Friday, September 10, 2010

In the Arena

It's a big job to rationalize the massive corporate undermining of education marching across these United States.  The schools are terrible because the kids are failing, say the "reformers."  The only cure, they say, is to close the schools and fire the teachers.  Charter schools, with non-union employees, are what we need, they say.  Never mind that charters, despite enormous advantages, for the most part don't manage to out-perform public schools.  Forget about poverty, parents working 200 hours a week, or any of the underlying causes of student failure.

Here in NYC, it's reform 24/7.   "Keep It Going, NY," declared a campaign funded directly from Bill Gates' huge pockets.  For years, they declared victory based on test scores Diane Ravitch and others labeled suspect.   They dismissed the critics as lunatics.  When the critics were proven correct, they said it didn't matter.  The spineless, incurious editorial writers of New York went right along with them.

You wonder how they sleep at night, carrying on a massive fraud, undermining the middle class, and training kids for nothing but high-stakes tests.  Then you come upon an article like this one and everything becomes clear.  Uber-"reformer" Joel Klein sees himself as a gladiator:

In an eighth-grade social studies class at Queens Gateway, he praised a student for choosing Theodore Roosevelt as the subject of a presentation she had prepared over the summer. Then he pulled out his wallet and unfolded a slip of paper he said he always carried with him. 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” he recited, quoting Roosevelt from a 1910 speech at the Sorbonne in Paris. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” 

That's a great quote.  I love it.   But let's get real for a moment.  Joel Klein works for the richest man in New York City, carrying out his corporate-friendly vision.  He works in a sparkling new air-conditioned office in an immaculately reconditioned building.  He sits on boards, goes to gala luncheons, and hobnobs with the press.  In the eyes of NYC editorial boards, he walks on water, can do no wrong.

There are indeed people in the arena, shouted down by the public, ridiculed by the media, pelted with rotten fruit on a regular basis, and doing battle with billionaire lions.  For those who haven't cracked a newspaper since well before Klein took office, these people are called "teachers."  And one of their primary critics happens to be Joel Klein himself, who repeatedly lectures them on what he thinks they could do better, who regularly vilifies them, and who indulges in the most spectacular forms of rationalization to justify his "reform" program, which has served no one in the real arena (let alone their students).
blog comments powered by Disqus