Monday, July 6, 2009

The Education of Fear

Well, I'm back and not a moment too soon. Things in New York education have been getting pretty interesting. The country's most dsyfunctional legislature is running up the score and still haven't been able to get their act together for long enough to actually meet as a body. As those of you getting robocalls like I have already know, the Albany debacle meant that mayoral control of the schools sunsetted, reverting the school system back to the old school board-run system.

Now this is where it gets interesting because nothing really changed. The Board of Education convened and was pretty well stacked with mayoral allies (three deputy mayors are board members). In their meeting, they basically said Joel Klein is still Chancellor and everything he said is still the rule. So not that much changed. Regardless of your views on the job that Klein and Bloomberg have done on the schools, you kind of have to admit that it's better to have clear authority on this right now rather than throw the whole system into disarray and uncertainty for however long it takes the state senate to remember how to play well in the sandbox together.

However, the lack of chaos also hurts the Mayor's arguments about how vital it is to renew Mayoral control. You may recall that Bloomberg proclaimed there would be rioting in the streets and (bizarrely) an institution of the Soviet Union in New York if mayoral control lapsed. I haven't seen any riots yet, but is listing a 20% chance of Soviet Union in the afternoon today.

The bottom line, though, is that when you try to scare people into doing something and they don't do it and nothing really scary happens, you're in a worse position. Now, I believe that while things are going smoothly now, such is not always going to be the case under this new (old?) system and there may be real crises ahead of us. But we need to face those as they are, not as some trumped up educational boogie men that we should all be afraid of. In the end, that approach doesn't end up benefitting anyone.

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