Tag Archives: Michael Bloomberg

Hats Off to the University of North Carolina Class of 2012

Students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are organizing an Alternative Commencement Ceremony to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2012 without symbolically honoring New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will speak at the official University commencement on May 13th.

Students decided to organize the ceremony in light of Bloomberg’s support for what became a violent eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park, and the NYPD’s repression of credentialed journalists who attempted to enter the park during the eviction process. The students also take issue with Bloomberg’s handling of New York City public schools, for which he has received harsh criticism from teachers, parents, and community members. Organizers are further concerned by the recently exposed NYPD blanket surveillance of Muslim student groups and community centers across the northeast, and most recently by Bloomberg’s public support for the financial giant Goldman Sachs, which has been implicated in manipulative and fraudulent banking practices which contributed to the financial collapse of 2007.

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This is what we need as Bloomberg starts thinking about national office. He is banking on the fact that being an Independent in an age of odious partisanship will propel his career in federal government.

As teachers in New York City, we want to fight the day-to-day battles against Mayoral control, school closings and charters by taking to the streets. This is necessary work, the type that seems to be getting more popular every day.

We need to use this inspiring work to tarnish Bloomberg’s name on the national stage. He has met with Obama and signaled his willingness to work with a president from either major party. Combine this with his comments about the NYPD being his own army, his desire to fire 50% of NYC teachers and his crusades against smoking and trans-fats and you get a clear picture of an out-of-touch megalomaniac.

It is easy for Bloomberg to be bipartisan, because he is a corporatist with the means to fund his own political career. He does not need to latch on to any major party to run a political campaign.

This helps explain his fear of Occupy. Occupy is bipartisan in its own way, more accurately post-partisan, and the last thing he wants is a grassroots movement to steal his thunder. He wants to represent the next stage of politics where party does not matter. Yet, it is just a stage and is designed to maintain the corporate status quo.

Occupy is more than a stage. It represents a new era aimed at dismantling corporatism. It, like Bloomberg, keeps its distance from both major parties. They are Bloomberg’s direct competitor.

Hopefully, the coming American Spring will end up destroying Bloomberg’s national reputation. As we can see from the University of North Carolina, that process has already started.

This is Why Bloomberg Wants to Destroy John Liu

It's either this guy or the lady responsible for more Bloomberg.

It’s because John Liu does studies like this:

More than 40% of public school educators are not using a key tech tool designed to boost lagging test scores, city Controller John Liu charged Monday, in labeling the $83 million program a waste of money.

But the city Education Department shot back that the use of the program, called ARIS, continues to expand and that Liu’s own audit found most teachers and principals say it is helping.

I have some experience with ARIS, as I think do most teachers in New York City. It is the computer program that teachers here can use in order to look up past grades and attendance of their students. $83 million dollars on a program that almost half of all teachers have never used seems like an awful waste.

The DOE seems to take a perplexing stand: that more than half of school staff say that ARIS “helps”. First, is this 50% of total school staff, or 50% of the people who have actually used it? If it is the latter, then the overall percentage would be at around 25%. Second, what does it mean that ARIS is “helping”? Is it helping to provide a quality education to our children, or is it helping in aggregating and disaggregating data? If the latter, then is a program like this worth $83 million? Maybe someone with the pecuniary acumen that I so sorely lack can do a cost-benefit analysis.

Oh wait, that is pretty much what John Liu did. He calls it a huge waste. The DOE’s irrefutable rebuttal is that ARIS is helping students “improve”.

I wonder if there were any better ways of spending that money. Perhaps we could have spent that money on retaining teachers, so Bloomberg would not have to cry poverty in order to have an excuse to fire half of all teachers and double class sizes. Maybe we could have invested some of that money in the litany of schools Bloomberg, in his infinite wisdom, has closed down. In terms of cost-benefit, you do not have to be a financial whiz like John Liu to understand that those $83 million could have went to a million other things that would have been of more benefit to children than a giant data mining system. Especially considering that the data being mined on ARIS is readily accesible as it is: it’s called a transcript.

