Despite his every effort to keep the public from knowing the process of how a key public appointment affecting millions was made, the emails surrounding Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s ludicrous decision to appoint Cathie Black Chancellor of Education of the city of New York are here, at long last, for public scrutiny. One can easily understand why Bloomberg wanted to keep these words far from the public eye.
While there is no “smoking gun “ as Diane Ravitch has opined, there is ample (and tedious) evidence of the sheer shamelessness, arrogance, superficiality and abject cynicism at the heart of Bloomberg’s education policy. Consider the main thrust of the emails: in an appointment that was to affect the lives of a million children and their families, 85,000 teachers, and 14,000 schools reaching into every community in every corner of New York City, the people the Bloomberg administration seeks approval from are not parents or educators or community leaders or any one who will be affected by the move, but celebrities such as Oprah Winfry and pseudo political icons like Gloria Steinem and clueless Caroline Kennedy. (The name of Ivana Trump comes up as well but even the Bloomberg Administration, as disconnected from reality as they are, understood that an endorsement from Ivana might be going a bit too far. )
Indeed, they proved to be the only people Bloomberg reached out to. This suggests, among other dark thoughts occasioned by the emails, that the rich and famous are the only kind of people who matter, or, are in any meaningful way, real to Bloomberg. The rest of us are here to be manipulated, bullied, charmed by celebrities, purchased or simply ignored.
Here you have the minions of the mayor of New York, he who has billed himself the “education mayor”, he who challenged New Yorkers to judge him by how he handles our schools, twisting and torturing their words in email after email in their sad attempts to please their boss and fool the public into believing an insulting absurdity: that Cathie Black, publisher of glossy magazines, was a “visionary” and uniquely qualified to run the largest school system in the United States despite the fact that she had not 30 seconds of educational experience.
Reading this crap, one almost feels embarrassed for these shills. Almost. But then I remember what was at stake here.
The voice of Bloomberg or his speechwriter is heard only in an official letter to then New York State Education Commissioner David Sterner requesting a special wavier for the absurdly unqualified Black. (It should be noted that all three of Bloomberg’s selections for Chancellor required special waivers, which has to be some kind of record.) To his eternal shame, Steiner, son of the great literary critic George Steiner, granted Bloomberg’s request but only after stipulating that a special position be created to assist Black, thereby simultaneously admitting her utter lack of qualifications. Such are the risible decisions one encounters in the Age of Plutocracy.
To be fair to Bloomberg and to put Black in context, Bloomberg was merely implementing a staple of “education reformer” dogma: the insistence that knowledge and experience in education is irrelevant and perhaps even an impediment to bold new thinking that will allow our young ones to compete in the ever more savage global workplace– even if the bold new thinking is an eerie mirror of 19th century production line regimentation in new high tech disguise. Teach For America, NYC Leadship Academy , Eli Broads’ Superintendent Academies are all founded on this reckless notion. (An unspoken corollary seems to be that the higher you are catapulted in the field of education, the less experience you need. Consider non-educator Arne Duncan running Obama’s Department of Education) Excluding Duncan, Black was merely the most obscene and inept example of this foolishness.
And foolishness and cynicism of all kinds can be found all over these emails.
They are beyond sad. They are chilling in their casual indifference to truth and pathetic in their groveling after celebrity. They are also important as they are revealing of a very, very sad and dangerous state of affairs but in that revelation lay the hard, hard road out.
Read them for yourself: