Tony prep school grads beat up teachers after school

I can’t say that I’m too terribly surprised (h/t commenter Indyanna for the link).  But it’s rather striking that all of these bigshot educrats are known for pushing standardized testing, rather than advocating the small classes, the well-designed and maintained academic buildings, the nutritious meals, and the creative and rigorous teaching they all enjoyed in their school days.  (If they didn’t enjoy all of these things, then why did their parents pay the bills?  Were they economically irrational, or deluded fools, or both?)  Is this because prep school grads are overwhelmingly unable to appreciate the different challenges and burdens of our public schools, or is it that the only prep school grads who join the educratic elite all agree to ignore the economic discrepancies between their fancy schools and wealthy classmates, and the reality of most public schools in the U.S. today?

Just imagine the miracles that those brilliant headmasters and headmistresses and their legions of clever teachers could do for the most beleagured schools and the least prepared and supported students!  Just imagine–because that’s as close as those kids are ever going to get to a Philips Exeter-Milton Academy-Chicago Lab School-Maumee Valley Country Day School education.  (MVCDS must be so, so proud!)

0 thoughts on “Tony prep school grads beat up teachers after school

  1. I think the original article’s focus on the private-school backgrounds of these folks, as if that alone disqualified them from assessing public schools, is a bit of a red herring. One need not have direct personal experience of something in order to be able to analyze it effectively from the outside — the whole discipline of History would be in trouble if that were the case. Yet, as you point out, the disconnect between these people’s own success, and their educational backgrounds of, as you put it, small classes, well-designed and maintained academic buildings, nutritious meals, and creative and rigorous teaching is pretty startling. I have to assume that they *do* know these things have value, but are too craven and selfish to care.


  2. Undoubtedly, all these folks see their successes and accomplishments as simply a matter of their own personal merit, which (of course) has nothing to do with the kind of education they received. So when they look at schools of any sort that are deemed to be failing, they conclude that the failure is on the part of the teachers, who must be keeping kids from achieving similar merit.

    Acknowledging that their pricey private educations contributed to their successes would be tantamount to admitting that their successes are not due to personal merit: of course they won’t see things that way.

    That’s the irony of education and educational thinking: students are responsible for their own achievements, but teachers are responsible for students’ failures.


  3. I think careerism is part of it, but I think a lot of it is the tendency for elites of our generation to believe that they live in a meritocratic society. As Ann Richards once described George H.W. Bush–“he was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

    (In retrospect, that seems rather unfair to Poppy. Although he was the son of a U.S. Senator, he was a vet of the Deuce, and attended Yale on a baseball scholarship. It maybe better describes his son, GWB.)


  4. “I knew Lou Gehrig. Lou Gehrig was a friend of mine. As an Ivy League first baseman, “Pops” Bush was no Lou Gehrig…”

    Loosely paraphrasing Lloyd Bentsen here…


  5. Isn’t that why we have Teach for America? So our SLAC grads (many of whom also attended private schools) can bring their great ideas to the great unwashed, while biding their time until the job market opens up?

    The sad thing is that my students, graduates of public high schools and a state-owned university, won’t get their tiny toe in the door of TFA. My education majors are just happy to get interviews right now…and TFA folks are taking their places in the classroom.


  6. Historiann, I know this is OT but I wanted to send this link to you…You may have already seen it.

    Controversy Over Surgeon’s Valentine’s Day Editorial Leads to Resignation – TIME Healthland

    “The fact that Dr. Greenfield apologized for me, for my ‘taking offense’ to his op ed without any insight into the implications that a physician leader advocated for unprotected sex, disturbs me.”

    —DR. COLLEEN BROPHY, professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University who resigned in protest from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) after its president, Dr. Lazar Greenfield, published a Valentine’s Day-themed editorial suggesting that unprotected sex would make a better gift to women than chocolate. Referring to research finding that college women who have unprotected sex are less depressed than those who use condoms, he speculated that semen may have mood-enhancing effects. The ACS announced Greenfield’s resignation Sunday.


  7. It actually has a perfect internal logic to it, Historiann: these educrats needed that kind of education because they were destined to grow up to lead our society. The children of the poor and middle class, however, are not destined to hold positions where critical thinking is necessary, therefore a “skills-based education” to produce “job-ready graduates” is what they need.

    They’re just acting in fine Aristotelian tradition, helping everyone achieve their own telos, as determined by their birth. What could be wrong with that?


  8. Okay, now the title of this article over at NYT is ridiculous.
    Incoming American College of Surgeons Head, Lazar Greenfield, Resigns –

    Head of Surgeons Group Resigns Over Article Viewed as Offensive to Women
    Published: April 17, 2011

    “Viewed as Offensive to Women?” Is this the same author who wrote the Cleveland TX article about the 11 year-old girl who was gang raped?

    Sorry to highjack the thread, it just makes me so mad.


  9. That’s quite a list of prep schools in the NYTimes article. And something tells me if you followed it with colleges attended, the pattern would only strengthen.

    Michelle Obama is far from one of my favorite people, but it was good to see her honesty about testing. Why isn’t she dragging her corporate shill of a husband into some understanding of the issues, in that case?


  10. A-HAHAHAhaha. Good one, Susan.

    Michelle Obama isn’t responsible for bad policy–her husband is. Clearly, he takes the issue of school reform very seriously because he chose a former Australian professional basketball star as his Secretary of Educratation. (And where are the howls of outrage from the so-called “left” on this? Let’s see what happens when a Republican president appoints an equally underqualified person as Sec’y of Ed.)


