Friday, November 19, 2010

NYC Lesson Plan: Destroy the Teachers’ Union

If your car is broken down on the side of the highway and you call a demolition guy for help, chances are you’re not looking to fix the tire. Let’s face it, NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg didn’t select a coddled media mogul who’s never spent a day inside a public school to be the new schools chancellor as a means to improve the country’s largest school system.
Nope, Cathie Black’s role will be to obliterate the teachers’ union, and for that she is eminently qualified.
Here is a woman who was raised in the pampered and segregated cotillion society of American aristocracy, who won equestrian competitions at clubs where Blacks and Jews were verboten and whose claim to fame is marketing that journalistic ode to color weather maps, USA Today.
Early in her career as a corporate tool, Black compelled the denim-clad feminists at Ms. magazine to threaten a mass walkout over her insistence on running Big Tobacco’s siren song for women to achieve equal rates of cancer with men, the infamous Virginia Slims’ “You’ve come a long way, baby,” ad campaign.
When Black and her husband aren’t kicking back at their $4.1 million beach house in Southampton or playing a round of golf at the Westchester Country Club with its $300,000 initiation fee (Jews and Blacks allowed nowadays), they are entertaining in their duplex penthouse apartment on Park Avenue.
The New York Times informs us that she has her modest moments, like when she opts for a yellow cab over a black limo, but she likes her bling too. Black recently loaned her “$47,600 bracelet — a Bulgari confection called the Allegra — to a Manhattan museum for its current exhibit showcasing the jewels and clothing of New York’s most influential women.”
Naturally, she attended private school, as did her two children, and she has no education background whatsoever. Black’s haughty and arrogant demeanor aside, she has a reputation as being a tyrant of a boss, the kind every worker rushes away from to take the stairs when her Gucci purse is spotted peeking out from the elevator doors.
There is no question that this pill of a parasite is totally unqualified to run a school system of one million children, two-thirds of whom qualify for free lunch and 85 percent of whom are Black, Latino or Asian. Cathie Black has not been tapped to revolutionize learning, she’s the billionaire mayor’s pick to destroy one of the last bastions of union power in a city facing $1.6 billion in cuts.
I don’t have any kids in the public schools, or any kids at all for that matter. And my only spin at teaching was as a 23-year-old 6th-grade substitute teacher who was disciplined for playing my students a recording of Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet” on the eve of Election Day 1988. (Every student participated in the discussion that day and I am certain not one of the white administrators who chewed me out has ever actually listened to or read a Malcolm X speech.)
While I don’t have that kind of personal stake in the public schools, I do want to live in a city where there are well-educated children and well-compensated, unionized teachers. I know that there are teachers, parents and students currently discussing how to stop the city from granting Cathie Black a pass to wreak havoc on the schools and immiserate the lives of teachers. I will happily join their protests and sign their petitions. Here’s one I found online:
If Cathie Black must live among us, can she at least remain in her hermetically-sealed bubble of wealth and privilege, away from where she can affect the lives of millions?

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