In reality, those of who work in the DOE know what John Liu is getting at. He is calling attention to the massive waste at Tweed brought about by no-bid contracts to Bloomberg’s cronies in the private sector.

You think the current witch hunt against John Liu has something to do with this annoying tendency he has of criticizing Bloomberg? Bloomberg certainly does not want John Liu to become mayor, preferring instead to have his clones follow him into office in order to solidify his odious legacy.

I certainly see the John Liu investigation for what it is. Too bad so many New Yorkers still are blind to what is really happening. I guess you cannot criticize the Mayor or be too friendly with those evil unions in NYC if you want to have a legitimate shot at power.

The Repressed Teacher

Teachers are the most regulated professionals in the United States. In the classroom, on the train, at the supermarket and on facebook, a teacher’s every action will be judged in the light of their profession. Much of it is necessary, since we are entrusted with other peoples’ children and paid by their tax dollars. But too much of it is downright ridiculous. Now a teacher in Chicago is under investigation for showing clips of the Daily Show in his class. A few weeks ago, a teacher in New Jersey was fired for posting that she felt like she was teaching “future criminals” on her facebook wall. In a 21st culture which entails a deluge of sex, violence, drugs and crime via our media outlets, teacher standards of morality are stuck in 17th century Salem. Teachers are held to standards that most other people refuse to countenance for themselves. I remember one day the super of my old apartment building yelled at me for knocking down a “Wet Paint” sign that I did not knock down at all. In return, I very snidely told him off, which caused him to mutter under his breath “some f***ing role model you are!”. This was a man with two young daughters who obviously never thought of his own duty as a role model. This is the type of everyday judgment and double-standard that drains on the personal life of a teacher. Our human and vulnerable moments are either judged by hypocrites or used as grounds for termination by petty and vindictive administrators. This type of sanctimonious repression is only killing our education system.

All teachers, high school teachers especially, deal in a world of ideas. In fact, I believe that the public school classroom is the single most important forum of ideas in the United States. For many of our kids, it is the only place they can get exposed to substantial intellectual discussions. It is one of the few places left that can offer a refuge from the vultures in corporate media out to destroy their attention spans and imaginations. A child’s encounter with the world of ideas should be free for them to take risks and encourage their greed to know more. Unfortunately, it is impossible for teachers to do this. We are in the most repressed profession on earth. All of our topics must be safe, non-controversial and insipid. Our methods must not embarrass or make students feel bad in any way. While no teacher should make it a point to be controversial or demeaning, knowledge itself sometimes gets at topics of controversy. Discussing something as American as racism is a potential pipe bomb, yet it is vital to an understanding of America. Children certainly will not get an honest race discussion from our media and it is just as unlikely that they will hunt down intelligent discussions of it online. The schools are the only places where they might potentially have a real discussion about race. But teachers are so scared of the fallout that they tend to stick with the saccharine clichés of “tolerance” and “diversity”. The list goes on. Not only racism but poverty, sexism, homophobia, religion and a slew of entirely relevant issues are either ignored or made totally vacuous by us overly regulated teachers. Something as open, free, elegant and glorious as unadulterated knowledge is maimed when it is entrusted to an institution as myopic, hypocritical and reactionary as our public school system.

We are the only professionals who get bossed around by non-professionals. Mayor Bloomberg, the education researchers and the wealthy charter school leeches have not educated one class of students between them, yet they foist their half-baked schemes for reform on us. All of them justify their schemes in the name of the “children”. Want to sound like the good guy? Tell them you are doing this for the “children”. Mayor Bloomberg apparently puts “children first….. always”. The education researchers fall over themselves to prove that their lame methods are better for the children. The wealthy charter school liars claim they provide quality education to underprivileged children. But “children” are their least concern. Bloomberg has not bothered to improve the neighborhoods from which these children come, being more concerned with taxing cigarettes and painting bicycle lanes in gutters. The education researchers do not concern themselves with what type of impact constantly changing their methods might have on the kids who have to suffer through those constant changes. The wealthy corporatists who build charter schools because they care so much for underprivileged children do not actually provide any jobs or services in the communities that keep those children underprivileged. The proof is in the pudding. If any of these people cared about “children”, we would not have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the world. The collective money and brain power of these smart, wealthy people could have saved these children they care so much about decades ago.

