Monday, April 23, 2012

Socrates' man at City Hall

The good thing about retirement is that I have the time and energy to read.

The bad thing is that some of the stuff I read reminds me of Michael Bloomberg's failed education policies and the mess he's making with NYC public schools.

This afternoon I was two-thirds the way through I.F. Stone's Trial of Socrates when the quality of his governance came to mind.

I recall how frustrated I was studying Plato's Socrates way back in college because of what Stone calls the "semantic fog" of his negative dialectic. Socrates affirmed nothing himself, says the Roman writer Varro, who lived a few centuries later. He refuted everything anyone else had to say. It was purgatory for me that semester trying to work out the thread of the Socratic dialogues.

I guess in the murk of it all, I never quite registered how deeply Socrates despised democracy. According to Stone, he "saw the human community as a herd that had to be ruled by a king or kings, as sheep by a shepherd." I don't know how I came away with the idea that the man was a founding father of Greek democracy, because clearly he wasn't. He didn't believe that the demos, the average Joes, could be trusted with decisions of state. Rather, he favored autocracy: it was the autocrats who knew best how to rule. That kind of thinking would have made him very popular with the Bloomberg crowd.

But, on one occasion Socrates did publicly criticize an autocrat and his supporters. It was just after the Peloponnesian War in 404 B.C., when Critias and the newly empowered Thirty Tyrants went about executing and exiling hundreds of upstanding pro-democratic Athenians.

Ordered to help round up one such citizen for execution, Socrates refused. His reasoning was explained by Xenophon like this: 
"When the Thirty were putting to death many citizens of the highest respectability and were encouragining many in crime," Xenophon writes, Socrates turned a favorite analogy against the Thirty. "It seems strange enough to me," Socrates said, "that a herdsman who lets his cattle decrease and go to the bad should not admit that he is a poor cowherd; but stranger still that a statesman when he causes the citizens to decrease and go to the bad, should feel no shame or think himself a poor statesman." (Stone, p. 158)

Michael Bloomberg is such a statesman.

For when he starves schools of resources and allows them to "go to the bad" to achieve a political agenda of a whole other order, he is shameless indeed.

The April 19th protest at Tweed against the most recent projected school closings probably made as little difference to Bloomberg, Walcott, and their PEP collaborators as rallies have done in the past.

But the words in a press release for the event speak truth to power, and the stain this mayor leaves on public education cannot be removed.



PRESS RELEASE
extracted from a post in Ednotes
With a cynical misrepresentation of the truth, Mayor Bloomberg is holding 26 Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools hostage to his demands ... The NYCDOE refuses to return to the negotiating table and has threatened 26 of the 33 (PLA) schools with closure through a process called "turnaround".

"Turnaround" is a failed policy because it is disruptive and distracting to the entire school community. It is a model that has been borrowed from the business world and we all know how well the American business model has fared during the past decade. Turnaround destroys bonds between students and teachers. It demoralizes the entire school community when instead the school community should be bolstered and strengthened.

All of the PLA schools have endured years of neglect and threats from the NYCDOE. We have worked hard to move our schools forward and we are making great strides in overcoming the tremendous obstacles that were put in our path by the NYCDOE. Why is Mayor Bloomberg still threatening our school communities?

Bloomberg's policy of school closure has gone on too long.  In three terms of Mayoral Control, Bloomberg has now closed over 100 schools.  Many of the schools voted to phase out on February 9th, were schools opened under the Bloomberg administration. The policy of closure, phase-out, and now turnaround, has not improved our school system in any way.  Bloomberg continues this policy only to hide the data that would paint him as a failure on education.  He is ruining the lives of a generation of students all for his own political gain.

As recent research has demonstrated, having a consistent set of teachers increases student success. However, a huge turnover in staff will have a negative impact on the students who remain at the affected schools, decreasing the likelihood of students' graduation and achievement.  Furthermore many of the programs that are successful at these schools, including electives, clubs, and AP courses, many not run when the majority of the new staff is untrained.

Mayoral control of the NYCDOE under Mayor Bloomberg has been a colossal failure. The very idea that one person has been granted the authority to close any school without input from teachers, parents, and students is a mockery of the concept of democracy. What lesson are our students learning about how this city and our nation work if the voices of affected communities are shut out? We need an end to mayoral control of our public schools.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"An almost total capitulation by the union"
— Jeff Kaufman


You can read Jeff's whole analysis of the new (d)evaluation system on the ICE blog, which he ends with a very dark prediction:
If today's agreement becomes our actual teacher evaluation system, then there will more than likely be massive teacher firings beginning in 2014.

Some of the comments are worth a chuckle. There's a lass called Sandra who thinks getting tenure in the old days was a "gift":
I don't feel one bit of pity to those teachers who were gifted tenure back in those days of desperation and think that that should save them from a true evaluation of their effectiveness ...
I'll be damned if I know what she means by "those days of desperation." I'm assuming Sandra was a youngster when the rest of us were chewing our fingernails over the Board of Ed's certification tests. The music exam was distinctly uncomfortable, even with a Masters and heading into a doctorate. You couldn't just swim in on Music Appreciation and your instrument. There were also tests on piano performance and sight-reading, and the whole thing only came around every few years. Tough titties if you failed it, because no one was going to give you NYC certification or tenure without it.

Ah, those were the days, when deep knowledge of a subject was actually valued. Now your career's a toin coss: heads if your administrator recognizes and respects variations in style, personality and methodology and makes use of your talents, tails if your evaluation is scripted by an inexperienced Tweedle or a politically appointed senior administrator.



I have to credit Wiki for using the Michelangelo painting as an antecedent of our "Perp walk."

Neat.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Going gently into that good night:
Huh???

Retirement.
Different from what I thought.
For those whose adjustment has not gone as smoothly as they had wished, here are some notes I took from Jules Willing's book The Reality of Retirement.

It was this or psychoanalysis.





[Some notes, some paraphrased, some in direct quotes. And I didn't take notes on the chapters dealing with married life.]


Ninety percent of retirees (he's only talking about people retiring from professional jobs) have a health crisis the first year.
Retirement means the total loss of authority.
People try to deal with "safe" problems, i.e., those whose outcomes do not really matter. These safe problems disguise the cause of the anxiety.

We get depressed because we're facing the question whether we were essential in the first place. We have to deal with the fact that what we thought of as our "good works" will be forgotten. We are thus psychologically swirling, and to a large extent unaware. If we are aware of some of it, there's little we believe we can do about it.



Retirement transforms a world where there was an active present, a meaningful past and a pregnant future into a world where there is no present and no future.

