Monday, November 15, 2010

Separated at Birth: Joel and Norm - I Miss Him Already

Cathie Black convenes first meeting of her team
Last Update: Tues, Nov. 16, 8am
(Additions in red)

VIDEO: More PEP POO: The Big Hug

At least he talks like me.

Wow! Joel Klein really did have some ed creds - at least if you read the NYTimes article today by Javier Hernandez (how nice to have him back writing on ed issues), where he points out just how much more qualified Klein was than Cathie Black. In a matter of speaking. I mean there's really qualified and then there's veneer qualified like Joel. And then there's Cathie Black qualified - socializing with the mayor - really the only kind of qualified that counts in their rarefied atmosphere. What kind of value-added score does she get for that?

[Have you noticed the NY Times hammering her with their increasing scrutiny? - see Note below].

Klein taught full time for as long as Randi Weingarten (6 months) and she was no more qualified to lead the UFT and AFT than Joel was to lead the DOE. Ask yourself: which results are worse - the schools after 8 years of Joel or the UFT after 10 years or Randi? Let's call it a draw.
In a five-page letter to state education officials, Mr. Bloomberg mentioned Joel I. Klein’s every possible brush with education, including his time at the Justice Department, his speeches on the rights of the mentally ill, and even a plaque on his high school’s wall of fame. As Mr. Bloomberg repeats the ritual of seeking approval from the state for his chancellor-in-waiting — this time, Cathleen P. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines — his case may be even more strained.
A crucial part of Mr. Bloomberg’s case in 2002 was Mr. Klein’s “considerable experience in the education arena.” Mr. Klein, the son of a postal worker, attended public schools in Queens and taught math to sixth graders in the city.
“Collectively, this training and experience provide Mr. Klein with the extensive management, educational, administrative, business, analytic, policy and political skills essential to the chancellorship,” the waiver request said.
While Mr. Klein’s experience with New York education was slim, Ms. Black’s may be slimmer.
Not commonly known: Joel and I are twins
I think I'm going to go over to Uncle Joel and give him one big hug at what may be his final PEP meeting tomorrow night - if I can get him to look up from his Blackberry. If I run into him I would honestly tell him what I told Randi when she left: It was never personal, but political.

I know some people despise them both, but in many ways I had more of an affinity for Klein than I did for Randi (maybe because I never worked in the system for Klein other than as an F-status a few days a week). Klein and I at least came from the same place. Randi was from someplace else - I haven't figured out exactly where yet- and I'm not talking about a physical place.

Klein and I are about a year or so apart in age and had many similar experiences through our formative years. We both grew up in a lower middle class setting in neighborhoods undergoing changes. He in Long Island City, me in the East NY section of Brooklyn, a severely block busted neighborhood that went from all white and Jewish to all black and Hispanic in the blink of an eye. 

(Imagine those scary and tough teachers in PS 190, my elementary school - from 1956 when I graduated to less than 10 years later- I would bet my pension that they were shell shocked at the changes - as were the teachers at George Gershwin and Jefferson just a few years later - a real lesson to people who think the quality of the teacher is the key element in whether schools are successful - something Joel Klein never learned first hand it appears.)

Our families were probably similar - his dad was a postal worker and mine was a presser in the garment industry. (My first union experience was my dad coming home from a strike with a "picket captain" are band.)

Both of us went to neighborhood high schools (Bryant and Jefferson) and not the specialty high schools (I totally bombed on the Brooklyn Tech test and I would bet he may have too since an ambitious fellow like him would have gone to one of those schools if he could). When he talks about the transformative experience in high school I totally identify with it. I got a world class education at Jeff that totally prepared me for college - but I very luckily was placed in the college bound group of about 150 students that got very special treatment. Another lesson I learned early on - education was not equal for all. 

Of course Klein destroyed my alma mata while leaving his alone - and the replacement small schools at Jefferson have struggled mightily by all reports. 

(I did after school service credit for a great guy and great teacher in the Jeff school supply room - I think his name was Sidney Zukov- and he at times complained about his classes and how kids didn't want to learn - I told him he should teach honors classes because they were so stimulating. He gave me a look and rolled his eyes- it took me 10 years to realize that look meant those classes were doled out to favorites - I heard years later he transferred to South Shore HS when Jeff started to get real bad.)

At the college level Klein and I diverged. He got into Columbia. I never even thought of applying to anyplace by Brooklyn College, where I felt I also got a world class education. Klein went on to law school at Harvard and I went on to grad school in history at Brooklyn College, aiming for a PhD one day and writing and teaching at the college level.

But there was this pesky war going on and they removed grad school deferments and Klein and I were offered a chance to get a deferment - I think he was a year or two behind me. The offer was for elementary school or junior high math. I chose the former; Klein the latter. Neither of us had any thought of staying in teaching.

I went through hell my first year. I can't believe that Klein didn't have a similar experience - or worse - I was a big guy at least with little kids and he is a small guy with big junior high kids. I don't know about him (and would actually love to interview him one day on just that time in his life) but I had zero experience dealing with people of color and was hit by culture shock.

Now here is where we diverge. He must have gotten a good lottery draft number after 6 months of teaching. I also got a decent number but was in my third year of teaching in 1969/70, with my own 4th grade class - my first full year with a class - which I absolutely loved - and was hooked on teaching. Klein jumped out as soon as he could and went back to law school. I dropped out of the MA in history program at Brooklyn College and got an MA in reading instead. I remained in the system full-time through 2002 and part-time through 2005. Joel came back to haunt all of us in 2002.

Still, no matter how much I criticized Joel Klein, I always felt there was some common ground somewhere in his psyche - we would need a steam shovel to dig it out but something has to be lurking.

At least Joel talks like me.

As for Cathie Black, other than us being the same age, she is an alien from another galaxy.

NOTE: Black will not last long as a candidate with the NY Times clearly taking a position against her.

This Stuff is What Will Make Black Withdraw


Michael Fiorillo said...

Norm, you don't mention the greatest difference between you and Klein: you entered the world of education to help children, and you stayed with it for a long career, while Klein came in to destroy the system and enable its takeover by the privateers whom he serves..

Big, big, difference.

Anonymous said...

Michael has it all wrong. Norm clearly says that he went into teaching to avoid the draft--just as he imagines Klein did. Later on, he changed from a draft dodger to a teacher and Klein changed from a draft dodger to a lawyer. But they both started out as draft dodgers.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, John, but you have it wrong.
Norm and Joel began teaching in order to educate children instead of killing children.

ed notes online said...

Good point Gloria but I don't think I was thinking that deep. Escape the draft, get a job, get out of school after 15 straight years. A trifecta. The kids meant nothing at that point.
And if I really wanted to help children I should not have gone into teaching in a dysfunctional board of education. There were probably a lot better things I could have done.

Hypatia said...

Finally, Norm, after all these years of pretended to criticize the UFT leadership because of your great love for the union, the truth comes out. In point of fact, you have always been a shill and apologist for the DOE, doing what you can to denigrate and divide the UFT. I'm not surprised that you'll miss Klein, or that you find him more likable than Weingarten or Mulgrew. You've always been Klein's boy and that's why your comments about the UFT have always been, and will continue to be, suspect.

ed notes online said...

Yes Hypatia. Why not take a stroll through this blog and through ed notes and point out all the places we haev been a shill for Joel Klein. Or our speeches at PEP meetings all those years when you hacks were absent. Take a look at the state of the union and ask if it was me or you and Randi that weakened it.

mark said...

Black will likely serve no longer than the three years remaining in Bloomberg's term.