Posts Tagged ‘Rupert Murdoch’

Unaccountable

November 16, 2014

Un
With the possible exception of “compliance,” I’d reckon that there are no words that American teachers have heard more times in the past 10 years than the word “accountable.”
Everyone, we are told, and told, and told again for good measure, must be held accountable. I know no teacher who would mind such an admonition if, in fact, the system of accountability was fair and reasonable and if it were even remotely true that all people were held accountable.

Alas.

Take former New York City Chancellor Joel Klein, for example. Here’s a fella who not only championed a $95 million dollar technological boondoggle that is now to be dismantled because of its uselessness, but used his status and knowledge as former chancellor to profit from the project after instantly teaming up with Rupert Murdoch after he left the school system.

Conflict of interest ?

Not a chance.

Where is the accountability there?

At any rate, because of the distance I have noticed between what it held for one group or class of people and utterly excused from another, it was with more than a little curiosity that I noted during a visit to my local public library the following title: Unaccountable/ How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom and Security by one Janine R. Wedel.

I understood from the subtitle that the work would focus largely on the monsters manipulating our financial system but, sandwiched there in between the words “Finance “ and “security” was “freedom, ” so I was hopeful some dots might be connected that had to do with my world.
As one who has been forced to watch and react as insanely wealthy private citizens such as Eli Broad and the Walton family and especially Bill Gates, do what ever it is they want to do to the public trust known as the public school system and all who work within it, with exactly zero right to do so and exactly zero accountability, I was curious to see if Wedel’s altogether noble work would include these spectacular examples of complete and utter unaccountability. I was hopeful, that is, that her work would at least mention the insidious efforts of the mega rich to undermine the legislative process in order to privitze the nation’s school system and bust the last union of size while they’re at it. After all, here was a handful of people somehow allowed to force one radical unproven experiment after another — breaking up schools, value added measures for teachers, standardized test after standardized tests, and the greatest scam of all, the deceitfully named Common Core State Standards — upon America’s kids and teachers on nothing more than their own limitless hubris and bank accounts.

Sadly, and incredibly given the immense upheavals of the past decade, education is not even mentioned in the book. Moreover, the only Gates who merits an appearance is former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
As for Bill Gates and his legions…not a word. If I were to search high and low for a quote signifying complete unaccountability, I doubt I could do better than the following by an embarrassingly ineloquent
Bill Gates: “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”
There you have it.

And what if “our education stuff “ fails ?
Well…so what? Bill and Eli and the Walton’s and their kind will doubtless find some other vital institution to remake in their own one dimensional image.
Besides, when it fails — and it is failing — you can simply blame teachers and employ an eager corporate media to echo your lies.
It’s been working so far.
Why is the reality of the hijacking of a public institution of immeasurable importance and influence missing from this book or books like it ? This is a serious work by a credible author who does not seem to me to be ideologically bound. How is it the immense liberties taken by Bill Gates and company that deal with billions of dollars of public money not seem to be worthy of even a mention in a book dealing with the scandalous and horrific absence of accountability in American life ? Why is it that the complete undermining of the legislative process not only not considered a criminal act but not even deemed worthy of reporting? Not merely by Janine Wedel but by anybody? Where’s Bernie Sanders ? Where’s Michael Moore? Where’s Ralph Nader? Where is anybody? How is this happening before our very eyes ? What has happened to us ?

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All Eyes On Chicago

September 16, 2012

 

In early July of 1892 an event took place in the industrial town of Homestead, Pennsylvania that would define labor and management relations across the United States for decades to come.

A violent and bloody battle between Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead Steel Works and the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (an early incarnation of the United Steel Workers),  the Homestead Strike of 1892 was a demarcation, a line in the sand, and a tragedy for the American labor movement.

