Joel Klein's last (hopefully) Principals Weekly reminds us of some of his worst qualities – his pretentiousness and hypocrisy.
Harold Levy came in as Chancellor quoting Wallace Stevens; Klein leaves quoting T.S. Eliot. (What is it with these corporate lawyers posing as educators; is it intellectual insecurity?)
Klein quotes these lines, from Eliot's Little Gidding:
"We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time."
Sounds like a a dog chasing his own tail -- an inadvertent metaphor for the perpetual cluelessness of this administration.
He goes onto make oft-repeated claims -- the great achievement gains under his leadership, which were actually quite limited compared to other cities around the nation; and the same old familiar complaints: Why can't we lay off teachers regardless of seniority? Why can't we fire teachers on Absent Teacher Reserve?
He also writes that given "the economics of our state and city" there will be no choice but to lay off teachers -- when there are clearly lots of better choices, other areas of spending that could be cut, and quite a few revenue options as well.
All in all, the letter reminds us of why Klein has been one of the least liked public officials to serve in NYC – with consistently low approval ratings, below 45%, and sometimes well below that for most of his time in office. .
Finally, about the closing schools, he writes:
I don’t think any of you would send your own children to one of those schools. That’s a pretty telling fact. And if that’s true, whose children should go there? Surely, the answer cannot be those with the most challenges and fewest options in life. Let’s not allow job security and nostalgia to stand in the way of doing the hard work necessary to do right by our students.
And let's not allow rigid ideological biases get in the way of providing these students the sort of schools that more advantaged children in this city and state are provided as a matter of course.
Indeed, if the measure is where someone would send his or her own children, Klein should be asked --why did you refuse to make NYC schools more like the ones that your own children attended, or those of Mayor Bloomberg?
The schools their children went to all had extremely small classes, with experienced teachers, in uncrowded facilities, and no high-stakes testing.
Instead, Klein consistently dismissed the importance of class size and experience. As a result, class sizes sharply increased, despite more than a billion dollar meant to reduce class size, schools have become even more crowded with co-locations and the like, and standardized testing has turned into the sole measure of educational quality.
All this is yet another symptom of his and Bloomberg's thorough-going condescension, as Patrick Sullivan has put it, the way in which privileged men have chosen to impose "solutions" on other people’s children that they would never consider for their own.
Let's hope history treats him as he deserves -- an educational Bernie Madoff, who took millions of dollars, in this case from taxpayers, and stole their children's futures.