"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wanted: Political Appointees to Run School Systems.

In keeping with tradition, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, of New York City, has appointed Cathie Black, chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, to be the new New York City Public Schools Chancellor. She replaces Joel Klein who resigned because, it's "his time to leave."

Why did Bloomberg pick Ms. Black, a publisher with no education credentials?
"She is a superstar manager who has succeeded in the private sector," Bloomberg said of Black.

Asked why he didn't pick somebody with a traditional education background, the mayor said he wanted a chancellor who could build on what Klein started and prepare the city's school children for the jobs of the future.
There are those who believe that, what Klein started," was the demise of the New York City Public School System.

In any case, Bloomberg's appointment of Cathie, "Cheaper than a Hooker," Black, was not shocking. Most top education officials in the nation and in the nation's largest cities are no longer educators.

The US Department of Education was started during the Carter administration. President Carter appointed Shirley Hufstedler, an attorney, as the new Secretary of Education. President Reagan vowed to disband the new department if he was elected, but instead, bucked what was to become tradition and appointed a former high school teacher and bus driver, Terrel Bell, to the Secretary position. That was the last time a public school teacher was appointed to the position. Here's the complete list of the US Secretaries of Education, followed by the president under whom they served, and their profession, college major, or previous occupation.

US Secretaries of Education:
  • Shirley Hufstedler (Carter) - Lawyer
  • Terrel Bell (Reagan) - High School Teacher and bus driver
  • William J Bennett (Reagan) - Lawyer
  • Lauro Cavasos (Reagan/Bush I) - College/University Educator
  • Lamar Alexandar (Bush I) - Lawyer, Politician, College/University Educator
  • Richard Riley (Clinton) - Lawyer
  • Roderick Page (Bush II) - College Coach (degree in Education, P.E), Dean, Superintendent
  • Margaret Spellings (Bush II) - Poli Sci Major, Political Appointee
  • Arne Duncan (Obama) - Sociology Major, Professional Athelete, Charter School Entrepreneur, Chicago Public Schools CEO, Political Appointee
In New York City, none of the last three Chancellors (with Black as the third) were educators. In Los Angeles, the current Superintendent is an educator, but he follows an attorney and a US Naval Officer. Similarly in Chicago, since Mayor Daley took over the schools, the last three CEOs have been political appointees...not one of them had any experience in public education. I haven't researched it, but my guess is that a similar pattern holds true for state superintendents and top school administrators in other large urban districts.

Why is it that educators, people who have actually spent time teaching in public schools, show up so rarely on the list of school administrators at the national and "nation's biggest school systems" level?

Here's one reason...
"Once Vander Ark and Gates shifted their focus from startup schools with proven track records to “school-within-a-school” academies in large, failing urban high schools, it was no surprise to anyone who understood the small-high-schools movement that results would be underwhelming. Vander Ark and Gates ignored the research; they ignored the advice of the successful practitioners; and they acted with arrogance and contempt toward the existing high school faculties, whom they assumed would do what they were told in the academy model." -— David Marshak, Educaton Week online, 2/19/10
...and another...
"No Child Left Behind is part of this global project to deprofessionalize teaching as an occupation. . . . The thinking is that the biggest expenditure in education is teacher salaries. And they want to cut costs. They want to diminish the amount of money that's put into public education. And that means they have to lower teacher costs. And in order to do that, they have to deprofessionalize teaching." —- Lois Weiner, Democracy Now! 9/3/2010
...and again...
"Obama has expanded the importance of standardized testing to determine how much teachers will be paid, which educators will be fired and which schools will be closed -- despite evidence that such practices are harmful." -— Dana Milbank, Washington Post, Aug. 15, 2010
...and more...
"The current obsession with making our schools work like a business may be the worst of them [fads and ill-considered ideas in American Education], for it threatens to destroy public education. Who will stand up to the tycoons and politicians and tell them so?" -— Diane Ravitch, The Death & Life of the Great American School System
...and, finally...
"Almost all of Duncan's polices are indebted to the codes of a market-driven business culture, legitimated through discourses of measurement, efficiency and utility. This is a discourse that values hedge fund managers over teachers, privatization over the public good, management over leadership and training over education. Duncan's fervent support of neoliberal values are well-known and are evident in his support for high-stakes testing, charter schools, school-business alliances, merit pay, linking teacher pay to higher test scores, offering students monetary rewards for higher grades, CEO-type management, abolishing tenure, defining the purpose of schooling as largely job training, the weakening of teacher unions and blaming teachers exclusively for the failure of public schooling." -— Henry Giroux, Truthout, May 25, 2010
It's the money...the power. It's politics, not education.

(The last five quotes come from the web page, Notable Quotes, collected by Susan Ohanian.)

A great article on this topic...at the Answer Sheet.

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