At retirement, all of these reactions happen at the same time:
— Recapitulation of a career
— Final judgments on that career
— Subtle devaluing of that career.
Simultaneously, there's the giving up of career goals never attained. Everyone underestimates the trauma of giving up unattained goals. A person facing retirement can scarcely do so except by diminishing their importance. Upon entering retirement, you're at the very lowest point at which you’re capable of planning a future. You can’t visualize it, the data is too scanty. And you’re feeling loss, self-doubt, and psychic diminishment. Rational and analytical skills are unsuitable for introspective thinking.


The retiree has to invent his own concept of himself. He starts at a familiar point (e.g., golf, etc.), but plans don’t work and he's taken aback. He mistakes fantasy for reality.

He starts to make a big action plan for the future, but it's the worst possible time to create such a plan, because one's ability to think things out efficiently is severely limited at this juncture. We've become a deactivated mechanism, with zero readings for productivity and potential for further achievement, career progress, influence, authority and responsibility.

The entire value system is overthrown. We discard vital parts of our identities—most particularly the parts that have value to ourselves. To accept the fact we’re forever useless is psychologically in a class with suicide and self-mutilation, except these feelings are entirely interior experiences, unobserved by others.

We try to repress and conceal our emotional distress because we consider it be an inappropriate response, a fault or failing in ourselves.


The tools people carved out successful careers with had been judgmental skills, a capacity to be right more of then than wrong, first-hand knowledge of the terrain, memory, history, carefully built network of relationships, a structure of enormous complexity that must be constantly tended, skill of finding optimum line between one’s own career goals and the objectives of the organization. These must all be discarded at retirement.

Very few of us, no matter how long we have lived, know ourselves well enough to be certain that we have any worth aside from what we know and what we do. The idea of abandoning the career skills seems inevitably linked to the idea of self-diminishment. We have no foundation for imagining ourselves to be able to exist as a whole and functioning person outside the social and psychological world in which we made a career.

We ask ourselves: What parts of ourselves can we save and enlarge to fill up the empty spaces? What skills can be adapted to other purposes? What knowledge or experience can be reshaped and redirected? Whatever we can’t use or redirect will be junked.

There's thus a strong tendency to fill the void with almost any sort of goal, however arbitrary or poorly thought, the idea being not so much to achieve it as, by establishing it, to give one an air of purpose and direction. This finds its expression in busy-ness, preoccupation with plans and arrangements, investigation of all sorts of technical questions, and pinning down of details. The impression is of someone accelerating rather than slowing.

Busy-ness seems to be the universal remedy for easing the shock of plunging into the unknown.  When the initial plans don’t work, we tend to describe any plan as “getting it out of my system.” What we really get out of our systems is the myth of retirement as a perpetual holiday.

Retirement as an experience separate from aging is seen only peripherally and sometimes not at all. The dismantling of the social structure (i.e., the workplace) of the career life is far greater than one anticipates.
We are often unaware that we have been on a steady diet of small satisfactions, and we don’t know we’re addicted until the supply stops.
Retirement does not assure a flow of accomplishment and satisfactions: they can't be provided in the early stages. There's no continuous level of activity that throws off these small sparks of satisfaction. It’s a period of stops and starts, of isolated and one-time problems. No day is ordinary, nothing is routine.
There is no larger structure into which we must fit. Nothing really has to be done now if we want to do it later, and practically no one is affected by whether or not it is done at all. Pressure must be almost entirely self-generated rather than imposed by others or outside events. Thus, we  become aware that some vital fluid has stopped flowing.

It is almost as if we sense that the struggle is essential to survival—and that there must be something to struggle against.
The capacity to struggle must be fueled by inner forces when outer forces no longer provoke the adrenaline flow. We are addicts who must get our kick one way or another. The alternative is too awful to contemplate.



What we are struggling against is not placidity, but paralysis, the leveling down to a monotone, the loss of sharp reflex.
Our great dread is that the jiggling marker will subside until it draws a straight line, like an electrocardiograph of a lifeless thing.


We feel disoriented and helpless at having to find an answer to the question of what we want to become. Throwback to childhood: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Activity is the operative word at this stage. When work no longer provides it, interests and hobbies are substituted. Early in retirement there’s an unnatural carryover of attitudes: you approach your hobby as you did your work: intensively. Hobby gets the highest priority, the most time, the greatest energy, the extensive investment. At this stage it’s job replacement, not a “leisure activity.”


One part of the universal dream is “the trip.” A trip performs other functions not as clear as a reward, the ultimate vacation. It is a reassurance, a validation of the fact that all is well, that one’s affairs are in order, that one can depart free of care and worry and put anxieties to rest. Corroboration that one is physically fit and active. Verifies you can afford some luxury. It is a safe first step into the unknown new way of life – you go to a place never visited, enjoy it, and return safely. A metaphor of reassurance that one can enter retirement and survive, even enjoy.

Two big differences between other vacations and this one: from this one you don’t come back and pick up where you left off, and retirement is not for an interval, it is for as long as you live. Retirement does not feel like a proper stopping place but more like a permanent interruption.


The retiree has met very few people who complete this process in less than a year or two; settling into new roles takes that long. These years are transition and time for discovery. You become aware of problems not anticipated and feelings never experienced. In a state of self-awareness, busy sorting out what is good from what is not, matching actual experience with prior expectation. You watch yourself critically, somewhat mistrustfully.

How many of the things one “never had time for” remain undone or forever uncompleted in retirement. Part of the revelation is that many of our yearnings are for things we really didn’t want, that we have been nourishing ourselves on spurious notions of what we are capable of — we learn we’ve created our own myths.
We may sign up for a course or two, then go onto other things, fool around with a few chess books then lose interest, begin great and little adventures we set store in but find them without nourishment. Part of the adjustment in the early stages is this sampling and discarding of long-held ambitions.


Retirement brings an end to striving. One no longer has to measure up, to achieve, to produce, to deserve whatever is received, to protect and defend whatever one has won.

No one is keeping score anymore; the game is over.


It seems logical that a new game should begin, but this trail of logic will never get to the question “What am I now free for?” this is a question that looks to the future, unlike it’s counterpart, “What am I free from?” which looks at the past. An entirely different equation thus: retirement = freedom = release of formerly employed energy = action in new directions.                 
While making the abrupt turn into retirement, we have slowed down for the curve and the road ahead has not yet fully come into view. This is the point at which so many of us go off at a tangent and miss the right road altogether. What successfully retired people take most pleasure in is themselves — who they are and what they are becoming.

The act of relinquishing all at once your unattained career goals is an act of profound meaning and cries out for recognition. Without a ceremony of closing and renunciation, retirees have no way to mourn the causes that now become forever unfinished business, to honor the intentions that will never be fulfilled. To turn away from them so casually is to trivialize them and diminish themselves.


