SURELY, Mr. Riley, that recourse to bold-face ad hominem is uncalled for, a cheap partisan shot aimed out Our Nation's Education Leaders. Well, no. It would've been a cheap partisan shot if I hadn't read the thing first, which, in the event, made no actual difference, as could've been predicted. Theirs is the cheap partisan shot, made for personal and political gain; when do these people say something surprising, something unexpected, something that doesn't sound rote? I feel the same inclination to apologize for any characterization I could possibly dream up that I do apologizing to Jonah Goldberg, Erick Erickson, Ben Shapiro, or that Atlas Juggs imbecile for their refusal to put their own meat on the line in defense of Civilization. If Education is such a vital, and disastrous, part of American life then it's too important to put your name on a piece of shit that wouldn't have earned a passing grade in a decent freshman logic course.
Just me? Here's a sentence from the thing. One might almost conclude it was, in fact, the key sentence. Now, I was educated in the public schools, so you tell me what it relies on besides prestidigitation.
So, where do we start? With the basics. As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents' income -- it is the quality of their teacher.
Preteritio Alert: let's forget that sixteen of Our Nation's Vaunted Educational Experts can't match an object with its number; believe me, I've seen plenty of Gene White's professional missives, and they argue against the importance of proper English, at least where becoming an overpaid Education Leader is concerned. In 1965 the Coleman Report to President Johnson identified economic class as the major predictor of future academic achievement. It's never been refuted. If you take a look at "Failing" schools in 2010, the thing they share is high percentages of students living in poverty. This is too well known for anyone to've become an Educational Leader without a thorough familiarity with it. It's certainly possible to disagree, but even on Mt. Olympus here, claiming the opposite as established fact has but one possible description: it's a Fucking Lie.
We know very clearly that it is a student's ZIP code, in that low-income households frequently are intellectually impoverished, do not hold academic achievement or intellectualism in high regard, and exacerbate the social negatives with bad nutrition and health care, unstable living conditions, and the thousand bad influences that surround the impoverished home. We know that it is skin color, the result of hundreds of years in which anyone darker than a paper bag could not be taught to read, or, even if things happened to be less draconian, could not enter into hundreds, or thousands, of professions were knowledge could be used, excepting maybe among "his" people.
We think people ought to be ashamed to put their names to such a thing. It's not that we don't think such an opinion can be honestly held--though it can't be honestly held without acknowledging the scoundrels who hide behind it--it's that it can't be honestly held while it's distilled into a Magic Formula. A magic formula which just happens to both line the pockets of its proponents and let them off the hook for failures.
Let's take the case with which I'm most familiar, that of Dr. Eugene "Cufflinks" White (if you'd rather, Somerby has repeatedly dealt with the serial prevaricator Rhee). White makes much, professionally, from the fact that he grew up in a dirt-poor, single-parent home in Jim Crow, Alabama, and was the first of his family to graduate from high school, let alone earn a college degree. White tends to minimize that his entree into higher ed was being 6'5" and able to hoop. We don't impugn it; plenty of B-ballers waste the educational opportunities of a scholarship. We'd just like to know what the 5'5" kid with no skillz is supposed to think.
After stints in Ft. Wayne and as an assistant at IPS, White was named superintendent of Washington Township schools, Indianapolis' best and wealthiest, where he became famous for his annual dragnet of African-American high school males, where he told them to behave less like Africans and more like Americans. This, of course, was wildly popular with white voters, as well as far too many black; occasionally the complaints of an African-American parent who found the exercise racist, demeaning, and probably unconstitutional--that is, of someone who saw it for what it was--made the papers, and was promptly denounced. It's still White's schtick today, in a district which is almost 60% black and 70% minority, though now he does a separate number for the girls, just to keep things balanced. Earlier this year he was overheard in one such using the phrase "act like niggers" ("using the N-word", in local media parlance, as though the negative magic of the term itself was more important than the attitude behind it, the one they didn't want to touch), which he then lied about when confronted. Gene White is not a very good liar.
This is the attitude, folks: the African-American middle-class Church Elder distain for those crazy cuttin'-up colored folk. It's an attitude which has no place in public education. And it's a particularly ironic one when the argument seems to be that our failing students aren't being given enough personal attention. By their lazy union teachers.
White's in his sixth school year as IPS superintendent. They've been marked by lots of trumpeting. He instituted a tougher dress code (after instituting a Task Force to come up with one, so he could remain insulated. He instituted year-round schedules at some poorly-performing schools, then lost a lawsuit when he simply ordered teachers to work the extra days without compensation. He's created a number of magnet schools. He made big noise at the beginning of this year about enforcing attendance; he then quietly informed the schools not to do so. The big plan there? Make teachers responsible for tracking down truants. Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself, and doesn't feel obligated to pay the people who do.
The results have been that Indianapolis Public Schools are the same Failure they were before he arrived. So now it's on to Year-Round School for everybody, meaning another CYA Task Force to fine-tune what has already been decided. And here's what I love about Education Reform, Leadership Style: the local teleprompter readers can't get enough of explaining how this solves the problem of students forgetting stuff over the summer. And, y'know, you may correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't most of our public schools operated on the Agrarian calendar since, oh, their inception? How is it Our Educational Leaders didn't already have an answer or two? Has this just become a problem in the last couple years?
In short, let us consider the source, here: Bloomberg's anti-union hit man, a self-promoting Teach for America groupie, and a convocation of urban Educational Leaders who find it easier, and more personally rewarding, to blame their underlings than accept responsibility.
In other words, this is Reagan Republicanism III: The Calcifying. The people who actually run things are somehow Perpetual Outsiders, plagued by an amorphous but omnipotent Marxism. Their pronouncements are to be taken as unqualified Truth, and as, inherently, True American Values. And yet, y'know, this is just the latest package design for an already tired product (granting that When In Doubt, Redesign the Package is the one authentic American Value for these people's America); the crappyness underneath is never examined, and never called to account. The meddlesomeness of the last decade, or the decade before that? Oh, you're talking about Old Education Leadership! See? New package. We haven't failed. That's unpossible. We're here to clean up Failure. SURGE!
It's remarkable, really: sixteen educational professionals, and not a doubt among 'em. It's everyone else's fault. Every last one of 'em believes that seniority systems are an unqualified evil, that the vast run of claims about Test Scores, with no antecedents, no rigor, no philosophical justification--and a track record of outright cheating, under, for example, Joel Klein--"prove" Failure, which in turn "proves" that Evil Union Teachers are negatively affecting student accomplishment. And that the answer--sitting down?--is superintendent and administration autonomy. Public liars and self-promoters hiding behind a national crisis of their own promotion. Well, you gotta admit: it worked for the Bush administration.