In what should come as a shocker to absolutely nobody other than perhaps the Mayor of NYC who appointed her as the Chief of NYC’s schools, Cathie Black is out. Admittedly, I was against this move from the outset (did anybody really, truly believe that this little experiment was going to work???), but I am truly surprised that she lasted all of a whopping three months. Coming from somebody who was against this move from the start, I’m just not sure that three months was truly fair.
Then again, it’s not like Black didn’t bring some bad press upon herself. It’s just not possible for a person in this role to speak as freely as she thought she could. Case in point (number 1): when responding to people attending a town hall meeting who were concerned with overcrowding in schools, Black said that her solution would include more birth control. And for good measure, she threw in a Holocaust reference – um, yeah, not a very good idea to pull out a Sophie’s Choice type of comment. Beyond this, she also complained openly about the way she was handled by the press – not so much with it’s written coverage of her, but rather the unflattering photos they took of her. Yep, Cathie, you really had a handle on what’s important. When she resigned, her approval rating was at a staggering 17%.
Cathie Black isn’t really the problem here, though. The bigger problem is that a person like Michael Bloomberg, who has no experience with the field of education, has the power to appoint who he wants to be the Chancellor. At issue is the fact that he gambled with the education of approximately 1.1 million students when choosing somebody with a business background — yet no education background — to lead the department. Let’s put it this way: if you were buying stock in Microsoft, wouldn’t you want the most knowledgeable person running Microsoft? Don’t get me wrong, I want a person who knows the business end of things as well, but ideally I want the person who knows the most about the product to be in charge. In actuality, this isn’t a great example because the situation I gave you implies that we want a tremendous profit, whereas this is not the case with Education. Don’t get me wrong, we want economic solvency, but profit isn’t the driving force.
What’s interesting is that we’ve now seen another example of the rising reformers failing to do what they say is easy to be done. Let’s ring a business savvy approach to change the culture of education. It makes sense, they say. You don’t need to be an educator to know how to change things for the better, they say. Let me get rid of whomever I want whenever I want and shame on you for expecting due process. Yet Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and Cathie Black have all shown themselves to not have what it takes. (On a side note, Rhee played dumb and acted as though there was no way a school would cheat on its testing when under an incredible amount of scrutiny. C’mon now, Ms. Rhee, let’s get real – but that’s another blog post in the making…)
Quite simply, no mayor should have the ability to appoint a person to head a position of this magnitude. Michael Bloomberg knows bupkus about education and hopefully has learned his lesson because those 1.1 million students need a leader and it shouldn’t be somebody who’s appointed to fulfill the mayor’s agenda.