19 November 2010

Waiting for Kafka

"If the state education commissioner grants Ms. Black a waiver from the law requiring leaders of school districts to have substantial education credentials and experience, she would take over a system whose size, demographics and challenges are like nothing else she has tried to manage."

The quote above comes from an article in today’s New York Times, with a by-line by David M. Halbfinger, Michael Barbaro and Fernanda Santos concerning Mayor Bloomberg’s appointment of Catherine Black as the next Chancellor of the nation’s largest educational system. The issue seems to be this: Ms. Black has almost no knowledge—practical or theoretical—about education. The article reports, “There is also little evidence that Ms. Black has until now had to wrestle with the challenges of the school system, including race, poverty, immigration and public health, never mind pedagogical and philosophical questions like teacher tenure, charter schools or the new math.” And this seems to be a problem?

What Ms. Black knows a great deal about is the publishing industry and managing what the article refers to as “the bottom-line,” a reference to profits, a subject with which education has nothing to do, except perhaps in certain subject classes.

Having spent forty years in the schools, forty years in classrooms over crowded with young people who struggle in the world and in the schools, forty years of my own steady study, practice, learning and reflection on my art; forty years of thinking, writing and even publishing about education and curriculum, I open the daily newspaper and read that someone who hasn’t the foggiest notion of education has been chosen to serve as the head of the New York City school system.

As Hamlet says of his childhood friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, whom he would trust as two adders fanged, “They fool me to the top of my bent.”

I will go again into the classroom today—and even tomorrow; as Bartleby says, “I know where I am,” though neither the Mayor of New York or his chosen appointee have the least idea where we stand or even for what we endeavor


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cathie Black launched CosmoGirl. This alone is cause not to appoint her as school chancellor.

22 November, 2010 09:21  

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