Archive for November, 2003

28th November
2003

First Published in The New York Sun, November 28, 2003

By Andrew Wolf

The concept of choice is a very popular one in education, one of the few areas of some agreement between those who identify themselves politically as being on the left and those who assert that they are of the right. Yet as attractive as the concept of choice may be, for whatever reason one supports it, the climate that will effectively preclude choice already exists. 

    There is a monopoly in place right now that is well on the way to controlling not what children are taught, but how they are taught. The monopoly I’m talking about exists in our schools of education at our colleges and universities. And it is becoming increasingly clear that prospective teachers are being trained in a onesided approach that strongly favors ideologies and methodologies that have shown themselves to be less than effective.  (more…)

25th November
2003

First Published in The New York Sun, November 25, 2003

By Andrew Wolf

With Mayor Bloomberg scraping the bottom in recent polls, the prospect of a Democrat retaking City Hall is more than just a possibility. However, you don’t beat somebody (particularly somebody with $4 billion) with a nobody — or do you? Amazingly, Democrats could turn to the man who sabotaged their effort to retake City Hall two years ago, the former president of the Bronx, Fernando Ferrer. Some consider Mr. Ferrer as having almost a lock on the nomination. God save us. 

    As a publisher of Bronx community newspapers, I have watched his career unfold and soar as the borough he presided over sank and stagnated. Rarely has someone who has accomplished so little gone so far. In the absence of real substance, Mr. Ferrer has substituted race. That’s what he did when he ran in 2001, and that’s the reason he invites opposition should he run again.  (more…)

21st November
2003

First Published in The New York Sun, November 21, 2003

By Andrew Wolf

   A few weeks ago, the city government declared that Snapple is our town’s official beverage and decreed that only Snapple vending machines should be placed in city public schools. However, an investigation by the city comptroller, William Thompson, suggests that the process to choose our official drink might not have been exactly fair — the rules and parameters appear to have shifted midway through the process. The comptroller further alleges that a key player in the selection — the city’s marketing consultant, Joseph Perello — had a conflict of interest that may have given Snapple the edge. 

    I’ll let Messrs. Bloomberg and Thompson duke this out in the larger arena, but I’m curious about the effect that the deal has had on the schools. I’ve gotten calls and e-mails from a number of teachers and principals complaining about the “Snapple police” coming to their schools. The Snapple folks wasted no time. Within days after the announcement, the Snapple army descended on the schools. In fact, one wonders how there were so many vending machines ready and waiting to be placed so quickly after the deal was made public.  (more…)

18th November
2003

First Published in The New York Sun, November 18, 2003

By Andrew Wolf

The chairwoman of the City Council’s education committee, Eva Moskowitz, has been holding hearings regarding the contracts of the various unions that represent the employees of the city’s public schools. The question is why. Ms. Moskowitz aggressively promoted the hearings, promising a page-by-page examination of the minutiae of the contracts of the teachers, the principals, and the custodians. But what she delivered was nothing new, a rehash of old material well known to the press, the public, and presumably even the council. 

    Is it news to Ms. Moskowitz that the teachers contract makes it difficult to remove bad teachers, or that teacher transfers are done on a seniority basis? Has Ms. Moskowitz just discovered that teachers are no longer required to do lunch duty?  (more…)

14th November
2003

First Published in The New York Sun, November 14, 2003

By Andrew Wolf

Faced with the highest taxes in the country, a crime rate that is showing signs of creeping up again, and staggering unemployment in sections of the city that rivals Depression-era levels, the City Council has decided to tackle a problem that already seems to have solved itself: childhood lead poisoning.They are about to pass a bill that, besides being totally unnecessary, will cost city government and private industry tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of dollars. 

    Lead poisoning is well known to cause brain damage and other medical problems, but the question really is “What constitutes lead poisoning?” When measured on a consistent, uniform scale, “lead poisoning” rates have dramatically plummeted over the past 30 years, and with good reason. (more…)

7th November
2003

First Published in The New York Sun, November 7, 2003

By Andrew Wolf

If there is any part of the public school system that totally, completely embodies its failure, it is our high schools.The policies followed for the past generation are, in my judgment, directly responsible for the exodus of tens of thousands of middle-class and uppermiddle-class families from our city. 

    I vividly recall one incident, back in the mid-1990s, that drove this home to me in a dramatic way. I was at a public event, chatting with a top Board of Education official. A tearful parent approached us, desperate to tell her story, a tale that has been repeated by similarly distraught parents across the city every year since the mid-1980s.  (more…)