No, it is not children they care about, it is schooling. All of them, every single one, get lots of money and power if they have a slice of our public schooling system. That is what everything comes down to. They only use the name of the “children” because they know the general public eats that up. They have to repress teachers because we are the ones who do the schooling. If we feel empowered like actual professionals, their “reforms” go nowhere and they do not get the money and influence they seek. It is a power play and it has never been anything more than a power play.

I have been teaching for 12 years, knowing that I will always be paid less than peers with my same level of education. 12 years, despite the fact that I have no more job security thanks to Bloomberg’s reforms. 12 years of working every minute of the school year, writing lessons, doing research, making units, grading papers, improving my craft. 12 years of being judged and spied on by hypocrites.

And not once did I ever say I do it for the “children”

Occupy the Department of Education (Part I: Fascism as Policy)

It has been a long time by blogging standards since I have added a new post. In many ways, I was undergoing a crisis over the direction this blog should take. I resolved this crisis by deciding to start another serial, this time on the importance of Occupying the Board of Education. It was inspired by Occupy Wall Street’s commandeering of Dennis Walcott’s Panel for Educational Policy meeting this past Tuesday. Like everything else OWS does, it brought home the cruelty and indifference of the people we look to for leadership. As a teacher, I feel I have a duty to lay bare the importance of Occupying the Board of Education. Below is the start of that effort:

Fascism exalts the private over the public. For fascism to take hold, government and corporations must conspire to privatize public services. The United States military, the prison system and huge chunks of our infrastructure have already been privatized. Public schools are next. Public school teachers naturally support Occupy Wall Street, whose one clear demand continues to be to roll back this emerging fascism. Occupying the Department of Education involves exposing the ways in which the New York City school system is already fascistic.

In “The Origins of Totalitarianism” the great Jewish thinker, Hannah Arendt, explained that totalitarian regimes operate by constantly changing the rules. What was policy one day was completely illegal the next. Those that thought of themselves as loyal party players suddenly found themselves outside of the law. The regime constantly weeded out undesirables in this way. People would become mistrustful of each other. The goal was to make collective action on the part of the people impossible. A citizenry atomized into its component parts was easier to control. Atomizing the collective has been a goal of the DOE’s totalitarian ruler, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, from the start. In Year I of the Bloomberg Regime, he replaced the publicly elected Board of Education with a Department of Education whose officers were appointed by, and answerable to, him. The rationale for doing so is familiar enough to students of atomization schemes in other public institutions: the old system was an unresponsive bureaucracy; the new system embodied corporate efficiency. Of course, it is this corporate efficiency that allows the Mayor to constantly manipulate policy in an attempt to destroy any collective action at all, including those two great bastions of collectivism: large high schools and the United Federation of Teachers.

Mayor Bloomberg decreed that all schools get an annual letter grade. Those that consistently receive failing grades are “reorganized”. It is impossible for the schools to know what it takes to receive a passing grade, since the rubrics change every year. Schools that pass one year fail the next, despite no appreciable change in standardized test scores, attendance or violent incidents. It is clear that a school’s grade does not depend on its performance. Instead, the undesirables who are the targets of this ever-changing standard are the large schools. A large school has thousands of students, several dozens to hundreds of teachers and a small cadre of administrators to run it all. The large public school is probably the last rampart of collective community-building anywhere in the country. Large schools can successfully resist mandates for “reform” from outsiders. They can accommodate reform in a way that does not threaten their existence or radically change their culture. But Bloomberg’s DOE is not a reforming force. It is a radical force that seeks complete privatization and atomization of the school system.

