Only 13 months from now, New York City chooses a new mayor, and on the line is the issue of how we manage our public schools. You may have thought this issue was put to bed when Mayor Michael Bloomberg reached agreements with administrators over who gets to steer education policy, but perhaps education professionals are only waiting out these 13 months to get to a new agreement.
In the Mayor’s Management Report there was apparently evidence that parents have not been as involved in the process of taking over failing schools and setting priorities. If parents are unhappy with having less involvement, they have a right to feel that way. Every parent wants what they slowly and certainly lose: some semblance of control.
The problem with a public school system (any system) that is so large and diverse is that there needs to be some centrality to the process. Community boards, committees, and parent groups matter in this process. The control of the system being centralized with City Hall, however, matters more.
The next mayor will appoint a schools chancellor to oversee the all-important task of managing failing schools. Those of us who are right-of-center on these issues have been calling for decentralization for years. We wanted to take the power away from the government and give it back to the parents. but we were wrong when it came to a large public behemoth like the New York City school system. Accountability, if it is shared by thousands of parents, means that nobody is really accountable.
Some parent groups are unhappy that they have been relegated to making decisions on homework and little else. Well, making sure your child does his or her assignments is a big deal. It would be a mistake to think that communities, especially where schools are in trouble and failing, are better prepared to steer education policy than the schools chancellor.
Community groups, boards, and parents are well within their rights to have their criticisms voiced and heard. It would be a mistake to not allow such input. There is also great hope in the idea that parents want to be involved.
But the time for parents to take an active role in public education policy is in the next 13 months. Mayoral candidates from now until next November need to be clear about who they want to steer our education system. They cannot be allowed to punt that ball into the post-election season. If parents want involvement, it starts right now with the next mayor.
Argo Gets It Right Argo, starring Ben Affleck, has had two successful weekends at the box office. The story is loosely based on an effort by the CIA to smuggle hostages out of Iran after the Islamic revolution in 1979 and the following hostage crisis.
Surprisingly, there are not only a great deal of Americans who never heard of this operation to rescue these hostages, but many were unsure what this event was – and whether it was real. It was only 32 years ago, which in a historical sense is practically yesterday.
A woman in line behind me, and not much younger, asked her gentleman friend what happened in the hostage crisis. He told her the basics. “Well,” she replied “you follow that stuff.” Much to his credit, he responded by telling her that regardless of what he follows, this was a national story for 444 days.
Americans have never had the desire to make history a priority, but this is easy history – there was television and actual footage. Argo is a good movie, and to my complete surprise, it portrayed the extremists as extremists.
They showed how people were publicly hanged. They showed the ugliness of a revolution that pushed out an unfair regime only to adopt a dysfunctional autocratic philosophy.
Hollywood usually gets two subjects wrong: sports and politics. In the event that anyone is doubting how true to form Argo is, it looks a lot like what it looked like every night on the news in 1979. And it was real.