Orchestrated by Henry Clay Frick, whom a vacationing nominally pro-labor Carnegie placed in charge of operations, Frick was resolved, at any cost, to break the union at Homestead and in doing so, inflict  as much damage to the then burgeoning union movement as possible.   After much violence, four deaths and countless wounded, with the assistance of the infamous Pinkertons and 4000 soldiers of the Pennsylvania state militia, Frick succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The union was smashed, severely damaging all   progressive and humane aspects of the national worker’s campaign and effectively paralyzing the American union movement.  The movement would remain paralyzed until the advent of FDR’s New Deal 44 long years later when in 1936 Roosevelt, in turn, would have the Michigan state militia aim their guns, not at the striking auto workers of the Ford Motor Company in Flint but at the company thugs and Flint police who threatened them. The Flint Sit -Down Strike was ultimately triumphant and  thus began the United Auto Workers (UAW) in earnest and with the UAW  the slow and steady rise of the American middle class. In the next four decades workers, unionized or not, would reap the benefits of and side effects of organized labor.

The Homestead Strike proved a seminal and transformative moment in American history and a tragic one in the legacy of American labor. The Chicago Teachers strike, six days in the making as I write, may very well prove to reverberate as far and as wide in one direction or the other. It too may ultimately determine the fate not merely of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), not merely the future of the American public school system, but, like the Homestead Strike, it may determine the impotence or power of American unionism in the 21st century.   It too could alter the very parameters of worker rights and labor relations for all workers, unionized or not for years to come.

And it’s been a long time coming.

From Ronald Reagan’s mass firing of the air traffic controllers in August of 1981 to Scott Walker’s outlawing of collective bargaining, from the wholesale sacking of the unionized Camden Police Dept to the ceaseless attacks on all public workers in all cities across these United States, we have witnessed and suffered from 30 years of incremental or wholesale union capitulations or outright defeats.  Make no mistake that such capitulations and defeats have brought much joy to  many  of the top 1% of wealthy Americans.  And make no mistake that many of the same are carefully monitoring the goings on in Chicago.  Sadly, even pathetically, it seems to have brought equal joy to many working class members of the Koch brothers funded Tea Party, many of whom enjoyed the benefits, protections and rights wrought by the presence of unions. Not that union bashing is a strictly Republican concern. Not for many a year now.  And one thing the Democratic Party  have learned is that it is politically much safer to undermine a union with policies while celebrating  unionism with words like Cory Booker than it is  to overtly bash them in the manner of, say,  Chris Christie.     With Democrat Bill Clinton’s signing of NAFTA along with his repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act , and a rabidly deregulated Wall Street,  the rise of globalization and the consequent wholesale dismantling and off shoring of the American industrial base was virtually assured, unions and American workers be damned.  ( How Clinton enjoys a reputation as a liberal or even a progressive  and a friend of the working man is evidence  of  a
“crisis in education” of a profoundly different and deeper nature than the “education reformers”  would ever go near or , perhaps, are even conscious of. ) Much to the delight of  conservatives, libertarians and above all corporatists,  unions have largely been wiped out altogether or driven to their knees from sea to shining sea.  This is the slow motion horror movie that has been playing before our largely unseeing eyes fro three decades.  This has led directly to the well-documented decline in American income, the vanishing of the American middle class,  and the most grotesque and dangerous disparity in wealth and poverty in the industrial world.

And this leads us to Chicago.   Rahm Emanuel, like all so called “education reformers, ”– especially the  Education Reformer in Chief in the White House —   desperately wants and needs all Americans to believe that the CTU strike is not only entirely the fault of an out of control and greedy  teacher’s union that doesn’t care about kids: more importantly he wants and needs Americans to believe that it is entirely about education and the reformers’ passionate desire to make the children of Chicago “college and career ready” , to prepare them “to compete for work in  the global market place, “ and above all to  create  quality public education, as this is  the  “civil rights issue of our time.”

