Different Figureheads, Same Boss

Jose Vilson Jose

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dennis Walcott, and Cathleen Black

“YES! Cathie Black is out! Woo! Congratulations!”

Cheers and smiles in the building abound as the 100-day chancellor of NYC schools has come and gone without making any major dent on the largest school district in the nation. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s miscalculations about the appointment of Cathie Black as chancellor proved deleterious to the already tenuous relationship between him and his city. Already suspicious of the oligarchic fist under which the Mayor rules the city, NYC citizens grew weary of decisions that proved to the general public Michael Bloomberg’s aloofness to the temperature of the people he’s supposed to lead. That is, if he truly still believes himself the best person for the job of mayor.

Sitting on my computer, looking at the New York Times online, and watching Mayor Bloomberg introduces Dennis Walcott, deputy mayor and the man behind all the tough questions Black had to answer about education, as the replacement for schools chancellor. People sighed in general, and agree that, because he attended public school and taught for a couple of years, he was more qualified than Black. Some even said he should have been picked in the first place. The media lauds him because he provides soundbites about listening to community and giving parents more voice in how education in the city should run. He’s taller, Black, and doesn’t seem flustered or moved whenever he’s thrown tough questions from protestors in those raucous parent meetings.

I sat, smiled, then just let out a burst of laughter. For, with all things currently unequal, what changes can we honestly expect after our third head of schools here? Even with the sea of influential education officials leaving the front offices of Tweed (NYC DOE headquarters), wouldn’t the policies have to follow them out the door for us to see any real difference in the way our schools run? How do we pat each other on the back so gleefully for Black leaving when Walcott was creeping in the shadows, puppeteering her answers and parroting Klein’s? Even if we have a transformational figure as the head, do we not exist in a city where the mayor can kick members off the panel that serves as his check-and-balance and keep progressive change under his gilded thumb?

Are the rest of you living in the same city I am?

It seems that the seat change was a means of appeasing the people, and Bloomberg might assume we were angry with Cathie for her ill-conceived thoughts and timid acceptance of this puff position. However, let us be more wary; by having Black in the first place, it’s allowed us to think, relatively, that the standard has been raised when it’s already at an all-time low. I hope we protest Walcott’s waiver. I hope we protest Bloomberg. I hope we protest other edu-deformers who believe that this shock therapy will somehow help the proletariat get the best education possible. But after they’ve left, the regime may change only in face, but not in action.

We must change the policymakers with their policies. Otherwise, we’ll be calling this infection by a different name, even with the same symptoms.

Jose, who doesn’t want to mince words with you.