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

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cami Anderson's Rusty Knife

Newark's state-appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson, is so hard at work fighting against "adult interests" that she doesn't have time to attend public meetings of her elected school board. She doesn't even have time to explain herself to the NJ Legislature.

But she apparently does have time to hobnob with a bunch of edupreneurs for a few days in the warm Arizona sun. Speakers at the ASU-GSV convention include Reed Hastings of Netflix, Norm Atkins of the uncommonly segregating Uncommon Schools, the nearly-as-illiterate-as-his-brother Jeb! Bush, and Former Acting NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf, who has left his position for a job in the private sector selling cheap tablets that may or may not melt depending on the day.

Anderson sat on a panel at this little confab, and I have to tell you: she looks more relaxed than she's looked in quite some time. Who could blame her? This was a room full of affluent, connected, self-congratulatory "winners" in the capitalist game. They have nothing to complain about: they all have elite educations and plenty of social capital and exciting careers and health insurance and their kids all go to schools where they learn to socially reproduce their parents' status. Talk about an easy crowd.

Unlike those people in Newark. They are just so... well, you know...

"My sister is a surgeon, a trauma surgeon, a general surgeon, who cuts people open, and...when she is in the operating room, with literally someone's life in her hands, she does not have a bunch of people in the second row voting on whether or not she should to close or keep going. She does not have someone in the third row telling her that she must use the rusty scalpel because someone's cousin had the contract for a decade and knows the most vocal politician in town. She does not have the five loudest people who are anti-everything, shouting and banging on the door about the color of her hair or skin or where she went to school or not."
"The five loudest people." You mean like the seventy-seven local pastors and religious leaders who've implored Anderson to stop her One Newark plan? Or the elected school advisory board, the elected city council, the students, the teachers, and the parents?

Are those the "five loudest people" who have a problem with One Newark, State Superintendent Anderson?

Peter Green gets this exactly right:
Cami, Cami, Cami. Here are the two biggest ways your metaphor is not quite what you had in mind.

First, your sister the surgeon is a trained professional. She has years of training, years of practice, years of learning her craft so that she has a level of expertise that earns her the right to that empowerment. She did not get that empowerment just because she is somehow an inately superior human being.

I guarantee you that she did not get her surgery licensure after five weeks of training, and she didn't get the job in the hospital because of political strings. Well, actually, I don't know that-- but I'm betting it's true. You, on the other hand, have no training, no experience, and no qualification [some more on this - JJ]. So in the metaphor, you are not a highly trained surgeon, but a woman whose political connections somehow got her the right to stand in an OR holding a scalpel that you know nothing about using.

Second, your sister the surgeon could not operate until she had the consent of the patient and his family. Even trauma surgeons do not just walk up to someone on the street, announce, "You need surgery," knock them unconscious, and proceed to operate. Doctors must get the consent of the patients (kind of like civil authority flows from the consent of the governed).

Before she could set foot in that operating room, she had to convince people that she had a plan, that the plan was good, and that they should agree to it.
Amen. But allow me to extend this a little further:

Let's say I had the great misfortune to be hit by a bus, and they rush me to Cami's sister's emergency room. I'm passed out, the blood is gushing everywhere, and it's clear that my leg has to be amputated to save my life.

Suppose, for whatever reason, Cami's sister pulls out a rusty scalpel and starts to hack away at my good leg.

If I were ever in that position, I would hope and pray that someone -- anyone -- had the courage to stand up and scream at her to stop. I would hope someone would do all that they could to make sure that Cami's sister didn't make things worse. I would hope the other doctors and nurses and staff and people in the "second and third rows" would demand that Cami's sister drop the blade before further damage was done.

It is clear at this point that One Newark is an ill-conceived plan that has little if any empirical evidence to support it. Bruce Baker and I have now written three reports -- here, here, and here -- detailing One Newark's many flaws. The one time Anderson's administration tried to rebut us, we showed -- definitively, in my opinion -- that they do not have a case: they made amateur mistakes in their analysis that are, frankly, not forgivable for an undergraduate.

And the flaws in One Newark continue to pile up. It's clear the district has not worked out the logistics of transporting thousands of students all over the city, nor for paying to move them across town and away from their neighborhood schools (does this, by the way, sound like an environmentally friendly idea?). It's clear that the divestment of public property has not been properly vetted so as to protect the interests of Newark's and New Jersey's taxpayers. It's clear the district is setting itself up for a major lawsuit when the teachers union forces it to justify an unjustifiable teacher evaluation scheme.

Cami Anderson is getting ready to plunge a big, rusty knife into the heart of Newark. People don't just have a right to stand up and tell her to stop -- they have a duty to do so. And if she can't live with that, I hear Joel Klein is hiring his old underlings...

One Newark (artist's conception)


CrunchyMama said...

My version of the "my sister" speech (that I also left on Peter Greene's post, so pls excuse the crosspost):

"When I'm in my classroom, with someone's education literally in my hands, I do not ask a bunch of people in the second row to vote on whether or not to use developmentally inappropriate academic expectations or to teach the children I have in my room, where they are, at that moment. I do not have someone in the third row telling me that I have to use invalid data from an invalid test to evaluate my students and me. She does not have the five loudest (but nonetheless inexperienced) administrators who are pro-reform, shouting and banging on the door about whether she has a Data Wall or where she went to school and how the NCTQ rated that school, and then firing me and replacing me with a TFA corps member who has none of the qualifications I bring to the table. I want to be able to make decisions that are in the best interests of teaching those children, so that they are able to live as full lives as possible. We have that responsibility."

How would Cami reply to a teacher who said that, I wonder?

Giuseppe said...

Unlike Cami Anderson's surgeon sister, teachers have everyone and anyone micromanaging what they do, dictating what they should do, when, where and for how long. There are hordes of school reformers second guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking every single nanosecond of a teacher's day. Teachers are told what to do and this is especially true in the new world of non stop standardized testing, test prep, trial testing and then testing some more.

P. Grunther said...

Great post JJ. My sincerest hope is that the adage "The bigger they come, the harder they fall" will someday be applicable to this raging, under-qualified, egotistical, out-of-touch hypocrite!

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