Some of this may be partly true. It’s possible, I suppose, that men like Emanuel and Obama and some of the other reformers actually believe in the merit of the garbage, bubble-test-based education they are successfully force feeding other people’s children, even as it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the education they demand for their own children whose schools hold such practices in abject distain.  Believe in it, that is, as long as they don’t think about it for too long or look at what it reduces people to.  ( The children of Emanuel and Obama attend, respectively, the Chicago Lab School and Sidwell Friends receiving the kind of quality education all American children should receive and could receive if the right people  were  making  policy and allocating funds. )   l and That said, long after “education reformers” have achieved enormous success in privately remaking public education in their image and implementing their various notions, schemes and experiments on American children, long after their far greater success in manipulating the American public into believing that teachers and teacher unions are the principle cause of their increasing  immiseration  and a mortal threat to the their children’s future, not a one of their multi million dollar schemes have proven to in any meaningful way improve education. Not one. This, even as schools across the land have been transformed into test taking stress factories, communities have been ripped apart in charter school wars, and many of the “reformers” corporate allies such as Pearson or the “reformers themselves such as Rupert Murdoch ( yes, that Rubert Murdoch ) have   milked the public teat to grow rich or ever richer still than their wildest dreams.

It is therefore exceedingly difficult if not out right impossible for a rational and knowledgeable person to believe that what is really driving most of these “reformers” – many of whom are billionaires or hedge fund managers, almost none of whom are educators unless you count  the three year scandal ridden teaching career of Michelle Rhee – is improvement of education rather than, say, transfer of money from the public sector to the private sector or, in a word, privatization.

If improving education were truly the goal of the “reformers” there would be certain fundamental steps one would expect such high-minded people to take. They might begin by respecting people who actually know what they’re talking about. They might begin by asking the question of what it means to be educated rather than, say, conditioned or trained.   They might begin by engaging and empowering the most knowledgeable professionals in the field and assisting them with the extraordinarily difficult task of educating the most diverse and poverty-ridden population in the Western world.  Such people are rare but they are not difficult to find. Consider Linda Darling Hammond.  Or Jonathan Kozol.  Or Diane Ravitch.   Or, for that matter, CTU president Karen Lewis.   But  nothing like this was done and under the regime of the “reformers” will never be done.   Quite the contrary, as befitting a corporate revolution by stealth, such people have been  utterly purged from the corridors of power and influence as thoroughly, if infinitely more gently than  Pol Pot purged Cambodian intellectuals in Year One of his  new Cambodia.

And, of course, if the improvement of education were, in fact,  your goal there would be things you would not dream of doing.

You would not, for instance, appoint completely unqualified persons such as Arne Duncan to run the federal Department of Education.

You would not allow children to be used as guinea pigs in vast experiments in social alchemy by unelected and utterly unaccountable private citizens like Bill Gates who Diane Ravitch has dubbed, ironically ,  “ the superintendent of American schools. ”

You would not continue to champion mayoral control years after it has proven itself a disaster in city after city, allowing, in effect, people like Mike Bloomberg and Rahm Emmanuel to dictate  education policy in the largest education systems in the USA.

You do shower parents with contempt and shut them out of any meaningful discussion at the same time, in one of many acts of stupendous condescension, you pretend to give parents   voice by acting as their ventriloquists by producing  slick, shamelessly dishonest “reformer” financed propaganda films like “Waiting For Superman” or equally slick, shameless and dishonest melodramas like reformer” financed “Won’t Back Down” , both of which  solve the “crisis in education”  by – you guessed it,  privately run publicly funded non -union charter schools.

You do not impose business plans and call them education plans.

You do not confuse technology with science and reduce human beings and human intelligence to data and then sell such data to your pals like Rupert Murdoch.

You do not make astoundingly self righteous and ignorant statements claiming that poverty does not affect student learning or that class size does not matter and repeat such astoundingly self-righteous statements ad nausea.

You do not disgrace  our alleged democratic  process by allowing  private citizen billionaires like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family ( of Wal-Mart fame  ) and other very, very rich people to make  public policy — every single one of those  policies   that much the more in a field of which they know nothing.

You do not reduce students to bubble test-taking automatons incapable of critical thinking.

You do not hound, harass, demoralize , micro manage and infantilize  teachers. You do not force feed evaluation schemes based on standardized tests at all, never mind  standardized  tests that have margins of errors of upwards of 50% that even their  creators  insist should not be used to evaluate teachers.

