5 Apr Was Bill de Blasio’s dad blacklisted in the 1950s? Well it sure looks that way.
Long story short, Warren Wilhelm Sr., government analyst , was dragged before a McCarthy-era committee in 1950 and 1953, interrogated about suspect activities, interests, and affiliations, and then stripped of his security clearance.
“Over the next several years, the case resurfaced as Mr. Wilhelm was considered for promotions,” the New York Times reported in 2013.
Apparently the promotions didn’t come. Bill’s dad, who’d been awarded a Purple Heart for his WWII battlefield heroics, didn’t talk much about his difficulties with the Loyalty Board to his family. But the Wilhelms left Washington for greener pastures after 1953, and he seemed to struggle thereafter in almost every way imaginable. It seems reasonable to assume, then, that Mayor Bill de Blasio understands, as few others can, the malignant power of the blacklist.
It’s a question of some immediate relevance . Currently making the rounds is an online petition asking that the Mayor’s schools chancellor put an end to a Bloomberg-era policy of blacklisting-for-life probationary teachers who are “discontinued” ( “fired”, in plain English) from their initial DOE assignment.
The petition makes the obvious point that school principals should base their decision to retain or to discontinue a new teacher on strictly *pedagogical* grounds. Yet, this does not happen often.
So, apart from pedagogy, what else would matter? Well, politics, for one; both in the local ( i.e. within the school) sense of the word and in the more general sense.
Religion, race, and ethnicity, for another. ( All of the “old reliables”; rolled into one, for clarity’s sake.)
Sexual orientation and gender. (“But there are LAWS against that sort of thing.” Yeah. Right. PROVE it.)
Cronyism and nepotism. (I myself saw a probationary teacher, primary support for two minor children, discontinued — and consequently blacklisted throughout the system —thereby making room on staff for an administration-insider’s newly-credentialed relative.)
Personality conflicts, unrelated to work performance. (Grow-up, folks. It happens all the time.)
The petition itself provides an excellent example of how the process actually works:
“Then, several months later and out of the blue, it happened. Without even realizing it, Jennifer crossed Principal Higgins by questioning some change in assignment and a preparation period she felt she was owed. Suddenly, Jennifer stopped receiving “satisfactory” observation reports and began receiving several “unsatisfactory” ones. Principal Higgins then rated Jennifer unsatisfactory for her first year final rating. Jennifer was devastated. It didn’t make sense. The students and parents liked her. She received unofficial praise from the assistant principal, but to Principal Higgins Jennifer didn’t differentiate instruction. She didn’t have coherent lessons and didn’t demonstrate knowledge of resources.
450 NYC probationers were discontinued in the last two years.
The real killer here though is the *blacklist*. Discontinued NYC probationers have all spent years ( and tens of thousands of dollars) in preparation to get as far as they got: studying for undergraduate and , in many case, graduate degrees; jumping through all kinds of testing and licensing hoops. Suddenly… because of something so trivial as a personality conflict with a supervisor… they are essentially banned-for-life from the profession for which they trained. Under the blacklist, no other principal in the 1,700 school NYC sysytem may hire them. There is only one public school system in New York City. Just as there was, in the 1950s, for Warren Wilhelm …..and many, many others… only one federal government.
One of the most striking and promising things about New York City’s new mayor is his intriguing resume’. In an era when government policy is shaped for the most part by shallow suburban prep school dilettantes, de Blasio’s bio smacks of something real.
But there it is. The blacklist. It’s cultivator and guardian is the NYC’s Department of Education, that bottomless pit of nepotism, patronage, mendacity, mindless cruelty and absolutely incomparable bureaucratic dysfunction.
The question right now is: will Mayor de Blasio do something about it?
Read Paul's complete post as he explores the impact of the blacklist on de Blasio.