Friday, March 25, 2016
Schools And Bloomberg's Legacy
As I wander around the Bronx visiting different schools what strikes me most is the lack of cordial relationships between teachers and their students. (Many students are openly disrespectful in a manner that was relatively rare, pre-Bloomberg.) While I'm in many classrooms helping students and teachers, I carefully watch the interactions between students and between teachers and their students. I see approximately 30% of students totally uninvolved and usually on their phones. These are usually the students who need extra support academically and emotionally. Many teachers are forced to tolerate the phones because they simply can't control these students and the phones keep them occupied. It's a pragmatic approach, in that there's virtually no SAVE rooms, detentions, suspensions, and a fear that calling for help will result in the teacher being scrutinized for poor classroom management. This (and the incredible amount of pre and post class digital/paperwork requirements) has resulted in a very detached attitude by many teachers. It's incredibly ironic that Mayor DeBlasio chose two of the very worst directives possible to combat the residue of Bloomberg's policies directed toward students. Long gone are the close relationships and caring about students' well being. Constant threats from students, who don't want to work, and from administrators who want teachers to force these students to do so, have ensured this. Those students are statistics, that can affect the livelihood of the staff and the survival of a school. As we have all been reading lately, many schools seem to be cheating one way or the other - for survival. Perhaps, the old W.C. Fields quote should be imprinted on these schools letterheads, "Anything worth having is worth cheating for". The thing is, I don't believe many of these Bloomberg created schools are worth saving - at least not in their current state.
Schools have gone from institutions to industries while under Bloomberg's reign. Did he improve the schools? That depends on your definition of success. Educationally, monetarily, humanistically, and ethically - it's been an utter failure. However, those were never Bloomberg's goals. His goals were to divide and conquer. Conquer the union, move the classification of schools from social institutions to industry in the public's subconscious lexicon, and iniate all the requisite business directives to reach those goals. Change the population of targeted large schools, which skewed the stats to validate their closing. Train principals as managers, use the media to propagandize, view students as customers, cut out expensive labor, weaken job protections for that group, bring in inexpensive labor and replace it continually as it becomes more expensive. In those regards, his goals were a resounding success. The added expense of redundancy was a nessesary sacrifice to solidify the dismantling of large schools and their expensive and experienced staffs. There should have been much better leadership at the helm of the UFT in 2005, as none of this would have happened without our approval of the 2005 contract. It was clearly bait when a substantial monetary increase was offered for changes that were incongruent with the institution of teaching at that time.
Can Mayor DeBlasio turn back the clock and rebuild what was destroyed? I don't know. There was a lot of cash, with strings attached, contributed by various individuals and corporations. These strings may still be controlling the future direction of public schools in NYC. I like our current Mayor and hoped that the positive relationship he seems to have with our union would have started to change things for the better. The goal of education is, was and should always be to educate students. Happy Easter to my Christian friends.