  11. Historiann, from the same link you posted, I learned that Arne Duncan has been in education administration for almost as long as you’ve been in academia (started his charter school career a year after you began grad school), and for the better part of the last decade he was the head of the third largest school system in the nation. You can argue that he’s been WRONG for the last twenty years by favoring business-like approaches to education problems (which is why I personally am dubious about Duncan), but slamming him as “under-qualified” seems like a bad faith argument.


  12. off topic, but to respond to this from Indyanna:

    “The sad thing is that my students, graduates of public high schools and a state-owned university, won’t get their tiny toe in the door of TFA. My education majors are just happy to get interviews right now…and TFA folks are taking their places in the classroom.”

    I teach at a regional public, and I have a former student (graduated a year and a half ago) who was accepted to TFA, and from his report, many of his peers in TFA are, in fact, public high school alums who then went on to regional unis. I know that TFA is seen as this “elite” option as a gap year between undergrad and grad school (mostly I understand that’s how it’s seen because of how Tenured Radical has written about it), but this is not at all what I’ve heard from my former student who is actually a Teach for America teacher (in an inner-city school in the midwest, for whatever that’s worth). It’s also worth noting that TFA is a REALLY small program and it tends to provide teachers for those schools to which Ed majors don’t want to apply (because they’re dangerous, because they’re in an awful location, whatever). I’m not sure that TFA is actually the enemy.


  13. Charles–how does a person 5 years out of Harvard come to run a “non profit educational foundation” in a field he wasn’t trained in and in which he had no formal expertise with just a B.A. in sociology and 4 years playing Australian pro ball?

    From the Duncan resume (slightly reorganized to emphasize chronology):

    From 1987 to 1991, Duncan played professional basketball in Australia, where he also worked with children who were wards of the state.

    Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1987, majoring in sociology. He was co-captain of Harvard’s basketball team and was named a first team Academic All-American. He credits basketball with his team-oriented and highly disciplined work ethic.

    . . . .

    Prior to joining the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan ran the non-profit education foundation Ariel Education Initiative (1992-1998), which helped fund a college education for a class of inner-city children under the I Have A Dream program. He was part of a team that later started a new public elementary school built around a financial literacy curriculum, the Ariel Community Academy, which today ranks among the top elementary schools in Chicago.

    . . . .

    Prior to his appointment as secretary of education, Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, a position to which he was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley, from June 2001 through December 2008, becoming the longest-serving big-city education superintendent in the country.

    . . . .

    Could this be the answer?

    His late father was a professor at the University of Chicago and his mother has run a South Side tutoring program for inner-city children since 1961. As a student in Chicago, Duncan spent afternoons in his mother’s tutoring program and also worked there during a year off from college. He credits this experience with shaping his understanding of the challenges of urban education.

    Call me skeptical, but that’s a paper-thin resume for getting the job of CEO of Chicago Public Schools and then Ed Secretary. I bet a hell of a lot of recent grads with a B.A. would love to walk into a “non profit foundation” job that would then within a decade make them CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

    This career trajectory has the strong whiff of the kind of elitism that Tom discusses way upthread. What I see in this bio is that Mumsy and Pater–and their very good friends–took very good care of him.


  14. I’m dying to know what working with children who were “wards of the state” means. How 19th century sounding. Can’t find anything in Aussie papers with details… did find out all the b-ball teams he played on are now defunct.


  15. “What I see in this bio is that Mumsy and Pater–and their very good friends–took very good care of him.”

    Well, you know how influential college professors are! You could very well be right, but I think this is also key:

    “He was part of a team that later started a new public elementary school built around a *financial literacy curriculum*, the Ariel Community Academy.”

    As in, he helped build a flashy charter school that catered to the interests and preconceptions of the city’s monied elite. And as head of the non-profit, probably had been hobnobbing with them shortly after retiring from New South Wales Wallabies.

    I’m with you in thinking he’s a bad Ed Secretary, and that nepotism or cronyism fueled his ride to the top. But I’m not sure it’s still possible to say that after eighteen years in an industry, someone has a “paper thin resume.” The problem with creatures like Duncan is more what you and Tom were saying earlier: they often have a false view of the sources of their success.

    And in answer to your and Shaz’s questions, in Australia, “ward of the state” refers generally to any child with a legal guardian not their parent and more specifically to the “stolen generation” of Aboriginal children who were forcibly seized from their parents by the Australian government up to the mid-1970s and were still being raised in foster care or in orphanages up to the mid-1990s. That’s probably what Duncan’s bio referred to: he was likely tutoring “stolen” children.


  16. Charles–thanks for your reply. Maybe UC Professors are influential–I surely am not. If I have any children, I’m sure they’ll be extremely disappointed in how little money and pull I have.

    Thanks for the intel on “ward of the state” in the Aussie context. I think that term is still used in legal proceedings in the U.S., but it has a very archaic feel, doesn’t it?

    I still think it’s a flimsy resume. (I suppose “paper thin” isn’t really that much of an insult, when most of us at least at one point printed our resumes on paper.)


  17. I think the problem with Duncan’s resume is that it’s all administrative. So he sits above the problems. And when you teach — especially for more than a year or two — you’re in the problems. Only from above are the teachers the core problem.


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