Anyone who follows New York’s
school foibles knows that politicians have been railing against the Board of
Education and its gigantic bureaucracy for decades. Every candidate for the
City Council or State Legislature, it seems, has a boilerplate denunciation of
the unwieldy school board, complete with ritualized calls for massive personnel
But, of course, nothing ever comes of all this rhetoric. The
board’s central staff, snug and smug in its little cocoon at 110
Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn,
survives Mayors and Chancellors. It remains a labyrinth of disaster.
That is, until now.
Schools Chancellor Harold Levy has announced that he will
eliminate more than 1,500 administrative jobs at the Board of Education over
the next three years. In delivering this welcome news, Mr. Levy said: “Today we
begin an effort to change a culture.” That’s precisely what’s needed, precisely
the task that others have ducked for so many years.
The job cutbacks will
save more than $300 million, but money is almost-almost-beside the
point. As Mr. Levy knows, the imperial Board of Education is not just an expensive piece of bureaucracy,
but a metaphor for our school system’s failures. Dismantling it will
save money, sure, but it will also send a welcome message to educators,
students and parents alike: This time, finally, somebody cares enough to tear down an obstacle to educational progress.
Mr. Levy, a business leader who understands how things run,
and how they don’t, undoubtedly will come under fire from the masters of the
status quo. Indeed, there already have been whispers that he doesn’t have the
support of the city’s permanent government. Perhaps that is so. But he should
have the support of those good-hearted people who care about public education
in New York. He was handed an
extremely difficult assignment-one that has broken many of his predecessors-and
has begun making headway. Now is not the time to abandon him. Rather, it is
time to support him, to rally behind his ideas and to take the measure of those
who would oppose him.
One good sign is the supportive comments of Randi
Weingarten, head of the United Federation of Teachers. While her union will not
be affected by the cuts-the lost jobs come from management-it’s good to see the
powerful U.F.T. getting behind Mr. Levy’s efforts at reform.
Come January, New York will have a new Mayor. That person would be well-advised
to retain Mr. Levy when his contract expires next June. Harold Levy has become
one of New York’s heroes, and he
deserves more time as he goes about the business of changing a culture.
Al Sharpton, National
Have you heard that Al Sharpton wants to run for President
in 2004? No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke … although, on second thought,
obviously it is. Whether anybody besides the formerly rotund reverend finds
this amusing, however, remains to be seen.
Newly sprung from a jail cell, where he spent 90 deserved
days for his antics in Vieques, Mr. Sharpton announced that he will form an
exploratory committee in anticipation of a Presidential campaign next time
around. The thought of Mr. Sharpton tramping the fields of Iowa and the hamlets
of northern New Hampshire during the dead of winter does suggest that revenge for
his lies, bigoted remarks and shady financial dealings may be nigh. Still, it
is beyond absurd that such a character could even think of running for the
nation’s highest office-and, even worse, could get the news media to take such
a campaign seriously.
Mr. Sharpton and his anti-Semitic friends no doubt believe
that a Presidential campaign would be good for the business of hate-it probably
would lead to prime-time interviews, lucrative speaking engagements and
big-time book deals. But those who would co-conspire
in making Mr. Sharpton a national political figure should reexamine
their consciences. Perhaps they believe Mr. Sharpton’s nonsense about being a
voice for minority concerns. That should not preclude the media, however, from
reminding the public of Mr. Sharpton’s past outrages, from the Tawana Brawley
lie to his friendship with such anti-Semites
as Louis Farrakhan. These are not “youthful indiscretions.” These appalling
episodes tell us everything we need to know
about this self-appointed Presidential candidate.
Al Sharpton for President? Yes,
it’s a joke, all right. Unfortunately, the joke’s on us.
With the Labor Day weekend in sight, many of us will be
preparing for one last round of summer networking in the country and at the
beach, one last round of card exchanges
over cocktails with new business contacts. For others, Labor Day marks the beginning of a new academic year, when
teachers will meet new students, and students will meet new teachers,
and both will meet new peers.
This is a time of year when first impressions matter, when
people get their first and perhaps last chance to make a new friend or
influence a new authority figure. For those people, a new book seems made to
order. Author Nicholas Boothman has written
a volume entitled How to Make People Like You in 90 Sec onds or Less . Talk about timely! Mr. Boothman’s advice seems
tailored for busy New Yorkers who probably
have no more than a minute and a half to make an impression, or a teacher trying to make a quick and vivid impression
on a classroom of skeptical kids. Or, for that matter,
a shrewd student hoping to be able to skate through a class on charm rather
Mr. Boothman suggests asking questions that start with “how”
as a means of getting people to open up and start talking. He also emphasizes
eye contact and suggests that you approach people with your heart pointing at
their hearts. So, come Labor Day weekend, if some smiling stranger looks you in
the eye and asks you how your summer was, be prepared to make a new friend.