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Friday, November 21, 2008

Joel Klein as a tone-deaf Oedipus?

Check out this piece in the Huffington Post by Benjamin Barber, who criticizes the so-called pundits like Jacob Weisberg of Slate, who are pushing Larry Summers and Joel Klein as two potential picks in the Obama administration because of their supposed braininess. As Barber points out:

What's wanted in anyone's cabinet is not brilliance but judgment. Not genius but wisdom. And the former is a lousy predictor of the latter. Like Summers and Klein, a number of the wannabes are arrogant and unlistening. Known for what they know and where they went to school (like Harvard and Yale).

Summers folded as Harvard's President not because he said something politically incorrect about women (too baby-obsessed to be good scientists) or tried to tell one of America's leading public intellectuals (Cornel West) how to be a "good" scholar, but because he was seen as dismissive of faculty, indifferent to contrarian ideas and unwilling to listen to others - traits he had shown during his tenure with the Clinton administration.

Joel Klein's career as chief education honcho for New York City has been marked by a similar disrespect for teachers and parents, and a techno-corporate approach to education that, while putatively wedded to equal opportunity, has been completely tone-deaf to the communities he supposedly serves. He knows a lot and knows it. But he lacks elementary judgment.

President Obama will be in need of counselors with wisdom as well as smarts, and will quickly learn that arrogance isn't merely a "defect of a superior mind" (as Weisberg puts it), but a form of deafness that incapacitates the hubristic for leadership. Oedipus was smart as they come, but, as I recall, made a terrible king.


Anonymous said...

I hope we don't lose Joel Klein, since schools have made real progress under his watch. I like that we've had stable leadership and accountability at DOE, for the first time in a long time.

Anonymous said...

Define real progress.

Leonie Haimson said...

Check out our more recent posting, pointing out that the first of these Anonymous commentators is likely working for the Mayor's organization called MASS -- at "The Mayor's campaign to keep control over our schools has begun."