You do not casually destroy  the careers of untold numbers of excellent teachers and  shrink  the contours of the minds of millions of children — always other  people’s children — with such hare-brained if immensely profitable schemes.

One can go on and on but you get the point.    You would do none of these things and yet, this and so much more is precisely what Ralm Emanuel has done in Chicago and “reformers” have done across the entire United States and they have done so, to the great shame of teacher unions, with astounding and terrifying success.

Until now.

What Rahm Emmanuel desires in Chicago is what Mike Bloomberg wants in New York and what Barack Obama wants for the whole country, which is the sole point of the unbelievably cynical policies of Race To the Top which may be the most successful union busting policy ever to be embraced by unions.    Whatever they claim to the contrary, what these men want is for teacher unions to enter into a pact to commit slow motion collective suicide; to sign their own death sentences based on preposterously trumped up charges,   to die while giving their destroyers  ( especially  those in the Democratic Party ) as much  political cover as possible.

Lewis and CTU, bless their hearts, have as yet refused. With this refusal they are throwing what amounts to the first real   wrench into the billionaire-backed, union busting privatization machine that has completely infiltrated and now dominates both major political parties and  the entire debased discussion of  what passes for education in America.

The CTU  are speaking truth to the power that has engineered the most sophisticated, insidious and successful propaganda campaign against a profession in American history, the lastest volleys in this campaign CNBC’s “Education Nation” and the new aforementioned anti-union weepie “Won’t Back  Down.”    They have sent a resounding “NO!” to the a campaign consisting of the richest individuals, most powerful corporations and highest offices of the American government who collectively want nothing less than to drive a stake through the heart of unionism in America thoroughly as did Frick and Carnegie more than a century ago. And note well,  if the financial catastrophe of 2008 proved nothing else, it showed the unambiguous recklessness and rank depravity of much of the American ruling class and that it will who will stop at nothing to get its way, innocent children,   teachers,  in fact, the entire global population can go straight to hell for all they care.  There are fortunes to be made in education.  Billions, in fact. And all publicly  funded and thus guaranteed.

In the larger sense, it is essential to understand that this strike is about standing up against issues that go far beyond phony “education reform” campaign, as important as they are.     It is essential that all Americans who are not part of the one percent understand what is at stake here. It is essential that all such Americans understand that the CTU is standing up for them as well as for the children of Chicago and themselves. It is essential that Americans understand that the CTU is standing not merely against the evisceration of unions but standing for the very impulses and principles on which unions are created: economic justice, fair play, compassion, fraternity and solidarity, all of which are in direct opposition to the corporate mindset. The CTU  is  standing up against nothing less than a corporate revolution by stealth. They are standing up against the absolute triumph of the corporate state and the absolute removal of all opposition to the corporate state.

Whatever the outcome, unlike at Homestead there will be no violence or bloodshed in Chicago.    The powers that be have learned far more insidious and subtle ways to try and bring down a people, strip them of their rights, force them to their knees. Consider Obama’s Race To the Top, an absolute masterpiece of coercive politics aimed at making teacher unions little more than due sucking social clubs  —  but that did not stop most of the nation from buying into it .

But what  happens in Chicago in the next few days or the next few hours will indeed reverberate across this land as did Homestead. To be sure, sooner or later  more than teachers will feel its effects. To be sure, sooner or later the outcome will effect every member of the 99 % .

It is conceivable that out of the courage and steadfastness of the CTU will arise, phoenix-like,  a rebirth of American unionism. It is equally conceivable it could signal labor’s death knell. One thing is for certain: every worker in America should be supporting the CTU and making that support as public as possible.

Rest assured the eyes of  every cognizant  teacher in the US are on Chicago and hopefully, too, the eyes of many an American worker. To be sure,  so too are the eyes of the one percent.

There Can Be No Change Under the Reign Of Bloomberg (Except In Ourselves )

April 15, 2011

In a sense, insofar as she so perfectly embodied the hubris, idiocy and recklessness of so much of the education reform campaign and particularly the educational vision of Mike R. Bloomberg, I, for one, am sorry to see the back of Cathie Black.  Of course, she was appalling and an embarrassment to an entire city.  But that misses the point.

