2011-04-01 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

To Understand Bloomberg, Look At His Friends
Commentary By Howard Schwach

To say that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has lost touch with the common man and woman who live in New York City would be a mistake.

He never had touch with the common man and woman in the first place, so there was nothing to lose.

Everything he has done for our city, particularly in the areas of education and recreation, proves that he is an elitist with strong ties to the Manhattan intelligentsia while taking little notice of the outer boroughs.

That came through perhaps the clearest when the mayor was discussing the educational panel meeting where parents, students and staff from several schools that the mayor was closing down chanted and disrupted the meeting.

The mayor was clearly angry at the outer borough residents who dared to challenge his plan to turn every school over to the bankers and politicians and allow them to reorganize the city’s public school system into a charter school paradise.

“That was not democracy,” Bloomberg chided the demonstrators. “Yelling and screaming is not democracy.”

Bloomberg’s vision of democracy is one where the leader (preferably Bloomberg himself) is reelected again and again to push his personal vision of how kids should be taught, how people should live, what they should eat, where they should pursue recreation, which vices should go.

Anybody who challenges his vision is wrongheaded and anti-democratic. He then uses his billions to beat down the opposition and “prove” that his point of view is correct.

Who is paying for all those pro-charter school advertisements you see on television? Bloomberg and his banker friends.

Who is paying for all those antiteacher ads, the ads that demonize teachers and make it seem that all experienced teachers are venal slackers who need to be put out to pasture? Bloomberg and his banker friends.

Who paid for all those ads in the past election that told how important it was for Bloomberg to get a third term and to retain mayoral control of the school system? Bloomberg and his banker friends.

They have billions and everybody else is virtually broke. You win by spending as much as you have to in order to spread the big lie until a sufficient number of people begin to believe the lie.

Take the attack on teachers. Bloomberg wants to break the UFT, something that he promised he would do right from the very beginning of his tenure.

To do that, he has to break the seniority rules and civil service rules. He has made a point of doing so at every term.

His fight against the last in first out policy is a fight against seniority and the union.

There are several flaws to his attack that never make it to public view because Bloomberg has the money to run the ads and because all of the city’s daily newspaper publishers are so tight with Bloomberg that they might as well work for him. Perhaps they do.

First of all, experience is not inherently bad.

When you go to pick a doctor, a surgeon, a dentist, an attorney, what do you do?

Do you go find a young, just out of school practitioner, or do you look for an experienced pro? You know what you do. You go for the pro, somebody who had handled hundreds of cases just like yours.

Why is education any different? You should go for the experienced pro, not the eager newcomer, to teach your kids.

Second, Bloomberg says he wants the best teachers in the classroom. In fact, everybody does.

How do you decide, however, who the best teachers are?

The value added system pushed by the mayor and his puppet chancellor has proved to be inadequate to the task.

One school official said that “it is better to lose a few good teachers [by using value added] than to retain ten bad teachers.”

At one time, experienced principals working in their buildings knew who the good teachers and bad teachers were.

Now, there are few experienced principals in the system, about 65 percent of the principals in the system having come from the “Tweed Academy,” Bloomberg’s indoctrination school. The great majority of them were never teachers and really have little idea of what they are doing. They have little idea of what a teacher really does, nonetheless what makes a good teacher.

So, do you get rid of a teacher with 20 years experience just because his or her school was closed to make way for a charter school run by one of Bloomberg’s buddies?

That’s what will happen should the legislature allow Bloomberg to step all over what the teachers union has bargained for over the past fifty years.

He wants cheaper teachers, not better teachers. He wants to break the union and to do that he must break the civil service rules and seniority.

Using his billions as a lever, he has pried public opinion to the point where people are beginning to believe that experience is bad.

And, the first to believe him are his Manhattan friends and the editorial writers at the Daily News, the New York Post and the New York Times.

Just last week, the Daily News called the teacher-trainers working in teacher centers in each school “pork” and urged that funding for the program be cut.

Who do they expect to train all the new teachers they love so much? The principals, who were never teachers and have no idea what teachers do?

Other new teachers, who are just trying to stay afloat?

One has to wonder what the world is coming to.

Ask Bloomberg, because he seems to be all-knowing, at least in his own mind.

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