Saturday, June 8, 2019

School Scope: La Guardia HS Student Sit-in Over Admissions Policy, Forest Hills HS Principal Out Plus Neoliberalism Further Defined

Published in print in The Wave - June 7, 2019

School Scope: La Guardia HS Student Sit-in Over Admissions Policy, Forest Hills HS Principal Out
By Norm Scott

A couple of well-known historic NYC high schools have been undergoing turmoil. For the past year teachers at the 82 year old Forest Hills High School, one of the few large high schools left standing in the city (famous alum: Simon and Garfunkel, Art Buchwald, Jerry Springer, Captain Kangaroo – well, Bob Keeshan) have been protesting the actions of principal Ben Sherman, with a massive vote of no confidence. There are rumors that even the Assistant Principals voted no-confidence. And the tabloid press and education blogs (like mine) have also picked up the story. Finally, on June 3, Sherman “resigned” – meaning he will be kicked upstairs to a desk job with a salary raise. So goes it in the DOE. The UFT is getting some credit for assistance to the teachers and I have all the details, including the resignation letter at:

At the even better known LaGuardia High School, a different kind of action has been taking place where students held a sit-in last Friday.
The NY Times gives us the flavor of the issue:
A dilemma is looming over one of America’s best public arts schools: Does a graceful modern dancer or a brilliant painter deserve a seat if they have middling grades in algebra or English? The balance between arts and academics has become increasingly fragile at Manhattan’s LaGuardia High School. Long-simmering tensions boiled over on Friday, when hundreds of students staged an hourslong sit-in at the school to protest a perceived dilution of LaGuardia’s arts focus in favor of stricter academic requirements. Students lined the hallways on two floors of the Lincoln Center area school, holding signs reading, “talented people are left behind” and “permit art,” many of which were later taped to the front door of the office of the principal, Lisa Mars, who took over in 2013.

Now this is an interesting story because of the controversies over single test admission policies at the three high end specialty high schools (Bronx Science, Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech) and the de Blasio attempt to change those policies in the face of much resistance – state law currently mandates a single test for those schools. But LaGuardia is also a specialty school focused on the performing and fine arts and also requires a test – an audition – which always seemed to count more than the academic success of the students. But since Lisa Mars became principal she has begun to put more emphasis on academics, which many students feel violate the very intention of the school – to focus on the arts. In essence LaG is a vocational school for artists of all types. As one student said in the NY Times article: “We’re not here to be the most perfect mathematician…. if I wanted to do that I would have gone to Stuyvesant. I’m here to discover myself as an artist.”

In contrast to the other specialty schools, the student body is more diverse: half of the school’s roughly 2,800 students are white, 20 percent are Asian-American and a third are black and Hispanic. I reported in more depth where I cast some shade on the UFT for not putting up a bigger fight:

Last week’s column on neo-liberalism questioned some of my assumptions.

Michael F: Neo Liberalism has become a front for centralization of power. It is essentially globalism. We are seeing the resistance to globalism in Brexit, and anti globalist forces in Europe and America. Neo Liberalists love the term “free trade”, but the EU commission’s (non elected) policies saw Ireland importing potatoes from Sweden, and UK fishermen unable to trawl their own waters. That is anti free trade. De-regulation of banking was certainly a central component, and helps explain how a globalist banker like Macron was spirited to power by a complicit globalist press. Traditional capitalism has also become expendable as corporatist forces ally with central banks to consolidate power. It is not unlike Mussolini's corporate state at an international level.

Vera P: Neoliberalism doesn’t mean little state intervention; rather it means intervention to benefit capitalism at the expense of labor, which can also include divide and conquer strategies to undermine labor movements. (An example of this is the role of neoliberal support for dual unions, especially abroad where labor movements are more powerful and progressive .)

Government subsidies are transformed from an attempt (as a result of a growing and threatening labor movement) to bring about a more equitable society to the clear drive to subsidize the wealthiest capitalist enterprises in the country: industrialized farms; the military industry, the oil, gas, and nuclear industries; transportation; industrial waste and catastrophic pollution; etc. Without the hundreds of U.S. military bases around the world, the payoffs to world government officials, the training and outfitting of foreign armies, the control of shipping, the U.S.-controlled international banking system, it wouldn't be possible for U.S. firms to have such a stranglehold on most of the world production and market systems.”

Norm’s brain is hurting from too much thinking but he keeps blogging at

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