I don’t understand

Arne Duncan (meet the new boss…) suggests that states had better not get in the way of charter schools, as if the hold up with charter schools is occurring at the state level.

It’s as if he didn’t spend time running Chicago, squealing at every moment about the lack of state support. One of the few things that state legislatures WILL support is charter schools: doing so sticks it to teacher unions, school district bureaucracies, and allows many business types an entry into the education trough. The hold up for charter schools in Philadelphia doesn’t come from the state but from the SDP, who has control over how many charters they will grant.

There’s a Paul Krugman editorial today detailing some of the ways that the Obama administration has alienated the left; I think more could be made about the decision to go with Duncan as opposed to someone like Linda Darling-Hammond and the betrayal that many educators feel about Duncan’s work so far.

Terry Francona Quote

[C]oming to the ballpark this time of year, being nervous, is an unbelievable feeling. When I was in Philadelphia, … you get to September and … we’re out there trying to tell ourselves we’re going to try to win today and be the spoiler. You know what? [Expletive] that. That’s not that much fun.

Found here (great RS blog); original article here.

Gran Torino

So we owned a Gran Torino, one not nearly as nice as Clint’s, but still, it was cool to see it again in this awesome film.

I loved his garage — a lifetime of buying and using tools — his second chance at fathering, and the way the film presents teaching about tools and fixing things…

I also thought it a smart rejoinder to the recent Obama decision to move away from home ownership and towards supporting urban rentals. Yeah, the Clint character might be racist and a pig, but he cared deeply about his own property. It cuts both ways, I think; there’s something to be said for a neighborhood of homeowners who subtly pressure each other to keep their properties up. Apart from NYC/SF/Seattle, I’ve not seen many cities where there are communities of renters that are places you’d want to live.

And looking at the various landlords who own places on my block: it’s not about making a community to them, it’s about getting paid, about their building as an investment, not as a home. Only a pretty special landlord can do both.

I get it

I didn’t quite understand why the School District of Philadelphia has finally decided to settle the forty year old desegregation case. Then I saw this piece:

The agreement pledges the district will provide additional resources, better teachers and improved building maintenance to remedy years of neglect in the city’s lowest-performing schools.

Those schools are also what the court termed “racially isolated” schools, or schools at least 90 percent African-American and Latino, officials said.

Okay, no surprise here in the racially isolated schools: that number has probably been between 60 and 70% since the mid-1960s. And if you add in all the schools in the Northeast that are racially isolated as well, it’s an even higher number.

What I think Ackerman is trying to do is use this decision alongside Act 46 to break the union in the low-performing schools. She wants to get the right to disregard work rules (something the SRC seems in favor of) and this court decision and the 2001 legislation will provide partial political cover to do so…

That’s cynical. Wow.


I’ve been tracking former principals and administrators in the School District of Philadelphia, individuals who worked impossibly hard to carve out opportunities for children in the 1940s and 1950s. But it’s striking and sad how little is left of their work: google reveals little more than the school named for them. Even more tragic is the way their names emerge in articles about how messed up urban schools are, the same schools they worked to re-shape so very long ago.

Jonathan Kozol (among others) makes this point about MLK or Thurgood Marshall: look for the school named for them and it will invariably be in a tough neighborhood. But what about folks like principal/district superintendent Dr. Tanner Duckrey? A school may have been named for him but his steadfast work to carve out equal educational opportunity remains solely the domain of historians…

’cause really, things have changed.

I do not see how you can ever point your fingers at a southern senator or a southern school district and tell them that they are discriminating against black children when you are unwilling to desegregated schools in your own cities. Let me say to my distinguished northern colleagues that the reason you are unwilling to do it is fear of political reprisal. The question is whether northern senators have the guts to face their liberal white constituents who have fled to the suburbs for the sole purpose of having their sons and daughters not go to school with blacks.

Abraham Ribicoff to Jacob Javits, 20 April 1971

Quote from
Clotfelter, Charles T. After Brown : The Rise and Retreat of School Desegregation. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004), 44.

Quote from new NYC school (1856)

We want to show by this building, with its towering walls and fair proportions,that the dignity of the school is rising in the world. . . . We believe that the existence of our government depends on the education of the people. . . We want the people, as they pass back and forth to ask what public building this is. We want them to understand that this is a noble institution of learning, and that people have wisely expended their money in erecting schoolhouses in preference to erecting jails. . . . It has been the wish of the school officers to make in such an institution that all classes might be induced to send their children to it; they wished to draw the rich as well as the poor within it, so they erected a structure of which the son of a wealthy man need not be ashamed, and that the son of a poor man may feel proud to enter. Here the both are placed on a perfect equality, and the road up the hill of fame is as broad to the humblest child of our ward as it is to the most favored son of the wealthiest citizen.

From the dedication of New York City’s Ward School 4
April 23, 1856

American Rust

Reading this exceptional novel — first novel I’ve read in a long time that I felt the need to go buy a hardback copy upon completion — while I’m reading Guion McKee’s book, The Problem of Jobs, a survey of Philadelphia industrial policy in the 1960s and 1970s.

This exchange on page 274 of American Rust:

“Company looking after you?
“Yep. Got us on this profit-sharing plan, stock’s up a hundred percent. we just hired Benny Garnic’s son, matter of fact.”
“Thought he was a computer programmer.”
“Shipped his job off to India,” said Riley. “Kid goes to school so he wouldn’t get laid off like his dad did, but then…”

“It does make you feel better about things,” said Frank, ” in a purely cynical way. Those kinds of people didn’t have much sympathy for us twenty years ago, I can remember it was asshole after asshole going on TV and saying it was our faults for not going to college.”

“Benny Garnic’s son probably doesn’t feel better.”
“I got him started at nineteen-sixty and hour,” said Frank. “He won’t lose his house the way we all did.”