Sunday, October 21, 2007

We can't let Bloomberg define success

It's unusual that a single article exposes what we're dealing with here in New York, not with one, but with two quotes that make your blood just boil. See below for what I wrote a couple of hours ago about the great pseudo-defender of teacher rights, and now a few words about one of the pioneers of America's new caste system.

"In the private sector, cash incentives are a proven motivator for producing results,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “The most successful employees work harder, and everyone else tries to figure out how they can improve as well."
True enough in his line of work, but not in ours. In fact, I can think of many kinds of jobs where a little more cash can crank up the volume to get a few more things done. Telephone marketing, cross-country trucking, manual labor, to name a few. Many of us including myself would certainly go for cash bonuses if we were doing any of these worthy jobs.

But not teaching — or for that matter, healthcare, or manning an emergency room, or putting out fires. These jobs are not done "better," and we are not more "successful" at them, with cash incentives.

For all his intellect, Bloomberg’s sociopathic soul always shines through the vacuous remarks he makes about how to educate kids. His
corporate world is riddled with white-collar crime, yet he wants to hold businesses in “the private sector” up to us as models of good institutions with worthy goals. There's no match here, as much as he says there is.

It's hard to believe that the man
actually doesn't know what being a "successful employee" is in the field of education, or how educators measure their own successes. We certainly don't rate ourselves by tests or seek rewards for what we do well in the form of cash.

A "successful" teacher holds the room together with most kids on task when they’ve all just come in a huge variety of moods, from deeply depressed, to hungry, to love-starved, angry, ready to work, jealous, giggly, pre-occupied, fearful, and downright horny. A successful teacher can turn an apathetic expression into a moment of joy, like when a student “gets” a concept he’d been having trouble with a second before. That’s a “eureka” moment worth its weight in gold.

Success means when parents and teachers work together to change aberrant behaviors and help students take control of the harmful things they do to themselves and to others. A successful teacher can reverse a bad attendance record. Sometimes success means just the ability to survive in overcrowded classrooms with no textbooks or inadequate equipment — which, trust me, won’t get fixed even when they get around to lowering the numbers by one or two bodies or putting a few extra dollars towards extra computers or more Snapple machines. And it means being able to turn kids away from gang-think, and get them to see there are other kinds of worlds that would serve them better.

Sure, we have notions of success that are similar to Bloomberg’s, like acing a test, or giving a relatively error-free performance, or even just graduating from high school. How could we not, having been through the educational mill ourselves and enjoyed these kinds of successes.

But their world, the corporate one he holds up as a model, is deeply flawed, and no one should be buying into those limited and possibly fraudulent notions of “success” that revolve around test scores and silent submission to administrative directives that don't make sense.

The savings-and-loan corporations of the 80s, Enron, Arbusto Energy, ChoicePoint, Blackwater, subprime lenders: these are some of the greatest “success” stories in Bloomberg’s corporate world — before the muckraking, that is, and before some of the directors got caught and put in jail. People get “successfully” rich working in these kinds of institutions all along the way, and when they're particularly clever, they get to keep their assets even when they serve hard time. That must be a super mark of success. And you could say that politicos and lobbyists like DeLay, Frist and Abramoff were supremely successful at what they did as well, though they dragged the country through the mud.

But to educators, these companies and what these players are all about are some of the most destructive and immoral by-products of capitalism in America.

“I am a capitalist,” Bloomberg says according to the article in Ny1, which means he swims comfortably in these same murky waters.

This is not good for the education of our kids, and because he is unethical at heart and ruthless, we're not saying anything he doesn't already know.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Woodlass,

It seems that to Bloomberg success means he-who-takes-control-of-the situation and he-who-gets-the-best media-coverage.

I agree with you that educators must realize that they have take control of the discussions.

Businesses and the people who run them are in general completely unqualified to determine what success means in the education of children.

We educators must somehow find the clear and convincing collective voice that says "while easy to collect data on and easy to understand, test scores do not measure the real, significant educational successes." K-12 education is not academic post graduate work. It must be primarily nuturing and not strongly goal oriented until the upper grades at least.

In fact focusing on test scores prevents the more meaningful successes from occurring in many many ways.

Bloomberg completely misses the mark about education of children.

By his criteria we must give him a Failing Grade, although most of us would prefer to wait until he matures and patiently try to instruct him.

Woodlass said...

" . . . although most of us would prefer to wait until he matures and patiently try to instruct him."

Nice one!

But do I have time to be patient? I want this fixed before my granchildren are born, not when it'll be too late for them, and all the others of course.

catt55 said...

a dog is a dog is a dog, etc, etc...

ask any New Yorker who has gotten a parking ticket over $100 for NOTHING and they will tell you what they think of Mr. Bloomberg. More high-rise multi-million dollar condos are rising up all over the city while "normal" working folk - like us teachers - are left with few choices in housing stock. and god help you if you have the temerity to "bell the cat" in our school "system" - I know of two spanking fresh cases at my "campus" where teachers are being railroaded FOR DOING NOTHING WRONG. one in fact was assaulted by students in the eye with a pen thrown at him and now he has been banned from the building with unknown charges against him. and this is a TEACHING FELLOW. is this the corporate way? if so again I say god help us all (or whoever you pray to)

Woodlass said...

Scary.

You have to spread the word to people in rubber rooms or under trumped up charges about TAG, because those guys really have it together. They should at least check out their website at http://www.teacheradvocacygrpnyc.blogspot.com/ but they could email them also for info: TAGNYC@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Well said. The REAL education system is not one in which children and teachers are not judged solely by test scores. They are judged by small successes. Do we want all students to pass the Regents (or any other state mandated exam)? of course we do. But in reality we want to see that each students has simple become more- is not better- than he/she was before. That is the REAL success. Bloomberg can't understand this because those kinds of successes are not easy to measure. They don't look good on paper. When your only motivation in life is to "get the benjamins" it becomes increasingly difficult to see the truth. Politics and capitalism don't belong in education.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, this one is edited.

Well said. The REAL education system is not one in which children and teachers are judged solely by test scores. It is one where they are judged by small successes. Do we want all students to pass the Regents (or any other state mandated exam)? of course we do. But in reality we want to see that each students has simple become more- is not better- than he/she was before. That is the REAL success. Bloomberg can't understand this because those kinds of successes are not easy to measure. They don't look good on paper. When your only motivation in life is to "get the benjamins" it becomes increasingly difficult to see the truth. Politics and capitalism don't belong in education.

Diana said...

"Success" is one of the most perverse and twisted concepts I have encountered in daily life. The word can have authentic meaning, but it has been corrupted into its opposite. "Success" now means gloss without substance: the superficial PowerPoint presentation with the graphs going up and up; the business suit; the cheery data, showing leaps and bounds where there are none; the lacquer, the icing, the lies.

To me success means many of the things you said: bringing calm to a room, having those moments when a kid "gets it," sometimes just making it through the day. Success to me means staying truthful in some way, resisting the doublespeak and rotten jargon.

It is refreshing to read this blog post. Thank you.