For one's children, “home” was the place where parents remained and children departed.
Retired parents don’t know the extent to which the place where the family had lived, or the familiar place where they as parents were, becomes for the children a fixed point, firm ground in a shifting world. It was a place from which they measured psychological distance; it was what they were growing away from, achieving independence of. So, if the retiree changes his home for somewhere new, he has to examine what effect that has on the kids.


Payment. The assumption is the retiree should be happy to do for nothing what he used to be paid to do. What is most resented is being denied the option of foregoing payment. Feeling of being written out of the economy. I must pay for everything, but no one expects to pay me for anything.
The distinction generally made was that retirees approved donating time and energy to causes outside commercial considerations, though these did not use their best skills. They balked at being used by those with self-interest: e.g. a hospital that saw them as a ready pool of free labor and also at using retired volunteers in ways that deprived working people of jobs.

It may come down to this: that in our culture, value is measured in dollars and expressed in price, so the retiree gets the message that his services have no real value. He’s expected to be glad of the opportunity to get the reward of satisfaction instead of money, because the remaining alternative is the veiled threat of not being permitted to participate at all.



We have become a new form of leisure class — a leisure class of moderate means. We have long know the idle rich and the idle poor; what is new is the idle middle class.
Primary characteristics of retirees: they have incomes for which they do not work. They have 10-20 more years of productive life, but no clearly formulated sense of the purpose of these years. They are a generation whose only established relation to the rest of society is to constitute a market for what others produce.
We need more than this to justify our existence. We must consciously try to invent a future, find purposes and goals appropriate to this stage of life and to make it separate and distinct from aging.

Self-evident solution: The person set to retire should develop outside interests and activities, but they must be designed to approximate and embrace similar kinds of tension, high level of difficulty, possibility of failure, etc. that (business) professionals became addicted to, that kick off the conditioned responses in us that keep us feeling alive and worthwhile. These suggest a good general direction: the task must provide a genuine sense of achievement, it is a real-life task, it enables using our authority, and it involves some risk (which gives it the bitter tang of reality that takes it out of the class of things we think of as hobbies and interests).

Most of the books on retirement advocated advance planning.
The remedy would be to find a way to retire gradually or partially.
Negotiate something with your employer.

We should recognize the wisdom of investing both time and money in preparing ourselves for retirement, yet we tend to feel impoverished if we do anything that lessens our income or our capital, and wasteful if we spend any substantial amount of time in getting ready to retire.

Common thread amongst retirees: Calmness. They are invariably active — not in the level of busy-ness, but in the connection, the maintenance of linkage between the self and other selves. Diversity: mix with other generations and other kinds of people.

Personal values will change. The middle class values power over others and our own lives and possessions; acquisition of material comforts and conveniences, wardrobe, kitchen, nice home, car; progress in such forms as upward mobility, promotion; security of social and professional recognition and steadily growing financial reserves. In retirement we don't much change them. Security does not increase, the upper limits of upward mobility have already been reached, power does not grow, the time for acquiring turns into a time for disposing of things no longer necessary. We don’t strive for promotions, raises. We will not get much richer or better known. We don’t really need the big house and the things in it. We are no longer in charge of anything except ourselves.

We feel we have finished with all the important things and what remains seems comparatively trivial, not enough to devote our lives to. We need a new list of important things, and the only place we can look for new values is among those what weren’t very high on our first list. And that means making fundamental changes in our reasons for living.

There must be developed a focus in one’s life other than the all-consuming intense focus of successfully earning a living.

Part of the act of retiring is the act of altering, perhaps reversing, the values we have been living by, a slow and difficult process that must begin long before we put our value system to the test of retirement.




I also looked at Tillie Olsen's Silences. She quotes Rebecca Davis:
"Drift with the stream because you cannot live deep enough to find the bottom."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Teaching math: That is the question


The following was circulated in the listservs, and I'd like to post it here as well:


Some Observations on Structural and Social Issues in K-12 Mathematics Education

by Arjun Janah


(A) The problem does not lie mainly with the current organization of the mathematics syllabus, but rather with structural & social issues such as:
(1) the pace at which these topics are taught, which leave little room (at least here in New York city) for confidence-building practice and for the kind of applications the authors of this article mention;
(2) the misguided attempt, noble in intention but cruel and disastrous in practice (for both students and their teachers) to try to teach all students at the same pace and to the same level of rigor, whether they are willing, prepared, able or not;
(3) the social problems arising from the cultures that permeate our communities, arising either \"naturally\" from historical and socio-economic causes, or \"artificially\" from the manipulation of youth by the media and its commercial support;
(These social pathologies, intruding into classrooms and homes, destroy focus and make the struggle that is learning impossible to carry on effectively.)
(4) undue obsession with educational methodology, its over-generalization and the imposition of methodological fads and diktats on teachers;
(5) once due, but now, belatedly (greatly exaggerated, undue and injurious) attention to results on standardized examinations.


(B) There is a reason for the abstraction that we find in mathematics. It gives it a generality and concision that is lost when we particularize it.
That said, time and energy are needed to see how the abstractions arise from the particular and concrete and can, in turn, be applied towards solving particular, concrete problems — including those of everyday life. And extended journeys into formal abstraction are best avoided with younger students, especially those in lower grades (typically below the tenth) — and with those who are unable, for a number of reasons, to comprehend these.

(C) As in other K-12 subjects, due attention needs to be restored to traditional educational subject-matter concerns.
These include: purpose, choice, motivation, sequence, focus, pace (and time allocation), practice (and habituation), along with, of course, application.
Students need all of these, plus time and effort, to build familiarity and confidence and to deepen and broaden understanding.

(D) There are no substitutes for logical coherence, sequence and structure on the part of the syllabus or for focus and effort on the part of students and their teachers. Given these, the small successes and the understanding and enjoyment follow. And it is these that sustain the focus and effort, in a virtuous circle.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Going backwards in America

Thanks to Big Money in the hands of the wrong people.

Oops, my bad. Big Money is ALWAYS in the hands of the wrong people.




Produced by KochBrothersExposed.com.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What can Albany be thinking?!

An extraordinary teacher I know wrote this poem after she heard about changing the weight of tests in a teacher evaluations to 40%. I asked her if I could post it so it could weigh as heavily on everyone's heart as it does on mine.


Sad Reality

wonder
who will teach them now
the now
where 40percent of
your eval
depends on their evals
no not evals just the data
the numbers
children
seen as products

so who will teach those who are
slow to trust
slow to process
slow to show
results
in data form

would I tolerate
the injustice of
being measured by that
instead of what really developed
the trust
the strategies
the motivation
to become
a lifelong learner
but not within 8 months until the
TESTS
but with another teacher
who got to
open the “jar”
after all your first moves

with you they started
to walk the walk of a student
competency
came as a result
but later later later.

whatever,
even Ms. Rozin
would have to choose
the gifted,
as is her degree,
to pay to her bills
in the business man’s model for
educating America.
— Muriel Rozin

Friday, April 22, 2011

Clearing out some files

I just found an email I wrote to UFT exec Mike Mendel in September of 2009 about being a music teacher.

