So I woke up this morning to the news that New York State Education Commissioner John King, who never met a reformer he didn’t grovel to or a reform idea, tested or not, that he didn’t want to impose on an entire system, has been booted out or moved up or both, depending on how you look at it or who you read.
At any rate, King is soon to be gone.
Here and there bloggers have written of feelings of joy and the like at King’s departure. For myself, as much as I find the man a complete fraud and utterly reprehensible, King’s departure makes me feel, well… nothing much at all.
Yes, I’ll be glad not to see his can’t -you –see- how –sincere- I am face so much or to hear his whiny arrogant voice but it is near impossible for me to believe that King will be replaced by another better, or even different, than himself.
The news brings to my mind the changing chancellorships in New York City under the wretched reign of Mike Bloomberg: the prosecutional era of former prosecutor Joel Klein, followed by the ephemeral and clueless moment of the preposterous Cathy Black, followed, in turn, by the return of the steady, deadening hand of professional Yes Man Dennis Walcott. Through them all, the only thing that changed was the name of the chancellors and, as the reformers are constantly coming up with new terrible ideas, the methods of undermining the schools, busting the union and stripping the teachers of autonomy and morale.
Nothing changed because, despite their titles, not one of these chancellors was actually in charge. (Under orders to destroy the teachers union by any means possible, Klein may have come up with a few of his own ideas, but Black and Walcott? No way. ) Principally they came from Bloomberg but also indirectly from people like Bill Gates and Eli Broad, to say nothing of the ever expanding Wall St and hedge contingent of education experts. All of these nominal chancellors were taking their orders from others in ways that mocked they very idea that these were civil servants, mocked even more the idea that they were beholden to the people they served.
Not one of those chancellors was in charge and neither was King.
King, who spent two or three years in a classroom before becoming a charter school entrepreneur, was catapulted to the status of state commissioner because those who catapulted him understood that herein was a man who could be trusted to obey orders.
And obey orders King did.
As far as I can see, no campaign ( it is NOT a movement ) has so cynically exploited the nightmare of America’s racism as has the billionaire based education reform campaign, so the fact that King was completely malleable and African American made him the perfect choice of the ed reformers who declared ( and declare and declare ) that “education is the civil rights issue of our time.” Accordingly, King was the perfect Manchurian Commissioner. Perfect, that is, for a year or two while King enjoyed the luxury of seldom having to actually face the public he ostensibly served and consistently betrayed.
All this changed in the wake of the Common Core debacle in which, as King predicted, some 70% of New York students failed the new whiz bang tests and parents were increasingly horrified and disgusted at what was happening to their kids and their kids’ teachers under the miraculous new Common Core regime.
Rebellion was in the air, and somebody somewhere thought it would be a good idea if the seemingly mild mannered King went to a few choice locations throughout the state to enlighten and lecture the huddled masses yearning to be free as to the miraculous powers of the Common Core, a power that King, like virtually all education reformers, mysteriously withholds from his own children.
But, to King’s surprise, the masses – which is to say, the parents of the children in King’ s charge and the teachers who were teaching them — were in no mood for a lecture. King’s towering arrogance and thinly disguised contempt toward both parents and teachers, his rote arguments based on nothing but stale crème puffs and his anger at being obliged to actually answer questions was not, as they say, well received.
The Traveling King show was abruptly cancelled to allow its star a prolonged pouting fit, only to be revived for two performances in New York City along with guest star Meryl Tisch. The Brooklyn show, disgracefully stage-managed by operatives of Michelle Rhee’s front StudentsFirst who were allowed into the venue an hour early, swined up all but a few speaking spots and, generally speaking, treated King’s appearance as if he was making a monumental sacrifice simply deigning to be there among them.
King’s act was wearing thin and King became a liability for the people who orchestrated his meteoric rise to power. Like Cathy Black, King’s problems were
not because of his policies which he steadfastly and robotically defended, but because of public relations, far and away the dominant force behind a decade of so called “education reform. ”
King never rebounded.
That may be one reason that King, whether through his own volition or not, is gone. Who knows?
To me, only three things are certain. The first is that, in return for his service to them, John King will continue to reside on Easy Street for the rest of his mortal life. His billionaire friends will see to that.
The second is that whoever is named to replace King will, in terms of policy, in no meaningful way differ from King. Like the chancellors under Bloomberg, only the face will change.
Such is the oligarchic way.
The third is that, barring a miracle or a catastrophe, the destruction of public education in the state of New York will continue unabated and, in light of Andrew Cuomo’s remarkable promise to “break the last monopoly,” likely even accelerate.
That too is the way of oligarchy.