Friday, October 24, 2008

The Next Education Secretary: Another Horror Story?

UPDATE: Buried in this post and the comments section is my comment that Bill Ayres was an anti-union leftist (based on the elitism of the weather underground). Fred Klonsky disputed that. I backed off. Then Michael Fiorillo followed up and nailed Ayres as an arrogant elitist supporter of the Chicago school model of "reform". I'm posting Michael's comment as a stand alone right above this.

Susan Ohanian posted this Cleveland Plain Dealer article dealing with the next Education secretary with this comment:

On education, attention is focused on who McCain, Obama would name education secretary. We know McCain's possibilities are scary and most of Obama's are too. Just enter the names in a 'search'.

Susan has been a major supporter of George Schmidt's struggle against the Chicago 14 years of the mayoral control/corporate model of educational reform. The very same basis of the Educational Equality Project being trumpeted by Al Sharpton, Joel Klein, Mike Bloomberg, and John McCain. Obama hasn't signed onto it but supports some of the thrust.

Remember, his connections with Bill Ayres* was due to serving on an educational commission that has supported this Chicago model.

Underlying much of these "reforms" is removing schools from union influence (closing schools, creating charters, forced school choice that destroys neighborhood schools, etc., etc.) The two Chicago Superintendents in all these years have been Paul Vallas (failure in Philly and now heading the New Orleans mess that resulted in firing just about every union teacher) and former pro basketball player Arne Duncan whose mom had influence.

So I'm scratching my head over these excerpts from the Plain Dealer:

In a city where so much works well, Chicago's public schools seem to have improved little since the days a decade ago when Obama headed a philanthropic drive here that spent $150 million but did little to improve the educational opportunities for the city's children.

And don't forget Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan [for Ed Secty], a friend and adviser with whom Obama often plays basketball. Obama recently accompanied Duncan on a visit to Dodge Renaissance Academy...

You mean the same Obama's buddy Arne Duncan who has been in charge of a school system that is still failing under mayoral control after all these years?

In spite of the dismay people involved with education in NYC at all levels feel about the prospect of another 4 years of BloomKlein, one of the positives will be the loss of their legacy as having improved the schools as the number of better performing kids are wrung out of the system and into charter schools. What happens when most of the large large high schools are closed and there are few union rules left, if any and there's no one to blame? There's only so much manipulation of statistics and phony grad rates they can squeeze out. Kids who were in the 1st grade when they took over will supposedly be graduating from high school in 2013. If researchers explore this cohort they will discover the true horrors of the BloomKlein years when many of these high school "graduates" will find themselves in remedial college programs and the very same business community that supports Bloomberg with such fervor will find their potential hires with as few real skills as they had 12 years ago.

See Manhattan Panel for Educational Policy (Bloomberg's illegal renaming of the Board of Education) Patrick Sullivan, the only BloomKlein critic, outline what he sees for a Bloomberg 3rd term at the NYC Public School Parents blog.

Oh, there's one more nugget in the Plain Dealer article:

"Now you have an interesting array of people whom you can't really characterize," [Randi] Weingarten said. "You have to talk in shades of gray. Things never get implemented in education when you talk about litmus tests." That's why Weingarten is spending every weekend on the road campaigning for a guy who talks about performance pay.

Bill Ayres [probably one of those anti-teacher union lefties- I jumped the gun on this one - see Fred Klonsky comment and my reply. I took some license here based on some of the attacks I've seen on teachers by the so-called progressive left. I accept Fred's point of view.]


  1. An unfortunate moment to brand Bill Ayers as "probably" an anti-union lefty. I think I have a little knowledge in this area, as both a local union president and a friend of Bill for nearly 40 years. He's simply no such thing.

  2. Fred
    Point well taken. Just my prejudices from 1968 about progressive people I've come across who use the ed reform movement to bash teachers and unions. Not that they don't need some bashing at times. I'll amend it since your opinion matters here.

  3. Now that I think of it Fred, where does Ayres stand on the Daly/Vallas Chicago reform model? Any criticism on its anti-union nature?

  4. Hello All,

    Ayers was an arrogant fool back in the day, and he's an arrogant fool now.

    In the '60's Weatherman, of which Ayers was a founder, was roundly criticized for their dogmatism, arrogance and idiocy. As Kirkpatrick Sale wrote in his history of SDS, it was common among Weatherman's critics to turn the source of their name (from Bob Dylan's "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing,") against them by saying,"You don't need a rectal thermometer to know who the assholes are." True then and now.

    Just as Weatherman represented the dissolution and demise of the New Left, Ayers work for small schools has shown an incredible naivete, having been hijacked by the corporate ed reform movement to destroy neighborhood schools and neutralize/weaken and ultimately destroy teacher unions. I met him at my school about 8 years ago and found that arrogance and sense of privilege - his father was the Chairman of Chicago's electric utility - intact. It seems to me that he has used his work in education to rehabilitate himself. However, no matter what the Right may think, the Left should disregard him.

    Michael Fiorillo


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