Posts Tagged ‘Lois Wierner’

Bloomberg: Good Riddance to the Corruptor And All He Stands For

January 1, 2014


The seemingly interminable mayoralty of Michael R. Bloomberg has at last come to an end. Bloomberg, it should be recalled, arrived on the scene as a political novice and ran on the notion that his business savvy was just what the city needed and that immense wealth would keep him above the corruption which had periodically stained other administrations, most recently that of the now sanctified Ed Koch. A rich man, so the thinking went, was beyond corruption. An immensely rich man, such as Bloomberg, was that much the more above corruption. That may or may not be true. But what is certainly true is just as riches might place one beyond the temptations of more traditional forms of corruption – financially enriching oneself — it simultaneously provides the means to corrupt others and to bend them to your will with promises of a life on permanent Easy Street in exchange for implementing ones policies, even if such policies bear only a nominal relationship to previous ways of doing things. All you needed to do was surrender your principles, sell your soul and submit to the will of Mike Bloomberg.

Many did.

Bearing that distinction in mind, I submit with no fear of contradiction that Bloomberg, who, as the plutocrat politician is something new and horrific in the American political reality, is far and away the most corrupting mayor in the history of New York City. Indeed, as most clearly evidenced in the disgraceful machinations that led to his third term, machinations that ignored the will of millions of New Yorkers who twice voted for term limits and revealed much of the City Council to be Bloomberg’s valets, corrupting was Bloomberg’s modus operandi. And a highly effective method at that.

The method was most effective and most evident in Bloomberg’s radical restructuring of the public school system, meant to lead, intrinsically, to a radical reconfiguration of labor relations. Twelve years after the political ascent of Bloomberg, several campaigns, all linked, all unknown or very murky at the time, have become crystal clear to all who wish to see them. The first is that Bloomberg’s covert intention from day one of his mayoralty was to privatize the NYC public school system and do so by any means necessary. The second was that the United Federation of Teachers was to be destroyed altogether or rendered powerless. The third and most important was that what Bloomberg was doing to schools in New York City and other mayors were doing to schools in other major American cities was neither coincidental nor part of a zeitgeist but was the initial steps in a long term neo liberal agenda backed by the richest individuals and corporations in the nation as well as the leaders of both political parties. The plan is to privatize all remaining aspects of the social contract, most crucially the school system. For a comprehensive analysis of this insidious campaign, see The Global Assault on Teaching, Teachers and Their Unions by Mary Compton and Lois Weiner or Weiner’s The Future of Our Schools.)

Bloomberg’s method toward achieving this end was two- fold: 1) place already corrupted individuals in positions of enormous power and influence. Hence Joel Klein, Cathy Black, and Dennis Walcott, non-educators all, as Chancellors of Education. 2) Create corrupt institutions such as The Leadership Academy, built on the sociopathic and ultimately suicidal ideas of Jack Welch, designed to spit out principals needing no educational background whatsoever to run schools along the lines of businesses and to undermine unions. In this way the traditional role of principal as “first teacher” was overnight corrupted into the vulgar idea of the principal as the CEO. Such CEO principals were given jobs all over the city so that they would soon dominate the school system, hounding, demoralizing and firing fine teachers, and reducing our children to data points.

Bloomberg helped corrupt the very idea of education by reducing all criteria for learning to a standardized test, all evaluations to data.
With his repeated attempts to institute merit pay, a scheme that has been proven a failure for over a century, Bloomberg attempted to corrupt teachers, turning all against each other in an ceaseless competition for better students, which, by design would leave the most neediest students as pariahs as teachers were forced to debase their souls to save their jobs.

With his embrace and ceaseless promotion of charter schools Bloomberg helped corrupt communities, turning residents against each other at the same time corrupting the very idea of a public education system.

With an appeals system that virtually approves the rating of every principal over every poorly rated teacher – a scandal that merits comparison with any true totalitarian system and one that had to be ordered from the top — Bloomberg could be said to have corrupted whatever remnants of due process remained for teachers as well as the souls of every single DOE flunky that went along with it. This very grotesque display of human obsequiousness was on public display for all to see in the hand picked zombies who made up Bloomberg’s Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), the single most undisguised totalitarian governmental unit I’ve ever seen in America.

One could go on and on. The damage Bloomberg has done to students, teachers, schools, parents, entire communities, is incalculable. And the problem with corruption, and particularly the form of corruption that Bloomberg thrived, on which is both personal and institutional, is that it is far easier to induce than it is to remove.
But removed it must be. In all its forms. It is a monumental task and one that will take courage, resolve and patience. And we all have our parts, however seemingly small, to play. The first is in the demand that it be done.

Bill De Blasio is our new mayor and Carmen Farina, a career educator, our new chancellor. They are question marks, both, yet there is reason to be hopeful, and hope is a feeling I’ve not felt about my city and my profession for many a long, long time.

It is brisk and the sun is shining. I’m going to take a New Year’s Day walk with my family and breathe in the air in my city, in our city.

