Sunday, September 7, 2008

"Let's be honest."

So I was looking on the DOE website for something about the parking permits, hitting the main site first, then the link to Employees, and then the Teacher Page.

All of a sudden, the sound came on and a video screen started cranking up. I knew all at once they had fiddled with the site since last I had been on it (which I admit may have been never), and then I heard that voice:
“Welcome. Welcome to the 2008-2009 school year here in New York City. It’s my privilege to welcome all of our teachers back, etc. ”

It was Mr. Klein speaking, and sorry, I have to interject something here about that word “Mr.”


I think frivolous, unearned titles are not healthy from a society’s point of view. It’s an ethical issue, much as the whole field of Advertising has ethical issues. Perhaps “Honorary Chancellor” would be a better way to refer to Klein, like we do for Honorary Doctorates. But then the word "honorable" isn't the first word that comes to mind when I think of this particular chancellorship. So, for me it’s “Mr. Klein" — until, of course, the man goes back to grad school to get all those ed courses he’s missing, and a year of student teaching wouldn’t be bad either.


Back to what I was saying before I interrupted myself, every time you return to that Teacher Page, you’re gonna get this Klein greeting until you press the PAUSE button. You'd think with all the tech stuff going on over at Tweed, they could have programmed it to start up only once.

And here’s what you’ll be hearing:
“Our graduation rates are higher than they’ve ever been, significantly higher than they were only four or five years ago.”

“Our scores are up” [there's so much out there already on the successes that are just not, but you can try this for starters]

“And our kids are more excited”

“And the parents are more excited about the quality education in this city ..."

“Let’s be honest" [ad copy]

"That wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for our teachers.”

“I know that there are many challenges”

“Working together”

“Supporting each other”

“Participating on our inquiry teams”
“Inquiry teams”? Never heard of that before. Nor do I believe anyone at Tweed will listen to rank and file teachers except for show, like advertising a vacancy when you know you've already selected the candidate.
“We can really change the world for every single one of our kids.”
That’s actually as true as it is unfortunate. Klein's replaced the very essence of what makes education any good with one-size-fits-all methodologies, teaching to the test, suspending programs, stuffing classrooms with teacher trainees, and using thug tactics to break rather than nurture the unionized staff toughing it out on the darn front line.
“I believe that what’s happening in New York City is really important in terms of what’s happening in education in this country."
Yes, you and your buddies spearhead the destructive forces in education across the country. You train leaders who buy into your hedonistic abandonment of contract and social code, and install them here and in other cities (like here or here; Norm Scott pointed out this Diane Ravitch article, which includes these bits, especially the 3rd paragraph:

"The leading advocates of choice, privatization, merit pay, and accountability appeared in a panel discussion during the Democratic convention, led by Chancellor Joel Klein of New York City and Chancellor Michelle Rhee of Washington, D.C. Along with such colleagues as the Rev. Al Sharpton and Mayor Adrian Fenty of the District of Columbia, they present themselves as the true voices of 'reform.' Listen to them and what one hears is the same views that the Republicans have been expressing since at least 1996, when Republican candidate Bob Dole launched an attack on the teachers’ unions. Now it is Rhee and Fenty trying to persuade D.C. teachers to abandon the tenure rights that their union won for them.

"The 'reforms' of the Klein-Sharpton-Rhee group are not at all new. They attack the teachers’ union, bash teachers, demand merit pay, promote charter schools and private management, and laud testing, lots more testing. They love NCLB, and they want it toughened. At bottom, they would like to see the public school system of the United States run like a business, with employees hired and fired at will. They are ready to privatize and outsource whatever they can, trusting private managers to succeed where the public sector (with themselves as leaders) has failed ...

"So this is the strange new era we are embarked upon, in which the mantle of 'reformer' has passed to those who would dismantle public education, piece by piece."

Klein wraps ups with:
"I look forward to being in touch with you”

“To correspond with you so we can keep our dialogue flowing”

"There are 80,000 of you"
Actually, according to the UFT website: 74,000 teachers, 17,000 classroom paraprofessionals, and a whole bunch of other non-teacher positions. That's a big difference in body count — Klein's 80,000, to Weingarten's 74, but what's 6,000 teacher salaries between friends. Does anyone know a good tune to set "Accountability" to music?
“What I hope is, you feel free at any time to send me an email”

“Let me know your thoughts, your concerns”

“Let me know how you think we can do things better”

“Let me know the ideas that you have about how we improve education in our city"
I could say Yeah, right!, but I have a better idea. Take the guy at his word and absolutely flood him with your thoughts and concerns. Flood him with your ideas. And make sure to send copies of all your emails and letters to the newspapers and to the mayor, the borough presidents, public advocate, and any other government rep you can think of.

Klein wants accountability? Hold him to his open and reiterated invitation for keeping the “dialogue flowing.” My bet is there won’t be any response. My bet he’s BANKING on there being no response.
“Let’s be honest.”

“Let’s be honest.”

“Let’s be honest.”
Okay, so he said that bit just once, but somehow it keeps ringing in my ear. I only wish the plural nominative "Let's" would include the man himself.




1 comment:

cawriter said...

Boy howdy, this is SO true. I lost my job teaching English at a charter high school in Los Angeles last spring and cannot seem to be rehired. The official reason for my departure was that "it wasn't a good fit." I'd taught there for six years, always had satisfactory Stull evaluations, and had just cleared my credential. But I'm also 60 years old and at the upper end of the salary table. So, bon voyage.

My case isn't unique. Since the school went charter five years ago, nearly 50% of the faculty has been turned over. We don't have a principal, we have a CEO. No assistant principals; they're called "directors." And they make a lot more than their equivalents in LA Unified.

So yeah, there is absolutely a concerted effort to privatize our education system in this country, and NCLB is a key catalyst. My school's just one example of what can happen when an administration is given free reign.