Clearly nobody at the UFT responsible for negotiating the contract has ever understood the overload: there's way too much disparity between those who teach general-ed-type subjects to a class of 50 students and those who service a mere 34.

Of course, the points I made to Mendel a couple of years ago only apply when you work a full music program, not when your school cuts music and makes you teach out of license most of the day.

Here's what I wrote him:



Sent: Sunday, September 13, 2009 8:35 PM
To: Michael Mendel
Subject: About music overload

Michael,

I meant to write you earlier, but the overload is enormous.

HS Music teachers can be given 50 kids per class. Of course they all do not show up each and every period, but some things are constant:

1. You have to take attendance on a weekly bubble sheet IN ADDITION to keeping your own attendance records. This usually involves Delaney cards because you can't memorize so many kids (250) without a seating plan.
[editorial comment: you do get to know all the names, sometime in October]

2. If one of these classes is your "homeroom", which requires a daily attendance sheet, that's a third attendance effort.

3. These lists are complicated because they have to be accurate, and you can't do it quickly. Let's say you turn over the Delaney cards to save time. You still have to do the bubbling in your lunch or prep for 250 names per day. And they're not just absent or present. They can be late. They can also be late halfway through the period, which means you have to go back and annotate those too.

4. Talking about differentiation: you get in the same class: grades 9-12, spec. ed (learning disabled plus behaviorally challenged), regular ed, self-contained class members (their IEPs allow them to be mainstreamed for the electives), hearing impaired, and ELLs.

5. Absenteeism is erratic. There is little consistency, so some kids are up to date with the work, and lots and lots of others are missing a day here or there each week.

6. Grading: if you care about your job, you give classwork, and it needs to be graded. Grading so many kids is a nightmare.

7. Report cards are another nightmare, becuase even if they don't show, they all have to get a grade and a comment. This can only be done on a PC, not a Mac, and many music teachers use Macs at home because it was traditionally the best computer for music and art.

8. When they ask us to CALL HOME for every single person absent, try doing that kind of volume. It's only possible to do this on your lunch hour and in your prep. You should not have to do this kind of work at home or on your own time, but one is forced to under these conditions.

9. Now they're asking for PROGRESS REPORTS: they have to be done on a computer for each and every one of the 250 students, even if they aren't coming to school.

10. This leaves no time whatsoever for lesson planning, collaborating with other teachers, fixing your room, making your music tapes and/or class materials. It all has to be done on your own time -- which is normal for teachers, but so very much more for us.

11. On top of this you get a Circular 6 duty taking up a period.


Please can you to do something about this terrible disparity. A spec. ed teacher or a RR teacher has 14 kids max each period, gen ed has 34, and we have 50 — that's half again the reg ed class. But admin makes no exceptions in the obligations we must fulfill as subject teachers.

Failing a contractual class size change, please can you get someone to say that Music teachers with these numbers should be given NO other circ. 6R duty than to finish up the attendance, calling home, grading, and school marks.

The remarks above are for GENERAL MUSIC and small music classes like Keyboard. They are not for CHORUS, BAND or ORCHESTRA, which are "perfomance" groups and many music teachers want as large a group as they can get for better sound. I was most happy in MS with a performance group of 80 or 90 (though I rehearsed them in groups of 32 or so, as well as some lunchtime kids 3 times a week, then combined them all for concerts).


I brought this up two or three years ago at a DA. RW's response was to see if there could be some "non-contractual relief".
That never happened.

Best regards,


His response: "I'm going to push this."

Good luck, you guys. I threw in the towel a month ago and am on terminal leave.




Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fasting

Some are fasting against the Tea Party/Republican budget cuts (video link) — but they shouldn't be saving any dessert for Obama and the Dems who are enabling these corpoholics.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Addendum to "Last Thoughts"

If something is going to appear in perpetuity as the final post on this blog, it may as well be something of substance.

Here are three things of substance, and they all have to do with what happens to the citizenry when a country is overtaken in war or by coup.

Chris Hedges has an essay in truthdig.com on the Huxley/Orwell dystopia that America has become.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

Later he says the corporation state he suggests we're now living in hides

behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, [and] devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass ... It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation.

His whole essay is as frightening as it is true, and it's hard these to keep from getting caught up in the sham.


The other two items of substance are two short books on what happens when "the enemy" actually arrives.

Saki's When William Came is an example of "invasion literature," which Wiki describes as "tales that aroused imaginations and anxieties about hypothetical invasions by foreign powers." Saki's little novel is hypothetical. Written a year before the start of WWI, he imagines what it would be like once the victorious Germans arrive and work their way into British society. Some, he shows us, would accommodate them, others would find refuge in untainted towns and villages.

Parenthetically, I have to get a hold of P.G. Wodehouse's short novel The Swoop!, which some feel is a parody of the whole genre. Wodehouse invents a Britain defending itself against 9 simultaneous invaders. As I see it, such an invasion has already taken place in America. I can think of 9 very real enemies right off the top of my head that have soiled our national values: the regulatory agencies, the Patriot Acts, endless (unauthorized) war, Guantanamo, Citizens United and the Roberts court, hedge fund managers and the complicit banks, the party of No, the Christian Right, and tax cuts for the super rich. Why not throw in Ed Deformers for good measure.

Bottom line: We don't need any foreign-power hypotheticals to imagine what a takeover culture would look like in this country. Plutarchy — rule by the wealthy mixed with rule by the few — is already well underway on American soil.


A third bit of substance, A Woman in Berlin, is by an anonymous female reporter who took meticulous notes on what happened to her and the people in her building during the 9 weeks at the end of WWII when the Red Army took over. It is not fiction. In horrifying detail she describes the invasion of body (rape) and personal space against a background of widespread deprivation.

I mention this book because when a country undergoes dramatic changes, each individual is forced to journey through a spectrum, from scenarios he may imagine, through incremental changes he may find acceptable to progressively unsettling discomforts, and eventually to horror, terror, and breakdown.

Understanding what's happening to us does not make living through a cultural/political coup any easier. Until the going gets really tough here in this country — and I am certain it will — we're dealing with mass avoidance and widespread ignorance.

Getting a handle on the nature of this spectrum as it plays out is a serious task. As Hedges says:
The fa├žade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths ...

