Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Bloomberg's Secret Education Agenda
History teacher at Jamaica High School
Posted: January 3, 2011 
Just as he was walking out the door Joel Klein, "the most important person living in New York City," according to Rupert Murdoch, received another piece of bad news to add to his rapidly tarnishing image as the great education game changer in America.
It came at the same time that Michele Rhee; Joel Klein's favorite protégé was receiving her urban innovator award from the Manhattan Institute. It appears that New York's community colleges have experienced a spike in remediation classes for their incoming freshman during Klein's tenure. But it's Michael Bloomberg, the self-anointed "Education Mayor" who will have to live with it for the next three years.
Never missing an opportunity to obfuscate the truth, the New York Post ran an editorial condemning the now discredited New York State tests for the dismal results! They made these assertions without ascribing any responsibility to Klein's performance as chancellor, nor acknowledging their own editorials' seemingly endless use of these phony test statistics when they trumpeted Klein's "revolutionary" accomplishments.
It's probably asking too much of Mr. Murdoch to acknowledge that he bought a pig in a poke when he hired Joel Klein to be a vice president at Newscorp, but it would be a sign of some contrition if his newspaper would just shut its mouth and wipe it off.
For its part, the Daily News opined that in the wake of this news, Cathie Black has her work cut out for her. That might be the understatement of the coming year.
None of this is surprising for those of us who regularly follow the New York press. The so-called toughest media market in the country has demonstrated time and again that they are either patsies or shills for the Bloomberg-Klein sleight of hand routine that rivals any three card Monty street corner dealer that I've ever seen.
After all, suburban districts taking the same flawed exams have managed to get their kids ready for college in spite of the tests. Shouldn't Klein have done the same?
For those of you living outside of New York City, the community colleges guarantee entrance to all applicants receiving a high school diploma. Their on-time graduation rates for a two-year degree are a dismal 2 -3 percent. In many respects these schools are little more than higher education hospices.
Back in the days of open enrollment when every graduate was given a seat at the more rigorous four-year colleges, the massive remedial programs necessitated by the lack of admissions standards almost wrecked these institutions.
So the community colleges became a convenient outlet for the political demand for a college seat for every graduate.
The increase in the graduation rates, which were supposed to be another measure of Klein's achievements appear increasingly empty. A true return to standards on the city and state level would result in a diploma drought rather than the soaring increases touted by Klein and Bloomberg.
Instead, a steady stream of fraudulent education schemes continues to infest the schools. "Credit recovery," boot camps, independent distance credit programs, credit for running errands for teachers, credit for community service; have all infiltrated and corrupted the system.
Social promotion has ended, only to be replaced by unqualified promotion. Woe to the school that sees its graduation rate drops below 60 percent. The Inquisition For Failed Schools will put them on the list for dismemberment in the blink of an eye.
By now you've probably realized that the transparent business model desired by Mayor Bloomberg has all the hallmarks of a Bernie Madoff quarterly statement.
The result of this new culture has been to foster a breakdown in honest grade reports and test results. Principals have learned that "managing up" means giving their masters only the news they want to hear.
That's why Cathie Black's appointment should be treated with trepidation. Since she has about as much business running a deeply troubled school system in need of true reform as I have dancing the male ballet role in Black Swan opposite Natalie Portman, her only way out is to continue the demolition of public education begun by Joel Klein.
Since New York's schools are increasingly made up of newcomers and the disadvantaged, there really is no "public" in the political sense left in this city. Hence no great outcry has erupted.
With the media controlled by a trio of billionaires, Rupert Murdoch (New York Post, Wall Street Journal) Mort Zuckerman (NY DAILY NEWS), and Bloomberg, (Bloomberg LLP) none of whom was brought up or educated in New York, the truth is what they say it is.
The end of public education in New York City will follow the same pattern as the closing of large state run mental hospitals did back in the 70s. Back then, patients were mainstreamed into not-for-profit group homes that were funded by the state and federal funds. This was supposed to be a more humane alternative to the abuses tied to institutionalization.
As a consequence of this policy state payrolls and pensions were reduced since the employees no longer worked for the government. If a schizophrenic occasionally went off their meds and threw someone onto the subway tracks the society could live with that as long as it didn't happen too often.
Charters began as a noble experiment that would free a school of bureaucratic red tape that becomes endemic in large bureaucracies. The best of charter innovations and practices would then be passed on and replicated in our public schools.
But that altruistic goal has been replaced. Politicians and Education Carpetbaggers have come to realize that you can fund charter schools like group homes and eliminate your public education payroll, pension, and benefit packages. Their attitude towards public education is "why do it for free when you can make money at it?"
I suspect that the powers that be really don't think they can turn things around and educate kids from horrific social circumstances by firing teachers endlessly. But if they succeed in decoupling public education from government, they'll live quite comfortably ever after.
The handwriting is on the wall. When the small school initiative fails, Bloomberg or his successor will have an easier job of washing their hands of the system and suggest that not for profit charters take the headache of their hands.
The shell game can't last.

1 comment:

ed notes online said...

From the listserves:


Marc Epstein got it right for the most part. However, to give his analysis even more depth, I would like to correct just two things in his presentation:

(1) The CUNYwide open enrollment's SEEK program initially worked in bringing thousands of Black & Puerto Rican public high school graduates up to speed. I was a math teacher in the Queens College SEEK program in its early years (1969-70) and we SEEK faculty members successfully helped students become academically competitive with the larger predominantly white student body... and they began to resent that. Even many of the white professors could not handle the inquisitive and selfconfidence of our SEEK students, like a Felipe Luciano. The original intent of the SEEK program was constantly undermined by racist administrations hellbent on shrinking the program and redefining or eliminating "Open Enrollment."

It took some years of undoing and faculty removal, but those who wanted the CUNY system to be what it was back in 1957 have successfully chipped away at all the academically positive vehicles that help bring a typical BloomKlein educated hi school grad up to college academic preparedness. Hence, most 2-year community colleges were supposed to become- as Marc Epstein so aptly called them- "higher education hospices" for these Black & Brown children of the unwashed masses.

(2) The term "disadvantaged" is like fingernails scraping on a blackboard for many of us Folk of Color. "Disadvantged" from what? Compared to whom? We have our own powerful cultural and intellectual attributes and frameworks that the dominant Eurocentric educational system renders either nonexistent or "deprived."

One of the things we must fight for within the new more democratic public education system is a culturally (racially, nationally and genderwise) relevant curricula that is at the very core of all students' education... and not attached onto a set of Eurocentric Core Values to be trotted out during the appropriate month.

As we go forward in 2011, lets fight the now BloomBlack Cabal's privatization/corporatization bumrushing of our schools with a vision of a Human-Rights Based public education run by the majority of the citizens of New York rather than the current rich white minority.

In Struggle,

Sam Anderson