Friday, November 27, 2009

Norm's "School Scope" Column in The Wave

My bi-weekly column in The Wave (

By the way, the Village Voice chose The Wave as the best community newspaper in NYC and NY Magazine is including The Wave as one of the one hundred best reasons to live in NYC. Not bad for a small outpost on the edge of NYC.

A lot of this recognition is due to Howard Schwach, the current managing editor, who preceded me in writing the School Scope column. A long-time teacher and critic of both the old (and current) school administration and the UFT, Howie retired from teaching to take over running The Wave in June, 2001. He was told there wasn't much news out here. Then came 9/11, where many Rockawayites were killed and the plane crash of Flight 587 two months later where The Wave became the center of international coverage.

Nov. 27, 2009

(Michelle) Rhee-gate

by Norman Scott

If you haven't been following the saga of former Joel Klein Clone and now Washington DC school superintendent Michelle Rhee and her fiancé, former pro basketball player Kevin Johnson, now the mayor of Sacramento, get thee over to my blog ( This is one juicy story that involves charges that Johnson made inappropriate advances on some young ladies and misused almost half a million dollars in Americorps funds for his St. Hope (less) charter school. But the real gravy may turn out to be the firing by the Obama administration of the Inspector General, the only person to be openly fired by Obama. Republicans in Congress and swift boaters and tea baggers are seizing on the story and will try to turn it into an Obama WhiteWater/Watergate story. As we went to press, details were emerging on an Obama administration cover-up of the firing. Some bloggers are calling it "Rheegate" and my blog has the famous Nixon "I'm not a crook" poster with Rhee's face superimposed on Nixon's.

Obama a do-nothing?

I was watching the Jets game the other day with some friends. During Sanchez' 2nd (or was it 12th?) interception, one of them said that a close relative hated Obama. Why? "He hasn't done anything." Done anything? I pointed out that this relative hated Obama before he was elected because he feared Obama would actually do something that would take us down the road to socialism. "He should be happy Obama hasn't done any of the things that he thought he would do," I said. "Look at Bush. He did things. Two wars and an economic collapse."

From now on I don't want our politicians to do anything. Other than keep their hands out of the till. They should be more like South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, on the verge of impeachment, and spend more time sneaking off to meet their mistresses in places like Argentina. Sanford should get an award instead of being vilified. For at least one weekend he didn't didn't do anything to screw (the public, at least). Remember, he was the guy who wanted to turn down the stimulus package for political reasons, but his package got stimulated anyway.

Obama: Hoover or FDR? Hoover or Jimmy Carter?

A year ago I surmised whether Obama would be looked at as an FDR or a Herbert Hoover, depending on how the economic crisis turned out. Remember that FDR's policies created massive changes. The charge that Obama has not accomplished much should be put in context. If we think back to the disaster he inherited, things don't seem to have gotten worse. That is worth something. People point out his push on health care reform might actually lead to something, though once the bones of the bill are picked over there won't be much meat left, except for the lobbying interests. Now it is clear there is little chance Obama will be an FDR, as the Hoover-like depression seems to be fading, though I still think there is a shot at if enough people start living under bridges and set up Obama-ville tent cities. Barring that, what are we left with? Obama channeling Jimmy Carter? Well, I am not ashamed to admit that I am one of 10 people in this nation that actually liked Carter as president, but admitting it means I have to wear a bag over my head.

On education policy, one of the few things I know something about, Obama is totally off base by focusing on teachers (almost all his policies relate to blaming teachers for failures of school systems). Do the education deformers, who always seem to send their kids to private schools with low class sizes, ever talk about reforms that actually include lowering class size?

In essence, Obama supports the demise of the public option in education. One of the fascinating aspects of the health care debate has been over the offering of a public option to reduce costs. At the same time the Obama administration has been promoting policies (charters, etc) that will ultimately lead to the destruction of the public option in education. The Right-wing education "deformers," who always had an agenda of destroying and privatizing public education, have had no words of criticism of the Obama education agenda, which takes Bushism to new heights.

We get letters

A letter writer, clearly a hater, in the Nov. 13 edition of The Wave accused me of being an anti-white racist, pretty much painting me as a founding member of the Black Panthers, mostly based on some things I've written about the 1968 teachers strike. In fact, I supported the strike in '68, as I supported all three UFT strikes. He focused on my contention that19 teachers in Ocean-Hill were illegally transferred and not fired. District 23 Superintendent Rhody McCoy used the word "fired" but the UFT contract guaranteed them jobs and they were offered positions in other districts. The UFT told them to make a stand and stick it out to make a political point. To call me a racist against whites is akin to my calling the letter writer a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Hmmmm. On second thought....

Acting 1.1

I've completed six weeks of Frank Caiati's acting class at the Rockaway Theatre Company and there is no more stimulating way to spend two hours on a Sunday morning. Most people would say I've exhibited few signs of being shy. I've spoken in front of large audiences, but this acting business is very intimidating. If you've seen Frank on stage, you know how he makes it all seem so natural and people rave about his talent as an actor.

We're doing monologues and I'm doing one from "Talk Radio" where I play an abrasive radio talk show host who goes on a rant against the audience. Typecasting to the extreme. What could be more perfect for me, a well-known ranter, than a screaming diatribe? It barely takes acting. Frank emphasizes the subtleties of the diatribe. "It doesn't have to be one big outburst," he says. "You can show anger with pauses and in a low voice too." Call it a slow seethe. These insights are what make Frank as good a director as he is an actor. After I do my monologue, I'm in great shape to join my friends later that afternoon in watching the Jets blow another one, though I skip the subtleties of the rant as the game progresses.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - you a racist. This is so funny. Nothing is farther from the truth. Don't you just love having a hater fan club. Keep on doin' what you do. ;--)

    btw DC teachers who were unfairly laid off by Rhee- well our union lawyers lost our lawsuit. It is so disheartening for everyone here in DC. We won't throw in the towel and next is Office of Employee Appeals and EEOC.

    The Wash. Teacher


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