize public education in NYC and across the land, Bloomberg’s failure to build a single school building may just as well be a stroke of tactical if diabolical genius, designed to help allow the system to collapse; designed  be one more spoke in the wheel slowly and steadily turning our public school system into a corporate gravy train; yet another example of the increasingly common corporate tactic  of using state power to crush all opposition  for private gain.

Who could put anything past this man ?

Think of the billions to be made on text books, test prep, testing making, private consultants, any number of coming teacher surveillance systems and so and so on.  And not a dime to rent or  real estate.

Time will tell.

Black’s words, no matter how you slice them and dice them, were indefensibly vulgar and thoughtless. But they pail in light of a school that is  needed and is not there.  This is the real scandal and this is exactly what no media outlet that I’m aware of even mentioned in any report on the incident.

Why ?

Black’s words will soon be forgotten, replaced I  expect, by equally foolish remarks.  Meanwhile, yet another example of the DOE’s transparent failure to meet the basic needs and grant the basic rights to an entire community of New Yorkers goes essentially unreported by a media more interested in faux pas than in the rights of parents and children.

Or in laying that failure squarely where it belongs:  at the feet of the Honorable Michael R.  Bloomberg.