No matter how hard Bloomberg and his trained seals tried, Black, unlike Michelle Rhee or Joel Klein or Arne Duncan or Chris Christie, could not be somehow transformed into an heroic figure fearlessly taking on all powerful teacher’s unions, the status quo, and the selfish teachers; those evil foes who were not only damaging the nation’s children (thus hindering them from “winning the future”),  but bankrupting the American economy to boot.

Even aside from her tasteless public comments there was something in Cathie that people could not stomach.  More to the point, there was something so grotesque and so obscene about Bloomberg naming Black the Chancellor of Education and then doing whatever it is that Bloomberg does to bend people to his will to secure Black a waiver that disgusted those generally indifferent to politics. I heard astounded reactions from people who never gave a thought to education before.   And to some extent it galvanized them.   Black’s mere presence at Bloomberg’s insulting Panel For Educational Policy meetings (in which a panel dominated by Bloomberg zombies would pretend to listen to the heartfelt testimonies of parents, teachers, students and community activists before rubber stamping whatever Bloomberg had ordered) created an instant carnival atmosphere where the hapless Black sat like a mute queen, now haughty, now pouting, in silence, surrounded by her praetorian guard (including Dennis Walcott) absorbing heaps of abuse, wholly incapable of answering even the most basic questions of policy.  Her most memorable moment at such “panels” was mimicking the sound of the crowd who jeered when Black protectors grabbed their mics to answer yet another question asked of Black and Black scolded her questioners.

Such moments were at once surreal, illuminating and emancipating. They exposed, as much or more than the most well crafted argument, the idiot logic guiding not merely Bloomberg but all the well heeled narcissistic imbeciles whose imaginations are so paralyzed and egos so bloated that they believe to the core of their beings that corporate business people (like themselves) have somehow attained the highest form of human intelligence and therefore that all human institutions — libraries, hospitals, governments, schools, whatever  –should be  subordinated to the corporate business model.

Like no one else, on an almost daily basis, Black revealed this thinking to be the insanity that it is.   More, as Mike Bloomberg was surely the only man in the entire world who would even consider a person as stunningly unqualified as Black to be the Chancellor of Education for the City of New York, Black revealed Mike Bloomberg to be an arrogant fool.

This, of course, was her undoing. As Bernie Kerik instantly became to Bloomberg’s predecessor Rudy Giuliani the moment people outside of Giuliani’s orbit looked into him, so Cathie Black was daily becoming to Bloomberg:  an embarrassment that called Bloomberg’s  very  judgment into glaring, garish question.

So in the blink of an eye, dilettante “super star manager” Cathie Black was out and soft spoken Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott in. One might think such a self-created disaster as Black would humble a man, at least for the moment.  But not Bloomberg.  Not even for  a moment. Even as he was stating that he “ accepted full responsibility” for the Black debacle, he  sounded pissed that he actually had to say such stuff.   Lost in the shock of the announcement   was the fact that Bloomberg proved again that he is incapable of learning anything as he pulled the same stunt with Walcott that he pulled with Black.

The first sign that nothing will change under Dennis Walcott was the process of selecting Dennis Walcott. Which is to say, there was no process.    There was no search, no consultation with the United Federation of Teachers, no  reaching out to parents, no discussion whatsoever with anyone anywhere over who should replace the disastrous Black and assume responsibility for the education of over one million children in a school system that, from the inside, feels as if it is being held together with dental floss.

Walcott is the man and that is that.  Such is life under the reign of Bloomberg. As both Diane Ravich and Noah Gotbaum have pointed out Bloomberg treats the public schools as if they are his private property to do with as he will.   Many, including friends, have greeted Walcott’s selection with something approximating approval. At any rate, there has been none of the incredulity that came with the selection of Black and remained with her for every one of her 96 days as chancellor. A great deal is being made of Walcott’s public school education, his two years teaching kindergarten, his grandchildren in the system and the fact that he does not need to be surrounded by four deputy chancellors lest some one ask him a policy question. Such banter reveals far more about how thoroughly Bloomberg has degraded the position of chancellor than it does any thing about the qualifications of Dennis Walcott to bear it. Indeed, just like Bloomberg’s  previous selections for chancellor, Walcott does not have the  qualifications.