“Reorganization” in the DOE means taking the large building in which the large school was housed and requiring 4 or 5 smaller schools to operate in different parts of that building. Chances are that at least one of those schools will be a charter school that has much greater freedom to choose who they will educate. The other schools are still subject to the arbitrary letter grades of the DOE, which largely determines which types of students each school attracts from the surrounding community. The radical “reformers” call this giving parents “choice”. This is the language of consumerism. This is the language of a radical movement to turn the collective action of citizens into the isolated choices of consumers. Instead of the community pooling their resources and sharing space, schools now atomize the members of the community into smaller portions that compete for space and jealously guard the resources they have. What used to be a civics exercise in community-building has become a soulless microcosm of the war of all against all that resembles a “free market”. It is incredible that such a blatant violation of “separate is not equal” has been allowed to develop, causing the NAACP to bring lawsuits against charter schools that exist alongside public schools.

None of these atomizing tactics would have been possible without the evisceration of that other bulwark of collective action: the United Federation of Teachers. If the public school system symbolizes the last great rampart of community-building in America, the teacher’ unions symbolize one of the last great ramparts of worker solidarity. But just because the UFT still exists does not mean it has withstood the same atomizing that is destroying public schools. The Teaching Fellows and Teach for America programs brought in hired mercenary teachers who promised to stay in the system no more than three to five years. Some have stayed on past their bids, most have not. Due to the closed-shop rule (one of the few scraps left to the UFT), all of these new teachers had to join the union. Their arrangements ensured that the union would not be able to count on future generations of dedicated teachers to keep up the fight for better working conditions. Most of the younger members would be off to their real careers on Wall Street, the bar or the theatre well before they could talk of retirement. In this way, the DOE scooped out the heart and soul of the UFT. The union began overly representing retirees and other entrenched interests disproportionately over their members on the front lines. This helps explain why the last contract negotiated under Randi Weingarten was so willing to bargain away working conditions while jealously guarding pensions.

When you place those unprotected teachers in smaller schools, you get the fascism we have now. Chopping down large schools greatly increases the need for principals, “middle management” as Mayor Bloomberg has called them and “commissars” as the Soviets used to call them. Greater principal-to-teacher ratios mean greater supervision of the teachers. Principals are required to have no more than three years of teaching experience, ensuring they will have very little empathy with teachers the longer they remain principals. Instead, their empathy lies with themselves and getting their schools to outdo other schools on the yearly report card. The small size of the schools combined with the most recent UFT contract gives principals greater control over teachers and what teachers should do to get better grades for the schools’ report cards. It is a system where principals are incentivized to abuse their powers. They are not encouraged to think of themselves as leaders accountable to the communities they serve. Instead, they are told they are managers implementing the policies of the hierarchy. The communities must serve them. Teachers must work longer hours and focus on test prep. Those that protest are disappeared by the principals’ powers to drum up fake charges and initiate frivolous hearings to terminate teacher licenses. Students must produce higher test grades. Those that do not produce face being creatively expelled in charter schools or sacrificed to the psychological/pharmaceutical complex by being labeled as “disabled” in public schools. Parents are not meant to play any role at all. Instead, they are directed to lodge their concerns with impotent parent coordinators or the somnambulant Panel for Educational Policy. It is a system designed to make the community irrelevant by privatizing and atomizing it.

All of the fascism in the DOE is tending towards the ultimate goal of privatization. Mayor Bloomberg and corporate reformers like Bill Gates form the fascistic nexus responsible for the destruction of our public schools. Theirs is a privatization more insidious than any that has come before. It is not simply a movement to destroy schools. It is a movement to destroy the classroom. As school buildings and teachers’ unions become more atomized, Bill Gates sees a future where the classroom itself will become atomized as well. 30 kids in a classroom will be replaced by individual students sitting in front of computers. Of course, all the computers will be made by Microsoft, as will all of the programs that “teach”. It will be the final frontier of privatization. It will be the ultimate atomizing of the population into individuals. This is what the Common Core Standards adopted by most states, including New York, represent. On top of being a giant government hand-out to Bill Gates, it will allow Bill Gates to remake the nation in his own image by giving him direct control over the rearing of every young brain in the country.

But that is a matter for the next installment…