When Elephants Fight: Does the Mayor Understand That Battling Teachers and Unions Is the Wrong Fight, Parents and Teachers Should Be Allies in the Battle Against Poverty.

 Do you approve or disapprove of the way Cathleen Black is handling her job as New York City Schools Chancellor? 

                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Wht    Blk    Hisp   HsHld

Approve              17%    31%    14%    18%    19%    13%    17%    11%
Disapprove           49     32     52     52     42     56     57     61
DK/NA                34     37     33     31     38     32     25     28

                     PubSch Brnx   Kngs   Man    Qns    StIsl  Men    Wom

Approve              18%    18%    17%    21%    14%     8%    22%    13%
Disapprove           53     48     52     37     53     56     41     55
DK/NA                29     33     31     41     32     36     37     32

 You should know you’re in trouble when your approval rating is about the same as Khadaffi. A Quinnipiac poll is devastating for the mayor and his faux chancellor, approval ratings at historic lows. It is virtually impossible to gain traction when the public loses confidence. It is difficult to bully legislators and the governor when the public is lined up against you.
For years it appeared that the mayor had created what no other large city mayor had created: a formula to “turnaround” an urban school system. The worm has turned. Rather than battling a union for most New Yorkers the mayor appears to be punishing parents and communities, especially communities of color. Rather than demonizing teacher unions he has unified the citizenry.
The fight goes on: a fight not to improve schools, it’s a fight to weaken or destroy the teacher union. Rather than win over younger teachers the mayor has driven the very teachers he seeks to win over to the union side.
There is an irony in the Department abolishing the division of teaching and learning.
State test scores nose dived, school closing after school closing created coalitions, the seniority fight stumbles as the union gains allies.
In the classrooms across the city teachers worry about their kids, worry about the upcoming tests and the ominous results, for the kids, for their school and for themselves.
If you’re lucky you work in school with a competent, caring principal, there are many, although not enough. Of the sixty network leaders some are innovative and deeply involved in the art of delivering exemplary instruction while many simply navigate between the needs of Tweed and the needs of the principal for whom they work.
Superintendents are an anachronism, the law requires and empowers superintendents, the Department ignores the law and turns them into inspectors, conducting mechanical Quality Reviews.
What is ignored is the deterioration of inner city black communities and the impact on families and children. William Julius Wilson, in a superb article in the Spring issue of the American Educator, Being Poor, Black and American: The Impact of Political, Economic and Cultural Forces,  calls our nation to task.
* Black mothers suffer twice the infant mortality rate of white mothers.
* Three times as many black children as white children live in poverty
“In 2009, Wilson relates, “among fourth-graders the gaps between the percentage of black boys in large cities scoring at or above proficient and the percentage of white boys in public schools across the nation scoring at or above proficient were 27 percentage points in reading and 39 percentage points in mathematics.”
The mayor, the largest elephant in the room, continues to trample children beneath his feet. Initially the media juggernaut seemed to convince the sans culottes  that the teachers were at fault, that only if the mayor could follow through on whatever it was he espoused all would be right in the village.
A few years later and the screeds from Gracie Mansion and Tweed fall on deaf ears.
There is an interesting East African proverb that goes like this, “When elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.” … This proverb warns of the way the little people suffer when the mighty are at war. Immediately I thought of the ways the poor are often the victims of the fights between and among the powerful.
We are only a few weeks away from Passover and Easter, times of redemption and renewal. Perhaps, just perhaps, the mayor will glance down at the trampled grass.

2 responses to “When Elephants Fight: Does the Mayor Understand That Battling Teachers and Unions Is the Wrong Fight, Parents and Teachers Should Be Allies in the Battle Against Poverty.

  1. Retired- no longer Public Enemy No. 1

    Not to worry. The Mayor and Faux Chancellor and all the rest of the “hoo hahs” will just put down some sod, or even the bright green plastic grass. The real grass in the wonderful analogy is suffocated and forgotten.

    While the last generation of educators tried to do the right thing for the children, the banksters waxed fat and invented education-as-business. We may have lost the battle for now, but should keep up the fight because it IS worth it.


  2. Olivia Koppell

    They have literally thrown out the children with the bath water. There were so many tried and true programs they could have built on. But in their arrogance and quest for ultimate power they keep digging themselves deeper and deeper into a policy of destruction. It is so frustrating. The city schools could have been wonderful role model for others. Instead they refuse to learn from others that have some wonderful and creative programs that really work.


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