The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.
The enemy is everywhere. What a thought.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Last thoughts


[Augmented at the end since I put this up a few hours ago]


While this blog is on permanent suspension, I recommend all to Ednotes Online.

It's the most comprehensive and entertaining record of UFT and DoE malfeasance since Scott put up his first post over there in August 2006. He had witnesses: his three cats.

Ednotes is also packed with context — current and historical. The guy taught 35 years and has been retired for as long as I've known him.

You'll also find every conceivable form of satire: banter, burlesque, caricature, cauticity, chaffing, irony, lampoonery, mockery, parody, pasquinade, persiflage, play-on, put-on, raillery, sarcasm, send-up, skit, poof, squib, takeoff, travesty, wit and witticism.

In truth, he gives real good persiflage, but I wouldn't have known that without checking the dictionary.



Another thought.

Though I haven't really forgiven Bill Maher for what he said about teachers in March 2009, I'm thinking of giving him another chance.

Here's an excerpt of his thoughts on Jon Stewart's Sanity Rally last month down in Washington, DC. The whole monologue hits the main points about the country's incomprehensible twist to the Right.

An excerpt from the Huffington Post:
Keith Olbermann is right when he says he's not the equivalent of Glenn Beck. One reports facts the other one is very close to playing with his poop. And the big mistake of modern media has been this notion of balance for balance's sake. That the Left is just as violent and cruel as the Right . . . there's a difference between a mad man and a madman," he said, referencing Olbermann's tweets.

Maher went on to poke holes in Jon's arguments, saying "Martin Luther King spoke on that Mall in the capital and he didn't say, 'Remember folks, those southern sheriffs with the fire hoses and the German shepherds, they have a point too.'

No, he said I have a dream, they have a nightmare
. . . Liberals, like the ones on that field, must stand up and be counted and not pretend that we're as mean, or greedy, or short-sighted or just plain bat-shit as they are. And if that's too polarizing for you, [and you still wanna reach across the aisle and hold hands with someone on the Right] . . . try church.


Lastly, some of the fighters whose voices keep us on track. Here's a GEM video showing them opposing the plutocratic Cathie Black waiver.


Truly, it's been a pleasure.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hit the streets — this is war.


REVISION: A new idiocy to the Black nomination for chancellor.

One of her magazines was giving out Sex Tips of the Day, at $2.99 a pop.

Maybe she'll give them away free to kids if they do their homework.




If you can't stand the hubris, arrogance, corruption and fraud going on in New York City schools under the direction of Michael Bloomberg, the Royal Mayor of our city, come out protest with lots of other parents, teachers and students this Tuesday at the PEP meeting at Brooklyn Tech.

Why?

One look at this new GEM video will give you all the why's you'll ever need.
The kids are brilliant.

The voices are loud.

The disgust is thorough and complete.

A message from GEM:
We’ll meet up at 4:15 at the corner of DeKalb Ave. and South Elliot Pl. by Fort Greene Park for a mini rehearsal and then go over to Brooklyn Tech HS at 5:15 for the performance.

Join with us and let your voice be heard.

Let’s tell the Puppet PEP that we are not going to let them deform, dismantle and destroy our schools and our students’ education!

Need some more reasons why this newspaper lady shouldn't be given the keys to our city?

You'll find reasons in Charles Barron's letter to the State asking Steiner not to give her a waiver.
FROM THE OFFICE OF NYC COUNCIL MEMBER CHARLES BARRON

917-584-7604



Re: Letter urging the New York State Education Department to refuse waiver for new Chancellor & announcement of Thursday Press Conference

Dear Commissioner Steiner /NYSED :

It has come to my attention that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in the process of appointing Magazine Executive Cathie Black to replace Joel Klein, who stepped down as Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education. I have also learned that Cathie Black (like Joel Klein when he was appointed) does not meet the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED’s) required minimum of education and experience to become Chancellor. Thus, she will need a waiver from NYSED before the appointment is official.This is is outrageous and unacceptable. I am writing to urge you to refuse a waiver.

While Ms. Black may be an accomplished businesswoman, New York City Public Schools are not businesses, nor are our children products or commodities. Our children deserve to have a qualified and experienced professional with a successful track record of commitment and competency in developing educated, well rounded, and high achieving students. The importance of these kinds of credentials is evident in the failure of the unqualified Joel Klein with our schools. Eight years of his tenure has left classrooms still overcrowded, a curriulum that has little or no cultural relevance to the student demographic (primarily Black and Latino students), communities fighting over co-located charter schools, unreliable school grades based on unreliable data, no-bid school contracts, our children starved of science, art and music & replaced with excessive test preparation, questions surrounding the manipulation of testing & test scores, and many other serious issues. We cannot repeat this gross injustice to our children, parents, unions, and teachers.

The process by which Bloomberg selected Ms. Black was disrespectful; it was not open to public input - yet Bloomberg seeks NYSED, a public state agency, to grant a waiver. Once again, I urge that you do not grant this waiver and thus accept nothing less than the excellence that our children and our city deserve.

Sincerely,
Charles Barron



As I said, this is war.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

From TAG: Settling 101

The following document being circulated by TAG (Teacher Advocacy Group) speaks for itself. It is a response to the the procedures concocted by the DoE and UFT in an effort to close the rubber rooms and streamline the Teachers Reassigned process.

Commentary about that April 15th agreement can be found on the ICE blog, in separate posts by Jeff Kaufman and James Eterno.

Philip Nobile says in a subsequent post on the same subject:

"[The rubber rooms] were never the real issue.
Rather they are the rear end product of the DOE’s discipline system that can reassign a ham sandwich."


To Teachers, Counselors, Other Affected UFT Personnel:

Many thanks to the TAGNYC member who composed the following directives for any UFT member forced to go through the shameful, bogus process called "Settlement." This member underwent the process and can state from experience that negotiation savvy, and not fear, is your only, repeat ONLY, ally. Again, thank you. Feedback welcomed.

TAGNYC



Settling 101

So your number’s up and it’s Mediation Day! It’s been a long road, waiting for a 3020-a hearing, and now you’ve got to jump through this new hoop of trying to reach an agreement with the Department of Education before finalizing the decision to be heard in administrative court. For some of you, the mediation appointment is just something to do until you have your hearing. Perhaps you think you have to go straight to the 3020-a hearing because of all of the injustice you’ve endured. That is understandable, too.

Having experienced part of the mandated mediation process and thinking about how it could have gone even better is the reason for this short guidebook. Hopefully, it will be useful to you in some way and the experience will have not been for naught.

PRE-MEDIATION: To Mediate or Not to Mediate

After taking an informal survey of folks who went through the 3020-a hearing process, the finding is that those who did not have the support of their principals were found guilty of something -- no matter how minor. Those findings resulted in fines, mandatory classes, and or other conditions. Findings against teachers occurred even when DOE witnesses were found to have lied.

