Saturday, June 30, 2007

Know Your History

Deborah Meier:

I was talking with a young man yesterday who is working at a new NYC high schools for students who have dropped out or are about to. He's very enthusiastic about the work and the school. He thinks Bloomberg and Company invented such schools, and that his is the first.

Historical amnesia is, alas, widespread. In a piece on Bloomberg’s ambitions for the Presidency and another on the High School of International Business and Finance, NY Times reporter Sara Rimer suggests that Bloomberg/Klein are the first to worry about how to educate the kids at the bottom, the first to develop small schools, the first to be enamored of test score accountability, the first to eliminate “social promotion” and so on. How does she explain that half of NYC's kids were starting high school at least one year over-age in the late 80's. Shouldn’t a fact-checker catch such historical untruths? My young friend’s ignorance is forgivable, the NY Times reporter’s is less so.

Small, personalized schools for kids who are floundering, or for kids in general, is not a new idea. It was thriving 30 years go. Steve Phillips, now teaching at Brooklyn College, ran a district that served thousands of NYC’s most needy kids in small, personalized and relatively successful schools. He operated a "system" of schools for twenty years that was threatened by each new Chancellor, and disappeared finally under Bloomberg/Klein. With it NYC’s school history was rewritten. Phillips' "domain" eventually included many small schools that weren't designed just for dropouts—like CPESS, Vanguard, Landmark, International etc. By the time his work was dismantled, Phillips had created a system that was larger than Boston’s. How sad that this new recruit to NYC’s schools thinks his school has no history to draw upon.

Ditto for bloggers.


Chris Lehmann said...

You know I agree with you... and actually, Steve Phillips was the person who helped Beacon's founders get started. I *think* I even mentioned him to you.

We stand on the shoulders of giants.

tellio said...

Once I know my history, what do I do?

Tom Hoffman said...

tellio: Try to learn from it. Don't make the same mistakes.