No sooner does Mayor Bloomberg appoint Cathleen Black to head the New York City school system than elite liberals withdraw their long swords from the scabbard. Never mind that Black does not take office until next January—and deserves at least a 90-hour honeymoon. Her predecessor, Joel Klein, was at least given a couple of years before the liberals defected. No, Black is a high-profile businesswoman, and therefore she must be denounced. If Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman can be dispatched, Black should be a no-brainer.
Boston Globe’s James Carroll is an icon of the professional left—at least here in New England. His relentless attacks on his Catholic religion (while swearing it his endless devotion) has earned him entre into exclusive secular dinner parties from Boston and Cambridge to New York and Washington. Now, in his latest op ed, he branches out to attack not only Black but all outsiders not to the manor trained.
He laments the “loss of faith in such established institutions as education, politics, journalism, and even entertainment—each with its way of knowing and of initiating members into accumulated knowledge.” When chancellors of school systems need no education diploma, “what is left as a reliable source of meaning, a trustworthy measure of value?”
With a businesswoman about to be in charge, “the bottom line of learning is now the test score—where, before learning was not about a bottom line at all.”
Carroll’s got that right, at least. Learning in schools has become so much not about a bottom line that it is not even about learning, at least as that concept is recognized by the rest of the world. Last week, my colleagues and I reported that the United States trailed 30 other countries in the proportion of its adolescents performing at the advanced level in mathematics. Taiwan and Korea outperform us, of course, but so do Canada, Australia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and many more.
I am wrong to bring this up, of course. As an authentic elitist, Carroll urges a “debunking of the corrupt notion that school is a competitive race.” If everyone would stay in their place, liberal oligarchies could continue to rule in politics and culture, if only within a slipping nation gradually sliding into second tier status.
So Black is condemned as an outsider along with the departing chancellor, Joel Klein (a lawyer), the Tea Party (not trained politicians), American idol winners (falsely accused of non-professionalism), and, of course, bloggers and cable news pundits (who should leave things to those established oligarchies–elite newspapers and network news).
Not only is Black an outsider. Even worse, she is competitive. She wants to “get ahead.” She is about to challenge liberal elites, even in the failed education bastion they have long controlled.
-Paul E. Peterson