Watch out now--I'm going to take a break from blathering about my humdrum life and be in the now!
How wonderful that Prince William and Kate got engaged! I think it's so sweet and happy. I'm also glad that the media, in general, seem to be happy and nice about it, instead of snarky and trollish like it can be. (Though of course when gothamist posted about it, the legendary commenters immediately starting hating. What about NYC being the best, again?) Anyway, good on them, and congratulations! We can all use happy news like that once in a while.
Not quite congratulatory, but I suppose any former teacher blogger shouldn't ignore this passing of chancellor-baton that's just starting. I only taught under Klein, so thankfully I don't know what it's like to have a new chancellor every couple years. When I began teaching, I accepted the party line of disliking everything he tried to do. As time went on, and I was forced to think about it and understand that he was a person working hard for the system, I no longer hated him. Some of the decisions I found odd or ridiculous, but it's not hard to see that at least it's better than nothing.
And seriously, no matter what, the New York City school system has pretty much been fucked for a long time. It's completely broken and I don't ever see a way out of it altogether, because the system is just too big--too many buildings to maintain and build, too many kids to cram into those crumbling buildings, too many principals doing really great or really stupid things, too many kids who don't do much at all but still pass, too many angry parents who don't want their kids to take responsibility for their actions, too many parents who don't give a shit or who are too busy to care, too many teachers who work their butts off for not enough pay or acclaim, too many teachers who don't do a damn thing all day and still get paid, too much focus on fucking bulletin boards instead of real live learning, too many sensationalistic news reporters eager to break a new scandal about all the things wrong with the schools/the teachers/the chancellor/the union/the city/the world.
Was Joel Klein a hero for the schools? Eh, probably not. Did he and the mayor work hard to try and effect change? Yeah, I think we can all agree on that, even if we don't agree on the results. Can anyone be a hero for the schools? I doubt it--see above.
The pick for new chancellor, Cathie Black, does seem completely out of the blue. Along with pretty much everyone else, my initial reaction was wtf? A publishing exec? Huh? What does that have to do with schools?
However, in reading a little bit and thinking on it, I suppose that a schools leader on that level doesn't necessarily *need* school experience, because it is a high level managerial position. However, I do think that experience in schools, especially in inner-city public schools, would develop some humility and a dose of reality to those on the top. It makes sense that the person in charge of public schools knows what it's like to be in one, as a student and/or teacher. Which is why there's apparently the law that superintendents have to have at least three years' teaching experience. Good job, New York State!
On the other hand, I can see the benefit of bringing in someone fresh, who's not already bogged down in edspeak and teaching jargon, dismayed at the state of education. I don't think publishing prepares you to be a chancellor, but perhaps being a leader in one field might translate to being a leader in another one. Certainly good leaders all share similar traits, across disciplines.
One thing is certain--actually two. One, I would not want to be chancellor, because there's no way to win. You'll never be the good guy because there will always be groups clamoring to bring you down and argue against every single thing you do (whether it's deserved or not). Two, Cathie Black has her work cut out for her! She's jumping into an awfully big ocean on a fairly flimsy canoe.
I'm not sure it's anyone's place to question the placement. If the waiver is granted, then it's done and there's nothing we can do. Fighting and arguing and signing petitions isn't going to do much. Clearly, Bloomberg has his reasons, whatever they are, and his history shows that if he gets an idea, he will not give it up.
Furthermore, all that fighting does exactly the opposite of what needs to happen--focus on the kids. Okay, we have a new chancellor. Whatever. What are we going to do about this crazy broken system? How about we be realistic--there's no money to put into the schools, and not enough kids are learning what they should--what can we do to move forward?