I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, February 13, 2012

Great Moments in Reformy Fawning

Apparently, Chris Cerf, the ACTING NJ DOE Commish, was born in a log cabin he helped his father build:

I didn’t know what exit we were passing, but Christopher Cerf, the six-foot New Jersey commissioner of education, curled yogi-like in the backseat of a small state-issued Chevy Impala, didn’t seem to be paying attention to the 18-wheelers roaring by as we flew along the New Jersey Turnpike. “I’ve worked for a president, and I’ve worked for a mayor, and I’ve worked for a governor, and the mayor ran a city as big as most states,” he was saying. “What draws me to this work is the same thing that draws me, I have to say, to wilderness canoeing. When you go to the head of a rapid and you’re trying to go downstream—it’s the rocks that make it fun.
This is a guy who has an astute appreciation for the challenges of education reform, and relishes them. In fact, the 57-year-old Cerf has been an avid wilderness camper since leading student canoeing expeditions near Hudson Bay in the 1970s. The tall, athletic, gray-suited father of three was appointed Chris Christie’s education czar for New Jersey in January 2011 and now oversees the Garden State’s 2,500 public schools, 1.4 million students, and 110,000 teachers in more than 600 school districts. [emphasis mine]
I don't think the last issue of Teen People fawned as much over Justin Bieber. But you have to turn a guy into a demi-god if you're going to give him an unchallenged forum to say crap like this:
“I say straight out that there are many, many interests at work in public education,” he explains. “There are the interests of children, of course, which everyone talks about. There are the interests of employees, who have a perfectly legitimate set of interests to guard against arbitrariness and get as much economic benefit out of their work as is possible. There are commercial interests, like vendors and publishers…. The 600 districts in New Jersey have their interests as well: in expanding their power, their authority, their institutional permanence…. But the great myth of public education is that the Venn diagram of those interests is perfectly intersecting. There are areas of substantial overlap, but many areas do not. I represent the interests of the children of New Jersey, pure and simple. When there is a conflict between interests, and you would be amazed at how many issues come my way where you actually have to make a call between one interest and the other, I’m with the children. And I make that clear.” [emphasis mine]
Oh, I see: everyone is out for themselves... EXCEPT for Chris Cerf, who stands with the kids! See, he's been out canoeing with them! The rest of us have just been teaching them; who the hell do we think we are?

No, it's simply not possible that Chris Cerf and that other great champion of children, Chris Christie, might have ulterior motives. Or the Son of Mario, who loves kids more than the custodians do! Obviously, teachers got into the profession for their own self-interest, while Cerf and Christie and Cuomo are as pure as the friggin' driven snow.

Yeah, no ulterior motives here.

The fawning continues:
If there is a model for the perfect modern education-reform leader, Christopher Cerf surely qualifies as that person. After a career that includes stints teaching high school history, vetting nominees for President Clinton’s first presidential administration, running a couple of businesses (Edison Schools and Sangari Global Education), and helping Joel Klein reinvent New York City’s education system, he is arguably one of the most seasoned education-reform leaders in the land.
Teacher: at a tony private school.

Running Edison: yeah, running it into the ground.

Helping Joel Klein in NYC: well, helping him ruin the schools.

You know what? I'll pick this up later, after I spend a few hours beating my head against this desk...

Ah... blessed relief....

ADDING: Denial, thy name is Cerf:
“Not to rise up in defense of an organization which I haven’t been with in five years,” says Cerf, “but Edison absolutely succeeded. It was the point of the spear in the school reform movement. We had very, very high standards and we were on the leading edge of data-driven decision making…. And if you cut through the blather on the achievement record of Edison Schools, you’ll find that it was materially higher than other comparable schools in their districts, including in Philadelphia.”
Unbelievable. Really, just unbelievable.

New Jersey, ask yourself: do you want your superior public schools to wind up like Edison?


Anonymous said...

What a blatant steaming pile of propaganda! Oh my gosh, it smelled so bad I recoiled while reading this!! So glad I never saw the original article first, I may have broken my computer.

Deb said...

Thank you for picking up on this one too Duke. I read it the day after I read the Superhero Norcross piece and was starting to feel like the alternate reality was taking over. Cerf looked me straight in the eye with the same line - that he stands alone in representing the interests of the kids. He told us - a group of concerned parents this - as if to imply that our interests were not our children. It was weird to say the least. Actually truly insulting. I just do not think he was thinking about the students of Cherry Hill when he approved Regis this last round.....but like I said, the alternate reality is gaining ground it seems....

Lisa said...

["What draws me to this work is the same thing that draws me, I have to say, to wilderness canoeing. When you go to the head of a rapid and you’re trying to go downstream—it’s the rocks that make it fun.”]

I've navigated a few rapids down the Gap after the melt in my day, and you don't want to attempt it without a top-notch bow man (er...or bow woman) who can quickly and surely spot and navigate the submerged rocks, and know when to use a cross-bow rudder vs a bow rudder in close coordination with his stern. The visible rocks that churn the rapids are easy to spot and avoid from the stern. But a true canoeist wouldn't willfully attempt the screaming rapids without an experienced bow man, and the team must be practiced and of one mind to be able to sync without speaking when the waters wail in their ears.

And it's near impossible to right a canoe alone when it capsizes and swamps in deep or swiftly flowing water. The safest course is two teams, so that if one swamps, you have another to perform a T rescue.

Cerf sails solo, blinded by the spray of the reformy waters he artificially churns, without a skilled and experienced bow man to spot and navigate the hidden perils, or a second team to set him right when he wipes out.

Forgive me, but the metaphor works--much better than he intended, I'm sure.

Duke said...

Man, Lisa, you are the real deal! Do you do tours? Can I get a teacher discount? ;-)

Deb, I really don't think they get how insulting this line truly is: to parents, teachers, taxpayers - everyone.

Thx, everyone.

Lisa said...

Thanks Duke, and I'd be your bow woman any day :).

As for Cerf's metaphorical canoe, were he sincere and smart about actually improving NJ education and have a bow man or second team, I'd want you at the bow. Done right, Cerf would have an advisory committee (bow man or second team) comprised of WORKING TEACHERS, administrators, and education scholars (Diane Ravitch, Bruce Baker, to name a few) to spot the rocks and navigate the churning course of the education rapids, and right the ship when it takes a wrong turn or swamps.