In some cases where the principal fully supported the teacher and/or did not give testimony related to the charges, the teachers were exonerated. So, administrative acquittal can happen. Just ask yourself if there is anyone willing to testify truthfully on your behalf -- and in your favor -- to disprove all of the allegations against you. If not, then settling may be a better option for you. If you are unsure, ask around and take your own informal survey. Just ask yourself which path would lead to a better night’s sleep at the end of the day.

GOING THE MEDIATION ROUTE

ATTITUDE/DEMEANOR/DRESS

Attitude is everything. When your NYSUT lawyer informs you of your mediation date, smile and say that you have an open mind and would love to hear what the DOE has to say. You can seethe inside, knowing you will go on to have your 3020-a hearing. However, going in with an open mind is crucial to getting closer to bearable terms of an agreement.

If you really are crazy, now is not the time to show your true colors. And, if you know deep down you are guilty of the allegations, exhibiting a positive and professional demeanor will persuade the DOE arbitrator and your NYSUT attorney to really work with you and try to get you closer to your own stipulations. If you are difficult or belligerent in any way, you will be less likely to receive any assistance or anything close to an agreeable offer.

Remember to dress professionally. This means to wear a suit and good accessories. You have one opportunity to make a positive impression on the people working on your case: the NYSUT attorney, the arbitrator, and the DOE lawyer.

SUPPORT

If you can, make sure to bring your spouse to all meetings, including your mediation conference. And of course bring your spouse to your 3020-a hearing if you choose to go that route. Such support is not only comforting, subconsciously it helps temper any potential underhandedness the DOE, the arbitrator, or your NYSUT lawyer might otherwise pursue. Your NYSUT lawyer may balk at the idea, so just show up with your spouse and insist that your conferences will always include your spouse. There is some legal clause that allows spouses to hear all the lawyer-client privileged conversations. Be sure to take advantage of this little-known fact. It helps to have someone on your side in the room with you!


MEDIATION PROCESS: PART I

SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

You and your attorney meet to discuss the allegations against you during a separate meeting or phone conversation. During this time, you reiterate how and why the allegations are false. If they are not, explain as objectively as possible what happened. Remember to dress professionally and credibly if you meet your lawyer. A personal visit may be best as this is the time to make a positive impression.

A few days or a couple of weeks later you will find yourself on the sixth floor of the DOE Administrative Trials Unit at 49-51 Chambers St, where there are many, many conference rooms. You will be asked to sign in. If you need to use the bathroom, you will have to ask for the code. Bring snacks and water as you will have to wait throughout the day.

Once the official mediation meeting begins, you and your attorney will go into a conference room with the DOE lawyer and the arbitrator. Before this year, the arbitrator in the mediation process was the same arbitrator who heard a teacher’s case during the 3020-a hearing. Now, the arbitrator who mediates at this meeting is not the one who will hear your case should it become a 3020-a trial.

The DOE lawyer will make some brief opening statement about your specifications and which allegations are serious and how the DOE might be willing to settle. Then, the arbitrator will ask you and your lawyer to go into another room. The arbitrator will speak separately with the DOE lawyer about what the DOE wants in the settlement.

Then, the arbitrator will go to your room and speak with you and your attorney. This is the time to answer the arbitrator’s questions and bring up your concerns and desired terms. At this time, you may hear a lot of, “This is the best thing for you to do,” or “If you settle, you’ll be able to move on with your life.” Maintain your focus if you know that the DOE’s terms are unacceptable and you want to continue with the 3020-a hearing. Remember, their goal is to push through as many settlements as possible to meet the December deadline of closing all cases. Congeniality will go a long way during this one-on-one with the arbitrator because he is the one who usually acts as the go-between your lawyer and the DOE lawyer. If you are difficult or belligerent, the arbitrator may not be so willing to offer suggestions for more favorable terms on your behalf.

Depending on the time of your appointment, it is possible that your mediation meeting may be extended on another day. This is advantageous for you to be able to think about the terms offered and what you are willing to accept. In addition, it may give you time to think outside the box and come up with viable counter-offers. If the end of the day is not near, just ask for a day or two to think about it. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? Take care of yourself and refuse to let yourself to be rattled because of some artificial deadline to get everything signed.


MEDIATION PROCESS: PART II

DISCLOSURE/DOE STIPULATIONS

When discussing your case with your NYSUT lawyer, be sure to mention your ideal outcome. For example, most settlements include a fine, some type of remediation course at your expense, and some sort of stipulations. Some are negotiable in terms of the severity, but not in complete removal. Find out which apply to your case.

Some DOE stipulations could be as follows:

Respondent (that’s you) agrees he is guilty of (insert any one of your specifications here).

Respondent agrees that if she is late any more this year, he will be terminated effective immediately.

Respondent agrees that he will not disclose any of the terms of this agreement to settle this case.

There are many other terms that could apply. It just depends on the allegations and the people working on your case.


YOUR STIPULATIONS

Your deal-breakers may not coincide with the DOE’s desired provisions, so it’s good to be creative and to think outside the box for the following possible terms.

Fines
The DOE loves to start high and then lower the amount of the fine. If you have incurred certain expenses, you should make your lawyer aware of this amount. For example, if you had to rent a storage unit to contain your teaching materials, this should be mentioned. Ask your NYSUT lawyer to get the DOE to state how it arrived at the offered fine amount. Question it, but do so politely.

Issue of Guilt
This is a really important clause to have your NYSUT lawyer insist upon including in the agreement. Ideally, it should be listed underneath the stipulation about the fine you agree to pay.

It should be stated as follows:
“Both parties entering this contract agree that the payment of the fine of $__ does not constitute guilt on the part of the Respondent.”

Your lawyer may tell you that this is not done or that if the DOE doesn’t bring up the issue of guilt you should not, either. It is your decision. Just remember that the inclusion of this statement may have more of an impact later on in your life and career, and that such forethought now could be beneficial in the future.

Remediation Courses
By now you have probably heard of colleagues whose settlements included taking courses on the topic of their allegations. In one case, someone had to find a course on using cell phones in the classroom. It’s absurd, but that’s what that teacher agreed to do. These classes are taught by the same teachers who conduct professional development workshops. They charge anywhere from $100 to $300 per hour, depending on the seniority of the teacher. It’s a racket, and expensive since most agreed-upon courses are at least three hours long. This course fee comes out of your wallet. So, have your lawyer really question the necessity of this stipulation in the agreement.

