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

Friday, September 24, 2010

Billionaires Know EVERYTHING...

So the day after I posted this tart little piece of snark, I reread it and thought, "I went a little over the top here..."

Then I read this interview with Mark Zuckerberg, the new Baron of Newark, about his views on education (h/t Bruce Baker). Apparently, I didn't go far enough:

Mark Zuckerberg: So over the last year. I started researching what the best ways would be to kind of improve the education system. And I just have a lot of reasons why personally I’m interested in this. Have you met Priscilla, my girlfriend?
Michael Arrington: I only know her through your Facebook account.

Mark Zuckerberg: Yes. I mean – so we’ve been dating for about seven years. When she graduated from school, she went and became a teacher. Now, she’s in medical school and she’s studying to be a pediatrician. But this is just kind of a common thing that we’ve been really interested in – about education, kids.
Wow, those are some education credentials. By all means, please come in and buy the system you think is best.

What follows after this is a series of platitudes by an obviously bright young guy who has nevertheless spent maybe five minutes researching about this "stuff." All the players from the Time magazine issue on education a week ago are here:  KIPP, TFA, Michele Rhee's DC circus. Lacking in the interview is any serious thought on how any of those programs could be replicated on a larger scale, let alone whether any of these organizations or personalities have really done all that much to live up to their hype.
So we did all this research and we figured it would be a while until we found a good candidate but it turns out that Newark, New Jersey is a good candidate for a lot of reasons. So the main reason is that the leaders there are really good. So there’s this guy, Cory Booker, who’s the mayor and who’s a Democrat and the governor, Chris Christie in New Jersey is a Republican. They’re both really good leaders who are rising stars in their respective parties. And just very well respected nationally, have a lot of political capital that they can spend on trying to make the reforms, the changes that are painful but necessary to get this stuff done.
No one should be surprised at how Zuckerberg values "leadership": the cult of the CEO is predicated on asserting that great "leaders" are extremely rare and, therefore, worth billions and billions of dollars which accrue to them and not to the people who report to them and do, you know, the actual work and stuff.
Jason Kincaid: What about attracting better teachers to the schools? I’d imagine part of this isn’t just the way teachers are gauged but you know, the actual teaching talent. Is that what TFA should and can help with?
Mark Zuckerberg: Yeah. Also, TFA is – one of the things that’s pretty interesting is around this. So my girlfriend wanted to be a teacher after she graduated from Harvard. And one of the things that I saw that was interesting was socially the response that she got. Where, everyone was kind of, “this is such a nice thing that you’re doing it”. But it was like she’s doing charity. It’s clear that she could have gotten paid more doing some other job. She’s really smart and she was clearly foregoing the real economic value for her to do something that was socially valuable. So the question is, how can you make it so that a lot of the people who would go do other things, teaching is a respected and valued enough job that people actually go into it. Given that it has a lot more impact than what these people are being compensated at today. And I think of that – that is a big problem.
Let's swim through the word salad and try to boil this down: what Zuckerberg is saying here (I think) is that the problem is that Ivy Leaguers don't go into teaching because it doesn't raise their social status enough. And that teachers have a big impact - bigger than what they are currently paid. So what are we going to do to solve that, Mark?
One of the things that’s been pretty interesting about TFA is they’ve actually gotten a lot of really good college students to go into teaching but it’s only for a short period of time. 15% of the graduating Harvard class applies to TFA and there are aren’t enough placements today to accept all those people but they would accept a lot more of them if they could. 
Yeah, treating the teaching profession like it's a year in the Peace Corps will really do a lot to raise the profile of educators. I can feel my social status rising with every Whiffenpoof who spends a year in a charter school in Ironbound.

(Oh, and if you didn't go to an Ivy League school - you obviously suck.)

But Chris Christie is "great leader," who is overseeing massive cuts in teacher pay and benefits, and condescendingly berates the profession and its practitioners every chance he gets. I'm sure those bright young crimson-clad undergrads will be signing on to teach in Newark until they're 65 for an average of $55K when they see how this "great leader" treats them. Especially the co-eds.

And what about Booker?
Mark Zuckerberg: So his whole first term was focused on getting crime down because Newark has the highest crime rate, I think in the country and he reduced it by like 50 or 60% or something insane. Those numbers aren’t fact checked, so that might be off but it’s large, all right. And he’s pretty amazing when you talk to him about this stuff. 
The cadence of Zuckerberg's prose - where have I heard it before...

Charter schools totally rock, dude!

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