New York Times Editorials Reveal A Complete Ignorance of Common Core

August 20, 2013


But two days after a sizable anti-Common Core rally in suburban Port Jefferson, Long Island, the venerable New York Times saw fit to publish not one but two editorials in two days, not merely praising the Common Core State Standards, but attempting to reduce almost all criticism of it to right wing nut jobs like Glenn Beck and the Tea Party. To make matters worse, the editorials were written by Times heavy hitters Bill Keller and, sadly, Paul Krugman. Both articles reveal Keller and Krugman to be completely ignorant of both the Common Core Standards themselves, their genesis, as well as to the ever widening and deepening political opposition to the entire billion-dollar Common Core campaign.
Nonetheless both articles are a massive public relations gift to corporate education reformers nation wide – and you can rest assured they will make use of them. Moreover, by insinuating that most opposition to the CCSS derives from the far right, the articles are simultaneously an insult to the hundreds of thousands of educators from coast to coast who distrust or even loathe the Common Core and all that it stands for — particularly the very real fear that intrinsically related high stakes testing combined with junk science testing will lead to their termination — as well as to leading education scholars and activists such as Diane Ravitch, Lois Wiener, Gary Rubinstein, Leonie Haimson, Arthur Goldstein, Carol Burris, Anthony Cody, and Susan O’Hanian, to name but a few. Both Keller and Krugman seem oblivious to them all.
Neither seems to be aware of the fact that the Common Core has never even been field tested.
Neither writer seems to be aware that states were pressured if not coerced into “adopting” the Common Core because they were bankrupt.
Neither writer seems aware of the fact that, so great are the potential corporate profits, states were pressured into signing on to the Common Core before it was even finished.
Neither writer seems to be aware than prominent educators ( as opposed to politicians and billionaires) and have very serious issues with how developmentally appropriate the Common Core actually is and some are nothing less than appalled.
Neither writer, that is, seems to have a clue.

Whereas Keller’s piece reads as if it were cribbed from Arne Duncan press releases with political slants provided by Thomas Friedman and David Brooks, Krugman’s piece reads like a dashed off afterthought, seemingly composed solely to support Keller’s would-be -arguments, and, highly uncharacteristic of Krugman’s work, contains not a single original thought. For his sake, I hope Krugman, always the most prescient and intrepid of the Times scribes, was drunk when he wrote it so that he might be excused for employing such extravagant or even silly language such as “ entirely praiseworthy” to describe a subject he clearly knows absolutely nothing about.

Note: I have read the Times consistently my entire adult life and I do not recall a single instance in which two writers wrote essentially the same article two days in a row on the same subject.

Given the prestige and national reach of the Times, the tag team approach is an immense gift to corporate reformers and, to that end, the timing of the articles could not have been better. There has been evidence of ever growing parental dissatisfaction over the CCSS since the 30% drop in test scores that were bizarrely celebrated by virtually the entire New York City and New York State education hierarchy. Such dissatisfaction culminated in Saturday’s rally on Long Island.
I lost respect for both Bill Keller in particular and the New York Times in general years ago when they both reduced themselves to mindless cheerleaders for the butchery of Iraq (it was not a war), which has been proven to have been exactly what many of it critics predicted it would be: a pointless, needless and grotesque slaughter based on deliberately falsified evidence, rank ideology and colossal hubris.

Structurally, minis the bloodshed and the bombs, something similar is afoot with the plutocrats and corporate America’s ceaseless and insidious campaign for the Common Core. So here we are a decade later with that debacle having receded from American consciousness altogether, and here is the same Bill Keller pontificating about yet another war ( “The War on the Core” ) based on falsified data, widely exaggerated threats with equal ignorance and hubris.

Oh! And let us not forget Condi Rice and Joel Klein declaring American education to be a threat to national security!

(Note: in the same way public relation firms tricked Americans into referring to McDonald’s as the almost familial “Mickey D’s”, adherents of the Common Core State Standards seem to refer to the thing, as does Keller, as the much cozier “the Core.”)
Whereas in Iraq there was falsified evidence, with the Core there simply is no evidence at all: the Common Core, like much of corporate education reform, is entirely faith based. It troubles Keller not at all that the deceptively named Common Core State Standards are yet another extra-legislative imposition created and engendered by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has become the de facto US Department of Education with Bill, in the words of Diane Ravitch, “the nation’s Superintendent of schools. “

Keller essentially repeats a more conversational version of Common Core press releases including the outright lies that “ the Common Core was created with a broad, nonpartisan consensus of educators, convinced that after decades of embarrassing decline in K-12 education, the country had to come together on a way to hold our public schools accountable.”
Virtually noting of the above sentence is true. If there were any educators present in the creation of “ The Core “ they were tokens, there to give cover for its corporate genesis. Keller seems utterly unaware of the fact that “The Core” is, at best, a vast taxpayer funded experiment on American school children based on nothing but rhetoric. Everything that can be said about it is pure speculation.
To this, Keller and Krugman are oblivious or unconcerned. For Keller and Krugman, to be against “The Core” is to be aligned with right wing nut jobs like Glenn Beck or more sinister and shadowy Tea Party associates.
“But overwhelmingly,” writes Keller, “ the animus against the standards comes from the right.”
Curiously, Keller mocks as fantasy Beck’s fear of “bio wristbands, ” gizmos that sound incredibly similar to Bill Gates fascistic idea of students and teachers wearing “galvanic bracelets “ to somehow measure student engagement. “ Beck,” writes Keller, “ also appears to believe that the plan calls for children to be fitted with bio-wristbands and little cameras so they can be monitored at all times for corporate exploitation.”
That said, I have no illusions as to the continued power of the Times to influence middle class America, to convince them, even with the intellectual shabbiness of these articles, that to be against the sacred Common Core is to be with Glen Beck and his paranoid yokels. This is bad. It is so bad that it behooves every parent and educator in America to write the Times and speak his or her truth to power. Who knows, if enough do and do so with clarity, a man like Krugman could even become a powerful ally.