If anyone has any doubts about why Wolcott was selected, just look at the reception he has received from those who have spent the last decade trying to destroy the public school system any way they can. Geoffrey Canada,  president and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone — he who pays the children in his program do do their homework —   and as such a corporate confidence man extraordinaire, called Walcott a “brilliant choice,” adding, “I feel terrific about it.”  Former Chancellor Joel Klein currently employed as CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s   News Corporation Education Division called Walcott “a superb selection” and “ a fighter for kids.”

I, for one, disagree.  I, for one do not hold Walcott’s selection to be a good thing excepting, perhaps, for Bloomberg whom Walcott will certainly fight for.   While it is true that Dennis Walcott is, by all accounts, an intelligent and amiable fellow and one conversant with the nuts and bolts of the Department of Education, while it is true that long ago and far away he worked in the Urban League, while its true he is now declaring that the school system is “ all about a partnership,”  the greater truth is that Dennis Walcott is  Mike Bloomberg’s  stooge.

After faithfully serving  Bloomberg for nine years no man in New York has more intimate knowledge than Dennis Walcott as to what happens to any Bloomberg appointee who dares to think with his  or her own mind, who dares to speak his or her own opinion: who dares, that is,  to be a free and dignified  human being.

Dennis Walcott is more aware than anyone in New York what he has got himself into.  And Dennis Walcott, for whatever reason, has willingly accepted that role. Anyone who believes the replacement of   Black with Walcott will make an iota of difference that is beneficial to students, teachers and the school system is delusional.

What Bloomberg has been permitted to do is shocking and deeply disturbing.  Or, at any rate, it should be shocking and deeply disturbing.  In nine years Bloomberg has  degraded the political landscape of New York so thoroughly that he has rendered the Chancellorship of Education either irrelevant or a joke. While Bloomberg reigns it does not matter who is chancellor. Klein, Black Walcott, whomever,  they are all there to play dummy to Bloomberg’s ventriloquist and they all know that the minute they speak their own mind is the minute their fates are sealed. What’s worse is millions of New Yorkers know this too and somehow it is accepted. Such is the degraded state of our “democracy.”  Indeed, if Bloomberg had any integrity at all he would simply eliminate the position of Chancellor for the duration of his term (if, indeed, his term ever ends) and save the taxpayers the salary of this now ceremonial position.

How many teachers can be hired on a chancellor’s salary?

There is something diabolical   about Bloomberg.  He specializes in corrupting  people by successful appeals to their basest impulses. Of course, all such  appeals would be unthinkable without his absurd  wealth.  Consider City Counsel speaker Christine Quinn. No matter how long she lives Quinn will have to live with the horrible truth that she helped undermine the political will of millions and millions of New Yorkers when she helped orchestrate Bloomberg’s illegal and legally singular third term. And she should live with it.  And she should be reminded of her treacherous and cowardly act every day.

Consider New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner, the son of the great literary critic George Steiner, who must live the rest of his life with the knowledge that he allowed Mike Bloomberg to somehow persuade him to throw his integrity  to the gutter when he approved non-educator Cathie Black’s waiver to be chancellor with the preposterous stipulation that the job of  “chief academic officer “  — i.e. someone who actually knew something about schools — be created to work beside her.  Steiner had to know that what he was doing was wrong if not out right grotesques.  Nonetheless, like Quinn Steiner  debased himself to do Bloomberg’s bidding.  And by dancing the humiliating dance Bloomberg demanded both did irreparable harm not only to their souls, but also   betrayed the people they swore to serve.

Nothing will change for the better with Walcott. Indeed, Walcott will be far more effective in pushing through Bloomberg’s  agenda of total destruction all the time than Cathie Black could ever dream about. He’s already begun.  Speaking before last Friday’s City Council hearing on the mayor’s preliminary operating budget Walcott made the extremely dubious claim that, “By any measure the gains our students have made in recent years have been extraordinary – far outpacing the rest of the State and cities across the nation.”

