|Regarding the San Diego School System and it's CEO, Alan
Bersin (WSJ editorial April 30),
There is nothing at all new or innovative about Superintendent
Alan Bersin's project in San Diego. Nestled in a society that is daily
more inequitable, jingoist, and racist--and rapidly institutionalizing
irrationalism, the school boss is mirroring the activities of his counterparts
all over the United States. Given that the nation is offering its youth
perpetual war, though, Bersin might fit the bill better than most.
Bersin's project, like all the rest, has these components:
There is nothing original about this. It's an international
trend. That one San Diego board member witnesses this and says, "fascism,"
may be a stretch, but the sum of the above is more than worrisome.
Establish the beneficiaries of economic inequality as the
arbiters of school reform.
Conclude that the key problems in schools are kids and teachers.
Deny that doing school reform without doing social and economic
reform in communities is like washing the air on one side of a screen door.
Master the work place by stripping the minds of the teachers,
replacing them with scripted partisan curricula cloaked as fair standards.
Lay off vital classroom aides, often the bridge between monolingual
teachers and English language learners.
Eradicate extraneous curricula like art, writing, music,
physical education, etc.
Focus on high-stakes test scores, disclaim that they mostly
measure race and class.
Deepen school segregation by tracking kids based on their
Divide the school worker force with merit pay schemes linked
to the scores.
Decry poor teaching and order educators into remedial training
programs offered by out- of- towners who hold those teachers in contempt--and
spend $60 million on it.
When teachers and parents in wealthy areas of the district
object that the plan dumbs them down, give them autonomy while holding
noses to the grindstone in poorer communities.
In a district that is $30 million in debt, ignore crises
of class size and chronic shortages of supplies.
Ensure your own pay raise, at 20% ($284,000 a year) then
notify the teachers that "we are in hard times," and hence there is no
money for teacher wage hikes.
Let no form of administrative hubris go unsurpassed.
Seek grants from foundations, and link the grants to your
own job security.
Use the police to discipline critics at board meetings, drastically
slash public comment.
Encourage the elimination of dissenting board members, assist
in a million dollar campaign financed by land developers and stadium owners
to subvert a local election-but lose.
Claim terrific results, though by your own measure, test
scores, little has happened.
Those who will profit from the endless hostility offered
as the national future may not object. Those of us who have dedicated our
lives to reason and social justice are fighting back. Students in San Diego
recently won the right to inform one another of their right to boycott
the Big Tests that Bersin and his ilk so revere. That boycott is a superior
educational device to anything he is urging in classrooms.