Sunday, November 11, 2007

Has NYC's "Emperor's New Clothes" Moment Finally Arrived?

From the little boy who proclaimed the truth about the Emperor’s nonexistent new clothes to the fearless mothers of the disappeareds in Argentina to Edward R. Murrow’s renowned reporting on Senator Joseph McCarthy, despots and those who aspire to despotism have often been brought down by the humblest of truth-tellers. An editorial in today’s New York Times has finally taken a small but meaningful first step in truth-telling about the educational despotism of the Bloomberg-Klein regime.

Entitled “Grading the Grades,” the Times editorial lauds the Chancellor and Mayor for instituting accountability and “rating” of the City’s schools while meekly calling for “replacing the A through F system with a more subtle and flexible one.” No mention is made of the DOE’s incessant emphasis on standardizing testing as the prime measure of educational achievement. Nothing is said about paying students and teachers for attendance and test results, devoting increased time to rote test preparation, or suffering the concomitant loss of educational attention to the arts, sciences, and social studies. Nowhere is the systematic and nearly total disenfranchisement of public school parents mentioned. Rather, the editors view the problem as simply one of over-reductionism. In the Times’ view, schools just need more than one A to F grade to characterize their performance. How many then? Three, five, ten? What’s the point?

As the Bloomberg Klein program drags NY City’s educational system increasingly toward charter schools, voucher programs, and a handful of elite public schools immune to, or politically connected enough, to ignore their grades (or simply demand they be revised upward as necessary), where will we find the voice who will reveal the Emperor’s new clothes for the fraud they are? And what a fitting tale for the last few years of Mayoral control. After all, the premise of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale was that the swindling Farabutto brothers convinced the Emperor that their marvelous new suit of clothes would be invisible to anyone who was stupid or not fit for his position. That sounds eerily similar to past comments directed toward his educational reform critics by Mayor Bloomberg.

So where are our media leaders? Where are our political leaders? When will our Borough Presidents, City Councilpersons, State Legislature representatives, and/or Congressional representatives finally stand up for the public, speak the truth, and say, “No more!” Where will we find our century’s first Joseph Welch, the attorney who heroically stood up to Joseph McCarthy and uttered those now-immortal words, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

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