As a New York City teacher I have no idea  what Walcott can possibly be referring to here —  but the  language is extremely reminiscent  of   Bloomberg’s  and Klein’s  when they were crowing before Congress about the since-debunked  miraculous gains for  New York students under their  since-debunked miraculous  leadership.

Walcott dutifully went on to channel two other Bloomberg fallacies.  The first was how the city had no choice but to lay off teachers, a claim thrice publicly contradicted by Governor Andrew Cuomo who is no friend of teachers.    The second, offered with no evidence whatsoever from this data loving contingent, was how seniority laws (or LIFO as they are now moronically called) are depriving children of their most “effective”  teachers.

In short, on the part of the DOE nothing has changed, and as long as Bloomberg is mayor nothing will change — least of all Bloomberg. He simply doesn’t  have the moral strength to change or admit he’s  wrong about anything.   Bloomberg  is a free market utopian as impervious to reality as was Milton Friedman if somewhat nastier in his manner.

When he first arrived at City Hall and for some time afterward, Bloomberg repeatedly stated that he wished to be judged on how dealt with education, which was, in fairness to Bloomberg, in many ways, a mess.    For a while, Bloomberg successfully fooled many into thinking that his almost yearly reorganizations, “data based instruction”, high stakes testing, school closings and championing of charter schools were actually making things better rather than just different for New York City students.   This began to change with news of the fraudulent or grossly inflated testing scores and evidence of  doctored graduation rates. Confidence in Bloomberg’s handling of schools went further south with his ridiculous  selection of Black and further still with Black’s darkly comical impersonation of a chancellor of education.

Even as blind  a narcissist as Michael Bloomberg must by this point know that if he is judged by his handling of the schools he would be judged – at the very best — a mediocrity and by many, in fact most, a failure.  (Most NYC teachers, I am convinced, would rank Bloomberg as a catastrophe, a point, I am equally convinced, that would not bother Bloomberg in the least.)

I believe Bloomberg’s  response to his failure  is to spend the remainder of his term accelerating  what he and his fellow “reformers” across the USA have been doing for a decade now:  altering the public school system beyond recognition, setting it up for failure, hastening its demise and setting in motion its rescue by corporate America. This requires the destruction of the UFT, whose power Bloomberg has been undermining since his arrival at City Hall.  All pretense of a working partnership between Bloomberg’s DOE and the UFT is now laughable. Bloomberg would love to leave office as the man who destroyed the teacher’s union.  He’d love that even if that meant, as it would, that teachers could be fired at the whim of any psychotic principal, that the profession would be degraded beyond recognition, that generation of students would be subjected to nothing but test prep.  No matter.  Power has made Bloomberg stranger, crueler, and dumber.   Bloomberg has moved past being reckless and is now so ruthless he is seemingly willing to unnecessarily lay off thousands and thousands of teachers to try and alter public opinion on seniority laws and get his way.

This is sick.

And, if it is not, it should be criminal.

What to do?

Appealing to a figurehead like Dennis Walcott is a waste of time and energy.    The combination of the power of Bloomberg’s obscene wealth   and Bloomberg’s ruthless policies are something not seen for a long, long time if ever before in American politics.   As such they call for a different kind of response, a different method of fighting, some way of not allowing this man to totally degrade our political system and totally destroy our school system before handing it over to his pals in the “free market.”

Bloomberg cannot change.  We must. What we have been doing has not worked.  It may mean massive acts of civil disobedience and massive amounts of consequent arrests.  It may mean sick-outs on a scale unseen in New York history.  It may mean something not yet imagined to match the almost unimaginable reality we are living, in which the richest man in New York is running New York with dictatorial control over almost every aspect of its school system.  This is disgraceful.  This is insane.  We need to figure out how we got here and how we allowed this.   We need to figure out how to get out of here and how to transcend this.  We need to figure out how to keep people as venal and vicious as Michael Bloomberg as far away from political power as legally possible.