Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dropping Richard Rothstein on Chester Finn

I attended the Manhattan Institute luncheon at the Harvard Club for Chester Finn's new book "Troublemaker." Finn, known as Checker to his friends, is one of the gurus of the corporate attack on teachers and public schools. His old friend Diane Ravitch, who the phony ed reformers think has gone over to the dark side, was there to introduce him. Before they served the chicken she stopped by to whisper, "I see there's another troublemaker here.'

I asked a 2 part question (with just a little embellishment.) Basically I dropped a Richard Rothstein on him.

1. Finn had extolled Kipp,pointing to how they were doing things with kids that the public schools were not - meaning the hard core kids that are so tough to teach.

So, I asked Finn:
Are you claiming that if every child in America attended a KIPP school every one would become middle class and go on the college? He admitted that wouldn't happen but that 70% would which many dispute. I pointed out that in my school about 30-40% of the kids were doing ok and as Rothstein pointed out these are often the kids that end up at KIPP, not the 60% who are the most difficult to teach. I didn't get a chance to drop Rothstein 2-10 on him, since the Man. Inst.never wants real debate.

For a fuller picture, check Rothstein's Response to Chester Finn which can be found at

2. Part 2: Given that you have a close relationship with Diane Ravitch and her criticisms of the so-called reforms instituted in NYC, where do you stand on the implementation of so many of the ideas you espouse in NYC?

Finn saying he was not based in NYC said he would defer to Diane's judgment (can we take this as a slam at BloomKlein?). But if asked about Washington DC whose Klein Klone Michelle Rhee is running the schools and whom he praised on Thursday he could make a more informed comment. If Finn is deferring to Diane on NYC, and we know that Rhee is functioning along the same lines, then, excuse my math, can we assume if a=b and b=c, then a=c?

What was clear is that Finn is setting up an excuse for Rhee's failure by talking about the special interests like the union and others. Like there are no special interests on their side?

Thanks to Diane Ravitch for making me feel comfortable in what can be an intimidating pro-corporate environment (one guy told me after he managed Milton Friedman's money for years - since the business community thinks they can run school systems better than educators I was going to ask if I could manage some of their hedge funds in return.)

I was so inspired, I wrote lyrics to the Band's The Weight in honor of Diane:

Lyrics by Norm Scott
To the tune of The Band’s "The Weight"

I pulled into Harvard Club, was feelin' about half past dread;
Just need some place where I can lay my progressive e-e-ed.
"Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a red?"
He just grinned and shook my hand, and "No!", was all he said.

Take a load off Testing, take a load for free;
Take a load off Testing, And (and) (and) you can put the load right on accountabilty.

I picked up my Rothstein, I went lookin' for a place to hide;
When I saw Diane and the Devil walkin' side by side.
I said, "Hey, Diane, come on, let's go and some trouble make."
She said, "I gotta go intro this guy, but m'friend you can stick the stake."

Take a load off Testing, take a load for free;
Take a load off Testing, And (and) (and) you can put the load right on accountabilty.

Go down, Chris Cerf, there's nothin' you can say
It's just ol' Joel Klein, and Joel’s waitin' on the Judgement Day.
"Well, Joel, my friend, what about the young uns been screwed?"
He said, "Do me a favor, son, woncha keep schools in the hands of the few?"


Crazy Chester went on and on, and he made me see through the fog.
He said, "If you accept KIPP, you’ll be allowed to eat your hot dog."
I said, "Wait a minute, Chester, you know KIPP can’t educate em all."
He said, "That's okay, boy, we’ll take 70% and public ed will take a fall"


Catch a new governance now, t'take me down the line
Public ed is sinkin' low and I do believe it's time.
To get back to democracy, you know it’s the only one.
For teachers, parents, students and regards for everyone.

Take a load off Testing, take a load for free;
Take a load off Testing, And (and) (and) you can put the load right on accountabilty.


Anonymous said...

Great song.


Anonymous said...

It's a little early but, I know how you love a good parody song. I wrote this last year for Cinco de Mayo. It's to the toon of Barry Manilow's Pina Coladas.

I was tired of my students,
We’d been together too long.
Like a worn-out recording,
Of a favorite song.
So while I should have been teaching,
I dreamed of drinking instead.
And while I was day dreaming,
This is the thought that I had.

If you love cinco de mayo,
And drinking all day.
Doing shots of tequila,
And getting buzzed in the brain.
If you love drinking Corona’s,
On a bright sunny day.
Then Cinco de Mayo,
Is the escape that you need.
I didn’t think about teaching,
If you know what I mean.
Because me and my students,
Have fallen into the same old routine.
So I gazed out my window,
And dreamed of drinking instead.
And though I’m not an alcoholic,
I thought the idea wasn’t half bad.

Yes I love cinco de mayo,
And getting buzzed in the brain.
I’m not much into vodka,
Or into sipping champagne.
I’ve got to get out of here,
And get a much need break.
At a bar named O Malley’s
Where I’ll get my escape.

So I waited with high hopes,
Until I could get out of this place.
I got a smile that instant,
All over my face.
It was my own private moment,
That made me feel great.
Then I laughed for a moment,
Because I just couldn’t wait.

I love Cinco de Mayo,
Getting buzzed in the brain.
Drinking corona’s,
Forget about champagne.
And if you love drinking margaritas,
And forgetting your pains,

Then you are welcome to join me,
Come with me and escape.


skoolboy said...

"Crazy Chester" = Checker Finn: that's brilliant. Gotta say I like Checker, and am enjoying reading his memoir, even though I agree with him about once a century.

NYC Educator said...

I dunno, Norm. I try to imagine you singing half as well as Levon, and I just can't get there. I think you should start with Bob Dylan, maybe, and work your way up.

Anonymous said...

You are getting so creative in your old age my friend! Retirement agrees with you it seems.
I am so jealous!