Archive for January, 2004

30th January
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, January 30, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

For those who care about the political process, the past two weeks have been delicious. As we all know, based on little more than Internet fund raising and dubious poll results, the pundits and politicians declared Howard Dean the inevitable Democratic nominee for president.

Trouble is, they never bothered to ask the voters what they thought. Once the voters started taking a closer look at Dr. Dean, they decided that they didn’t like what they saw. That the talking heads had awarded the former Vermont governor the nomination before a single vote was cast was stupid, but not as stupid as the knee jerk actions of the Democratic pols who should have known better. Hundreds of them eagerly jumped on board the Dean bandwagon, endorsing a candidate they really didn’t know or care about. I suspect that many of them would now like to jump off that sinking ship.  (more…)

23rd January
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, January 23, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

This is the winter of discontent at the Department of Education. Since the beginning of the year, press coverage of the educational “reforms” of Chancellor Joel Klein and, by extension, Mayor Bloomberg, has been disastrous. Sources tell me that the mayor is livid that the nearly uniform hosannas he is used to seeing in the papers, have given way to mounting criticism.

So sensitive is the new Tweed Ring to these negative reports that the chancellor has even felt the need to directly respond to my columns on curriculum problems, and those of other critics, in a letter to the editor in the January 15 number of The New York Sun and in an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Post. I’m flattered by his attention, but his critics in the press are the least of his problems. In fact, we may be his best friends.  (more…)

16th January
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, January 16, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

The state of the Bronx is, well, awful. This is nothing new, of course. Those of us who were born here, grew up here, and still live here are used to bad news.We’ve had it for the better part of the last half-century. And the bad news is likely to continue since there is a near total absence of creative leadership, the missing ingredient in what could otherwise be a successful renaissance.

The Bronx was once known as the Borough of Universities, a clever marketing ploy by the borough’s former, longtime president, James J. Lyons. A leather salesman by trade, Lyons made his mark in the private sector by coming up with the idea of wing-tipped shoes, selling damaged leather filled with pinholes that was glued to the shoe’s front.  (more…)

13th January
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, January 13, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

There is a famous story about Mayor La Guardia and the beginning of New York City’s primacy as a aviation hub.


Shortly after taking office in 1934, La Guardia traveled to Chicago and purchased a return ticket to New York on American Airlines. At that early time, only a few years after Charles Lindburgh’s historic flight to Paris, New York City had no commercial airport. La Guardia was savvy enough to understand that for the city to be competitive in the future, we had to invest in the infrastructure necessary to meet needs that at that time one could only speculate about.  (more…)

9th January
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, January 9, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

Today is the deadline for submission of proposals for federal funding of reading programs, an initiative that will bring $34 million a year to New York City school children.This is not a lot of money in the context of the expenditures made annually on Gotham’s school system. However, for nearly a year it has been at the center of a debate on which hinges the future of reading instruction not just here but across the nation.

When the Education Department announced the choice of a reading program last year as part of the plans for a citywide “uniform” curriculum, the choice they made, an obscure workbook series called Month-by-Month Phonics, raised immediate concerns. Month-by-Month is basically an add-on that is part of a larger “whole language” reading strategy. This methodology has come under increasing fire as a growing number of studies conclusively demonstrate that for many of the most at-risk students, whole language doesn’t work.  (more…)

2nd January
2004

First Published in The New York Sun, January 2, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein got a belated Christmas gift from President Bush and the Department of Justice. They granted “pre-clearance” under the Voting Rights Act to the administration’s plan to deny New York voters any direct say over their school system, other than a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the mayor himself at four-year intervals. This is not good news for the city.

Four years is just long enough of a period to irreparably damage the education of any child, and a wrong-headed mayor, as this one surely is on education issues, can damage a whole generation of children. It is remarkable that as our soldiers fight the righteous battle to establish democracy in the Middle East, we so cavalierly eliminate it at home.  (more…)