Removal of Specifications
At the beginning of the mediation process, your lawyer – if she’s good – will avoid disclosing your defense strategy in front of the DOE lawyer. Your attorney should ask the DOE lawyer how much evidence he has for each specification. If the DOE lawyer has little to no evidence, have your lawyer push for the removal of those specifications and include that in the settlement agreement. Just make sure the specifications are stated only as “Specification One” versus “Specification One: Teacher is accused of hitting a student in the hallway before class.” The settlement agreement goes permanently into your file.

Letter of Reprimand
If your allegations are minor, your NYSUT lawyer should ask for a letter of reprimand. This should be the first thing you ask for in lieu of a fine. It is the lowest form of punishment the DOE can administer. Some teachers get this as a result of a 3020-a hearing.

Order of Stipulations
Take time to read the draft of the settlement. If the first stipulation is about the imposed fine, request that it be listed somewhere on the second page. The reason for this is simple: whoever reads it will see the fine that you agreed to pay and it will be the first impression of you – on paper. If other, less serious terms are stated first, then the paragraph about the fine seems less important. And, most people gloss over such documents. So by the second page, perhaps most people will have stopped reading the agreement.

Status of District
If you prefer to stay in the district of your current school, make sure to bring up this point. There has been lots of talk on blogs about how teachers’ status regarding districts can change or be challenged. If it is included in your settlement agreement that you can only interview and be offered positions in your current district, then you will have fewer headaches later.

Ineligible list removal
Make sure that included in the agreement is a statement that says your name will be removed from the ineligible list immediately after the agreement goes into effect. The DOE must be held accountable if this does not occur immediately. Continue to follow up with your NYSUT lawyer until this is resolved. Furthermore, many teachers whose cases have been settled for a while find that their status is still “Suspended with pay” instead of “ATR.” If this should happen to you, call the man in charge of the Children First Network human resources department which handles such teachers: Anthony Vellon, 718-828-5771 or 646-465-2795.


MEDIATION PROCESS: PART III

FINALIZING THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

After all of that, the arbitrator will take some time to review all the information from both sides. There may be some back-and-forth between your lawyer and the DOE lawyer. Each time, a draft of the settlement may be submitted for your review. Once you and the DOE agree on the terms, the DOE lawyer will type up a final draft of the contract. It is binding, so read it thoroughly BEFORE you sign it.

Reading the contract right moments before signing it is really important because what generally happens is that you and your lawyer approve the final draft, and then the DOE lawyer goes off to type it up and print it out. The DOE lawyer may then revise the document -- without telling you—and then fold over all of the pages of the contract so that the only page showing of each of the four or five copies you are to sign at once is the signature page. Take your time to read each agreement carefully. Remember, this is your life, not theirs. The DOE lawyer, the arbitrator, and your NYSUT attorney do this for a living, so it’s just another day and just another teacher to them. So, if they need to wait while you calmly make sure everything is as agreed, then so be it.

There are at least four copies to be signed all at once. You get one, the NYSUT office gets one, your principal gets one, and the DOE office gets one. After the DOE's legal unit supervisor and your principal sign it, you will receive a copy of your settlement in the mail.

Once the DOE lawyer and you are ready to finalize the contract, the entire process will be recorded. In the room with you all is an additional person: the official recorder. You will be asked to state your name and verbally agree that you are entering this binding agreement of your own free will. Everyone watches you sign the contracts, and then it's all over.

POST-MEDIATION

Now, all you have to do is wait for the mail to arrive. Once you receive your copy of the agreement, take note of how you feel and use that for future reference. Then, it's time to move forward and to put the Rubber Room behind you

Having said all of that, the steps after mediation are fuzzy at best. As stated above, many teachers whose cases have been settled for a while find that their status is still "Suspended with Pay" instead of "ATR" or "Restored to Service." If this should happen to you, call your NYSUT lawyer as well as the man in charge of the Children First Network human resources department which handles such teachers. At the time of the publication of this guidebook, that man is Mr. Anthony Vellon. His phone number is 718-828-5771. Some teachers who were not given clear instructions on where to report this fall were able to find out their new assignment just by talking to Mr. Vellon.

In addition, pay attention to your paychecks because some teachers have noticed funny numbers in their take-home pay. One such example is of a teacher whose W-2 form shows more money than was actually paid. Another teacher saw an increase in salary but no explanation of why. What the DOE giveth, the DOE can taketh away -- if you have direct deposit.

Furthermore, after you are removed from the ineligible list, and even after you find yourself at a new school as an ATR, you many one day receive an e-mail in your Inbox or a letter via postal service from a school or some other DOE office telling you about immediate openings at schools or mandatory job fairs. The interview dates for immediate openings offered directly by a school could possibly be mandatory. This is where the whole issue of your status of district comes into play. Make sure to contact the DOE entity and let your status be known. Take notes and write down names. Consider showing up in person.The important thing is to be able to counter whatever argument the DOE makes for terminating you for not showing enough effort to get hired or for not appearing at mandated interviews. It could happen!

Life after mediation should not be scary, but it is because of the internal administrative changes, our nebulous status, and the DOE’s goal of terminating ATRs. Just make sure you always write down the names and contact information from everyone you encounter so you can stay on top of your status and next teaching assignment until you are hired and appointed once again.

©2010. Please let TAGNYC know how Settling 101 has helped you.



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Building things in stone

It's not that I'm slacking off, but once again in this sinister, pro-business, aggressively anti-teacher and decidedly anti-arts climate, I find myself teaching out of license.

Two years ago, they gave me a band program, though I do not teach under a band license. That's because to everyone in the DoE music is music, whether it's orchestra, band, or chorus. Any musician knows how really different the singing thing is from the instrument thing — like about a lifetime to learn how to do either one.

This year they've gone further astray, cut music altogether in my school, and asked me to teach health. I guess they figured that since I've had children of my own, that I seem to be keeping myself well enough, and that I've personally experienced every stage of life but old age, I must know something about health and healthiness. But, that doesn't make it legal under state law.

Mind you, for people who like total immersion, it's not at all bad to teach a whole program like health out of license. Delving into how the body really works and a whole range of other physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, and environmental topics is all good stuff and worth spending many hours on. I'm not begrudging any of that, but it sure does cut into my political work.

Which means that if I come across something that needs to be circulated widely, I'm happy to do it.

A few days ago Betsy Combier (NYC Rubber Room Reporter) drew attention to an article posted last week by Howard Wexler called: New York Labor and Employment Law Report.

It's important to read all of it, but here's an excerpt:
"Earlier this year, Governor David Paterson signed into law Chapter 103 of the Laws of 2010 which, among other things, drastically alters the way classroom teachers and building principals are evaluated and the procedures for disciplining tenured teachers. These changes will take effect over the course of the next several years. Many key provisions were effective on July 1, 2010. . . .

