September 29, 2007

The numbers games people play

Remember this conversation from 1976 when Bob Woodward was trying to sort out what Deep Throat was telling him?

BW: All we've got are pieces. We can't seem to figure out what the puzzle is supposed to look like . . . I mean, it sounds like bullshit, we don't exactly believe that . . .

DT: Follow the money.

BW: What do you mean? Where?

DT: Oh, I can't tell you that.

If you’re into figuring out how BloomKlein continues to scam and slam us, here are a lot more people capable of following the money than I am. So I'm going to change the parameters a bit and ask you to follow the numbers. And the charts, and the PowerPoint presentations, and the faked test score analyses, and the manipulated graduation rates, class-size calculations, and attendance quotes. As many as you want of them. You can make a list and put them in one long, long column.

Then make another list — of all the data the DOE won’t ever be coughing up, like how many excessed teachers there are subbing or teaching out of license, or how many teachers never got an interview when they applied in the Open Market system, or how many vacancies were filled this past summer by fresh-out-of- school first-job 20-somethings instead of experienced and tenured teachers afloat in the system, or how many teachers sit in rubber rooms without being told why they’ve been put there, or the number of kids who chronically miss the first and last periods of the day but who get marked present anyway, or ... well, you know what I mean.

You’ll see the first column gets a lot of hoopla from Klein, in fancy charts and speeches at public meetings, circulated in press releases and promulgated all over the media in newspapers, cyberspace, radio, and TV. But, don’t even bother looking for any of the stuff in the second column, because you'll never get answers to those questions.

The DOE can get their computers to cough up any information they want, and to our continued disbelief and growing contempt, massage it into something that will make their point and enshrine the result in any number of cool graphic displays to wow the general public. Those same people, though, have a heck of a time extracting the stuff that really counts. In fact, they don’t even want you to think about any of the questions posed in column two.

That’s the way corpocrap works.

Visual spectacles, with appealing colors, nifty graphics, extended data compilations, all designed to package the image of a benevolent, efficient, and hard-working bureaucracy, but not the sociopathy and probable malfeasance behind it.

I was at the PEP meeting the other night and subjected, like the Panel and everyone else in the room, to a super-duper presentation about the new $30,000,000 hotline installed at the DOE called HR Connect. (It’s already been "promulgated" —
here on the DOE website, which says that “HR Connect offers a one-stop, easy-to-use hotline that allows employees to find answers to their questions, learn about benefits, and resolve problems in a single call.")

With all that acclamation for the new system, I thought, good: I can call the hotline first thing in the morning and ask them to look on Galaxy and tell me if the position I got excessed from last June was really cut after all. And that’s what I did, I called the hotline and got this really friendly guy, all trained up just like Klein said he'd be (and as the promulgation says as well: “Trained customer service representatives at HR Connect have already answered nearly 50,000 calls from DOE employees and prospective employees with information about certification, payroll, health benefits, and other topics.”) He tried desperately to find someone or some link in the system that could help me with what we both thought was a very simple question: was I legitimately excessed or were they lying to me.

“I really want to help you. Let me think, let me think ...” I did let him think for a moment or two, but coming up against a fearsome dead end on his supercomputer — which every one of us could have bet their paycheck on — he told me he was sorry that he couldn’t help me after all. I should call HR in my borough. This was the office, of course, that I had been communicating with since last spring, without that $30,000,000 hotline system, and to no real avail. After endless routing through the phone system, I got dumped for the umpteenth time into an answer machine (which Wikipedia says was invented in 1904).

So, here's a project for us. Let’s start making these two lists: the manipulated numbers, charts and displays they put out there for public gullibility and incomprehension and the real numbers and data they deny us. If we get everyone’s input, I’m sure the results will be stunning and informative.

My guess is we can take the clothes off this devious and malevolent emperor yet.

September 22, 2007

Summer in the City

Welcome to my new blog, and for the first post, I want to put some links here to some other stuff I've written in the past couple of months. Some of it is embedded in the blog author's own posts.



Calling All Teachers in Excess

What Joel Klein Really Wants


Do You Hear Snoring?

No Taxation Without Representation!

ATR's: What's Next?


The UFT Leadership and Fuzzy Contracts