Thursday, December 11, 2008


posted by The Vidiot @ 1:46 PM Permalink

Greg Palast goes off on Obama's picks for Secretary of Education.

But here we go again. Trial balloons lofted in the Washington Post suggest President-elect Obama is about to select Joel Klein as Secretary of Education. If not Klein, then draft-choice number two is Arne Duncan, Obama's backyard basketball buddy in Chicago.

Say it ain't so, President O.

While I can't comment on the Chicago flunky, Joel Klein is well known, and well loathed, here in NYC. Just ask any teacher in the system what they think of the guy and you'd be hard-pressed to find anything positive about him. Under Klein, the contract the teachers ended up with took away more than it gave. The teachers in the NYC school system are powerless, their job security is threatened at every turn, and they are pressured to work in horrible conditions under horrible circumstances. Unless you're a teacher in one of the precious magnate schools, you're in a tough and unpleasant bind. I've heard it said that if your chosen profession was to be a teacher and you ended up in the NYC school system, you will fantasize about slashing your wrists in despair.


Recently, I read I read an article in the New Yorker about how they hire teachers and what should be done to make it better. But everything they suggested is ridiculous for NYC. For one thing, high schools that don't have competitive entrance exams end up getting all the kids that don't qualify for anything. So, all those underperforming kids end up crammed into a few schools. The teachers and administration have no choice but to enroll those kids. So what happens? The schools fail. Their test scores are dragged down by some of the most underperforming students in the system, making it look like the school is incapabable of educating anything. If you raise your students scores, it's in spite of the system, not because of it.

Additionally, the adminstrators have a tendency to read all sorts of 'academic' crap written by people with PhDs in Education and MAYBE a few were written by a psychologist or two. What you then get is all sort of politically correct posturing that is, quite frankly, meaningless in the real world. BUT in their ongoing effort to remain pertinent and to keep their jobs, these administrators will read that crap like it's the gospel and the tell the teachers, even ones who have been at it for 30 years, that whatever they've been doing is wrong and this is the new way to do it.

And what, pray tell, is that new way? It's called "group work" and that's where the teacher isn't called a teacher, but rather is called a facilitator and the students read and then teach each other the subject matter. This is all the rage in the NYC public school system right now. Lecturing is strictly verboten.

And in a nice, middle- or upper-class school, it MIGHT work.

But in a working-class school where most of the students can barely read, a majority of them have the attention span of a gnat and various and sundry outside stresses takes their toll on them emotionally and physically, well, you can well imagine that it doesn't work... at all.... not in the least bit. It only works in the feverish and inept minds of NYC administrators.

And NYC isn't the only place it's like that. NOLA, Chicago, LA, Cleveland, Detroit, you name it. Any decent sized city with a large working class and an unhealthy dose of poverty is going to suffer the same ills.

Obama's top two choices for Secretary of Education shows that he is clueless to any of this stuff, just like most folks I guess.



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