The most widely publicized aspect of the new legislation is Section 3012 c of the Education Law (“3012-c”), which contains the new comprehensive Annual Professional Performance Review (“APPR”) system for teachers and principals. For the 2011-2012 school year, the new APPR system applies only to evaluations of teachers in the common branch subjects or English Language Arts, and Math in grades four through eight, as well as building principals. The new APPR system will apply to all teachers and principals effective in the 2012-2013 school year. . . ."
This ed-deform movement is like building a bloody pyramid.

Stone by well-crafted stone, they put every piece of their agenda in place, not stopping for a moment to think of all the lives devastated in the making of such a gargantuan monument to self-aggrandizement, putrid values, and obscene wealth.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

And the Nobel Prize for
Opposition to EdDeform goes to ...


South Bronx School

who just wrote the brilliant piece below. I'm thinking it should be plastered everywhere IN FULL.

Honestly, you need a sledgehammer to get the comfortable middle-class to wake up and smell the roses.

BRAVO, SBS!




Friday, October 8, 2010

Joel Klein Writes A Manifesto
For Our Time


So Joel Klein knows how to write. Or at the very least knows how to have someone ghost write for him. At least that what it appears in the article in the Washington Post which is due out this Sunday. In fact to help the readers read this mess we here at SBSB have supplied some background music to play whilst reading it. Click here.
Not to leave any credit behind, the article was "co-written" with Michelle Rhee, Ron Huberman, and a bunch of other hacks.

So, the crack team read and reread the Manifesto to come up with a response. The first problem the crack team has is using "manifesto" in the title. Though there is a chance that the Post decided to give it the title it did. The crack team does have an issue with "manifesto." Conjures up crackpots who think 9/11 was an inside job, or Fasci di Combattimento. Something like that. So now down to the lowlights of the Manifesto.

Off to a brilliant, self centered, self absorbed, look at me start already.....

As educators, superintendents, chief executives and chancellors responsible for educating nearly 2 1/2 million students in America, we know that the task of reforming the country's public schools begins with us.

No, it does not begin with you. Sorry to say that. It begins with the families. The parents. The children. The community. The teachers. The people on the front lines. It is not all about you. Get over it.

But those reforms are still outpaced and outsized by the crisis in public education.

There is no crisis. You created the crisis (I urge all readers to read The Shock Doctrine). As with anything in life education is fluid. It ebbs and flows and changes naturally. What you are doing is unnatural and unethical.

The "Waiting for 'Superman' " documentary, the defeat of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million gift to Newark's public schools, and a tidal wave of media attention have helped spark a national debate and presented us with an extraordinary opportunity.

Who except politicians, and the deformers, loves "Waiting for Superman?" The movie that is supposed to have been made for the people of the inner city, to show the plight of the people of the inner city, is not even playing in the inner city! It's not playing on 161st St in the Bronx. It is not playing at Baychester. It is not playing at Whitestone. Not playing in Harlem or Washington Heights. Why isn't it? Is this not the audience you want to reach?

Fenty was defeated because him and Rhee were seen as elitists. According to Michael Fauntroy, an associate professor of public policy at George Mason University in the New York Times Magazine on October 3 said, "the black, often struggling residents of Washington — the vast majority of parents in the public-school system — have a hair-trigger intolerance for anything that smacks of paternalism or disdain by policy makers, particularly when they appear to be telling people how to run their lives and, most potentially offensive of all, how to educate their children." What is it you are not getting?

As far as Zuckerberg. He is an opportunist. Why waste time with him?


21st-century global economy simply will not happen unless we first shed some of the entrenched practices that have held back our education system, practices that have long favored adults, not children.

You mean, "Children First?" Funny. Joel will you set the example by doing away with all the over paid consultants? What about all these network leaders, children first leaders, etc... that just take up space? Favored adults? Why then is the principal that is responsible for the death of Nicole Suriel still employed?

As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents' income — it is the quality of their teacher.

Joel, boobala, just because Obama said it does not make it so. The single most important person in a child's education is the parent. In fact, superstar and world famous social worker Susanne Berman said so on my radio show. I posit it to think that Susanne knows more than you when it comes to the psychology of children.

Yet, for too long, we have let teacher hiring and retention be determined by archaic rules involving seniority and academic credentials. The widespread policy of "last in, first out" (the teacher with the least seniority is the first to go when cuts have to be made) makes it harder to hold on to new, enthusiastic educators and ignores the one thing that should matter most: performance.

So new, young teachers are enthusiastic? Performance? But it has shown that a teacher takes until about their fifth year to get their groove on. I would never, ever allow my child to have a new teacher. The rules are not archaic. They are there to protect indiscriminate retaliation which as you and your cronies have shown is quite prevalent in the NYC DOE. Does your pal Mike propose the same for cops, firefighters, sanitation workers, parks employees? What about corrections officers at Rikers? Your performance has been abhorrent yet you still have a job. Why is that? Want to do away with academic credentials for teachers? Sure, why not. Let's do the same for lawyers. How difficult can it be to bill $450/hr for a phone call?

There isn't a business in America that would survive if it couldn't make personnel decisions based on performance.

And there is not a business in America that would survive the way the NYC DOE treats its "customers." McDonald's treats its public better than the DOE treats its public.

The glacial process for removing an incompetent teacher....

This is due to due process. You are a lawyer, what is it you fail to comprehend about due process? Besides, define incompetence.

has left our school districts impotent.

Joel, and I might be wrong will will check with world famous social worker Susanne Berman on this, but you just might be projecting here. Yes, it happens. It is understandable. You are of course over 60 years of age. But you can do something. Perhaps join Bob Dole in a commercial?

District leaders also need the authority to use financial incentives to attract and retain the best teachers.

Financial incentives, merit pay has been shot down. Don't you read the papers? Or the internet?

Is it reasonable to expect a teacher to address all the needs of 25 or 30 students when some are reading on a fourth-grade level and others are ready for Tolstoy?

NO!!!! So why are you keeping class sizes so high? Why are you not using the funds given to reduce class size??

eliminate arcane rules such as "seat time," which requires a student to spend a specific amount of time in a classroom with a teacher rather than taking advantage of online lessons and other programs.

Yep. Another way to reduce the teachers. The unions. And the pay. Technology is great. I am all for it. But it is just another tool in the classroom. Akin to a book, or a piece of chalk.

That starts with having the courage to replace or substantially restructure persistently low-performing schools that continuously fail our students.

C'mon man. The grading system changes every single year. How can it have any credibility when it comes to closing schools?

Joel, you have done more to wreck education in NYC than anyone has in history. You are a rotten human being, and in a way I feel quite sorry for you. You have no shame, no compassion, and no remorse. Your policies are there to hurt people. I hope one day you can repent. Nixon did.