2002-09-21 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

From the Editor's Desk
By Howard Schwach

Some odds and ends as we go into the election silly season.

It is clear that neither George Pataki nor Carl McCall care much for the New York City public schools except as they impact the election as THE major campaign issue.

McCall has been attacking the Governor for taking the decision that New York City schools deserve a bigger cut of the state tax pie to the Appellate Court, where the decision was reversed.

McCall constantly made the point that the fact that Pataki took the case to the next level evidences his disdain for the system. The court, by the way, ruled that the state had an obligation under its constitution to provide only the equivalent of an eighth grade education to city students.

McCall was scoring points with New York City voters, when Pataki's campaign staff came up with the fact that McCall (then the state's comptroller) argued that the case should be dismissed.

If that is true, and Pataki seems to have the documentation to back it up, then both McCall and Pataki are anti-NYC public schools and both have lied to gain votes.

* * * * *

Ordinarily, I would not care much for what Charles Barron does or does not do, except that our councilman, James Sanders, has aligned himself with Barron on a number of critical issues.

Barron, you will recall, is the recently-elected City Councilman from Brooklyn who is proud of the fact that he was once a Black Panther activist. Barron is for reparations for African-Americans because of the slave trade. He recently cancelled a trip that a delegation of city council members were planning to Zimbabwe to visit with President Mugabe, who is presently "redistributing" land from the White citizens who own it to Black citizen's who have never worked the land. He has gone so far as to order that the present owners not plant anything on the land in a nation where more than half of the population is starving. Mugabe's plan promises more starvation for people of all stripes. When the council's trip to Africa was cancelled under pressure, Barron invited Mugabe to talk to the City Council.

What worries me more is that Barron recently said that he wanted to slap any white person who does not understand why reparations are necessary. He later called his comments "Black hyperbole." He is also in favor of doing away with the standards at city colleges and universities. He calls the standards, "racist."

Where does Sanders stand on those issues? It is hard to tell, and Sanders can choose to align himself with anybody he cares. What does that alignment with Barron mean for Rockaway? Only time will tell.

* * * * *

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), with much fanfare, has announced that it has developed a curriculum for students in city public schools. That sounds like good news, but it might not be good news for city students and teachers. Many of you know my background. I am the author of a social studies textbook series that has sold more than 600,000 copies over the years. The books, called "Foundations in American History," are sold by Globe Books and can be found at Amazon.com. For several years, I worked for the city's Curriculum Development Unit, writing and editing curriculum and workbooks for teachers. I was for a time a staff developer for District 27. About two years ago, the UFT announced that they were looking for curriculum writers for their social studies project. I applied. I went to an interview in Queens with the editor of the project and another UFT person. I was asked if I would be able to write "multicultural lessons." I told them that I had already written a curriculum guide for special education on that subject. During the discussion, I began to get the feeling that they were asking me if I would make up history in order to provide the multicultural spin they were looking for. I asked them right out, and they told me that it was sometimes necessary to include minorities in situations where they did not historically exist in order to make the lessons real to minority kids. I strenuously balked at that precept, and therefore did not get the per-session job, despite the fact that I was probably the best-qualified person in the city to do that job. "Don't give me the facts, just give me the truth," seems to be the UFT motto. I look forward to reviewing the curriculum.

* * * * *

What's wrong with education today? Perhaps it is the attitude that we give to our students that they are wonderful no matter how little they work in school or how little they achieve. Witness the tale of Natasha Mitchell, who spoke to the New York Times Magazine a while back.

"I don't want to go to high school for the rest of my life. It's stressful. I'm not getting any younger. I'm sixteen and I'm still a freshman...Because my grades are bad, no school wants me. That does not bother me. My mom knows that I am smart, though I'd rather get my GED - It's quicker. I'll study as hard as I need to and then move on. I want to be a model, but I'm not going to be a model for the rest of my life. When I'm saggy and fat, I want to do something else, like be a pediatrician or something. I have no problem going to med school - as long as it's not like Seward High School."

* * * * *

There is a new federal law called the "No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Law." Under that law, the state education department has issued a list of those schools in need of improvement. Children who go to those schools have the right to transfer to schools not on the list, if there is room at the other schools. In addition, the feds plan to provide extra tutorial programs at those at-risk schools. The schools in Rockaway that qualified for the list include PS 42, PS 43, PS 104, PS 183, PS 197, PS 225 and MS 198. If it sounds to you that the list includes the majority of Rockaway public schools, you are correct.

* * * * *

The Edison Charter Schools are in trouble. The company is leaking money like an old water heater and its schools are failing all across the nation to come up with promised educational results in the schools it runs. It has lost more than a half-dozen contracts in the last year and Philadelphia, which promised the company dozens of schools, will now offer it only a dozen schools to run. It has also defaulted on its promise to build a national headquarters in Harlem.

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