As to the issue of who, if anyone, is to to blame for the results we've got, and what must be done
to change that, well, I guess I'll have to read the books, though I suspect the first answer is bad unfocused parents, as we all know intuitively. But that's just my opinion.
What really caught my attention, though, knocked me out, really, is a couple of devastatingly revealing lines from Dan Brown's book on the myriad challenges of teaching in New York City, The Great Expectations School, A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle.
WOW! Everyone I've shared this with has come away with the same exact look of dismay and dread. I remind you, as you read this, that author Dan Brown was teaching fourth-graders, NOT four-year olds.
By the way, any guess as to when the South Florida media is going to find out the real story behind the so-called Rudy Crew 'death threats' of a few months ago? (See Miami Herald story of August 8th at bottom.)
I've long suspected that they were a not-so-bright hoax perpetrated by a handful of misguided people, and contrary to the story the Herald published, likely Miami Northwestern High School football fans, upset about Crew's -long overdue- disciplinary moves before the season started, which resulted in the firing of a very popular and successful head coach and his staff, along with imposing penalties and standards on the team.
Now there's an under-investigated story that sounded fishy from the very beginning!
I listened on WLRN to the Miami-Dade School Board meeting when the disciplinary measures against the team and employees were discussed.
This, after so much attention had been brought down on their heads by the media, on the never ending buck passing by adults that were legally responsible for the safety of kids in their charge, who always seemed to place more importance on the concealing of facts and evidence.
But quite frankly, the board meeting itself was horrific and embarrassing in ways that only things in Miami can be, with little to no regard to following rules or common sense.
So much so, in fact, that when Channel 10's Michael Putney returned from his vacation, I was tempted to send him an email telling him about it and suggesting that he have an intern get a videotape of the hearing, so he could see it and hear it for himself. A real eye-opener!
It revealed one of the worst aspect of life in South Florida: incompetent, petty and insecure people in places of power, largely as a result of their appeal to group ethnicity rather than merit or knowledge.Speaking of Rudy Crew, I almost forgot to mention that the Blaisdell review also includes a review of his book, which, in my opinion, considering the state of Miami-Dade's schools, is probably surprising only in its gall.
For his book, I much prefer this review by Francisco Alvarado in The Miami New Times of November 20, 2007, titled "Rudy Crew’s Crapola The schools superintendent’s new book is, well, full of baloney."
I didn't read it until after Thanksgiving, when one of the college football games I was watching on TV got to be so tedious I had to turn the TV off.
Alvarado had written an earlier Crew story in the New Times that I'd read the week it came out, back in August, titled "Bad Apple, Miami-Dade schools superintendent Rudy Crew has made many mistakes. Maybe too many."
Reviews: Three views of American public schools
BY BOB BLAISDELL, Chicago Tribune November 18, 2007
A CLASS APART: Prodigies, Pressure and Passion Inside One of America's Best High Schools, by Alec Klein. Simon & Schuster, 323 pp., $25.
ONLY CONNECT: The Way to Save Our Schools, by Rudy Crew with Thomas Dyja. Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 248 pp., $24.
Is there an institution in America that calls forth such universal criticism and universal hope as public school?
...A half-hour away via subway, in the South Bronx, a 22-year-old with a famous writer's name, Dan Brown, graduated from New York University in 2003 and took a job teaching fourth grade in "the worst class in the worst school in the worst neighborhood" in New York City. The school was PS 85 - Great Expectations School, and many of Brown's students required individual attention for learning disabilities, language deficiencies and behavior issues. Despite his intelligence and good intentions, the sensitive Brown never had a chance. Two months into the job, he tells us in "The Great Expectations School," he found it had transformed him into an unsmiling, unstrung screamer:
"I lifted cackling Tayshaun Jackson's desk above my head and wham! smashed it to the floor. 'SHUT YOUR MOUTHS!' My voice shook with convulsive intensity. The room went dead silent and motionless at my paroxysm, like a record scratching to a halt in some terrible game of Freezedance."
The school, which "looks like a prison," demanded that Brown prepare his 9-year-olds for system-wide tests that would help determine the school's funding. Teaching a history lesson, he discovered his students didn't understand that George Washington, having led the Revolutionary Army in 1776, must now be dead:
"I explained that very few people live to be a hundred. When only Sonandia and Seresa could tell me that 1904 was 100 years before our current 2004, I realized ... that these kids did not understand elapsed time, be it in minutes or decades. As a litmus test, I asked what time it would be 60 minutes from now. No hands. What time will it be sixty minutes from now. No hands. What time will it be one hour from now? Four volunteers. Thus, my hopes for in-depth, history-based lessons were banished to make way for my new, deceptively simple-seeming campaign for 'Time.'"
Typically for the Herald's poor under-served readers, this story NEVER mentions the specific position within the state legislature and Florida's education community that Ralph Arza held at the time of the alleged remarks, much less his well-known feelings about the general direction of the Miami-Dade schools.
Dade schools chief Crew on guard after threats
Police investigated threatening calls to Miami-Dade schools chief RudyCrew that further raised tensions between the Cuban community and theblack superintendent
By Tania deLuzuriaga
August 8, 2007
Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Rudy Crew wrote to School Board members that he intends 'to take appropriate protective measures for my office support staff and myself here, at my home and in all public venues.'
Threatening phone calls and voice-mail messages are prompting Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Rudy Crew to take extra precautions with his safety as police investigate the intimidation, officials said Tuesday.
In a memo to the Miami-Dade School Board, Crew said the calls began after the board voted 5-4 in a meeting last week to give him a $41,000 bonus, and one board member criticized his hiring practices.
''In response to board member Marta Perez's incendiary and divisive comments during the August 1, 2007, board meeting and in various media outlets, my office has received numerous death threats, racially charged messages and obscene telephone calls,'' Crew wrote to the board on Monday.
During debate about the superintendent's bonus, Perez quoted a deposition by a former school district employee who accused Crew of making defamatory remarks about Hispanics, including saying, "Cubans are the enemy.''
Perez said Tuesday that she was surprised by the superintendent's response.
''I've received threatening calls, but I didn't make any big thing about it,'' she said. 'It's his way of diverting attention from the fact that we have 26 `F' schools.''
Crew's chief of staff, Carolyn Spaht, said his office answered several disturbing calls while he was out Thursday and Friday.
''I have no idea how many; it was a lot,'' Spaht said. "They were threatening, physically threatening.''
Miami police detectives have taken a statement from Crew and are also analyzing taped evidence. There are at least two phone threats, said Detective Delrish Moss, a spokesman.
''Not only are they death threats, they are also ethnically intimidating calls,'' Moss said.
Crew wrote to board members that he intends "to take appropriate protective measures for my office support staff and myself here, at my home and in all public venues.''
Asked Tuesday what precautions he would be taking, Crew said, "I'm not going to publicize what those measures are, that wouldn't make sense. I'm going to go through life as normally as I can, but I have to take the necessary precautions.''
Board Chairman Agustin Barrera said Crew's actions were a sign of the times.
'With the things we've seen happen in society, we don't want to look back a month from now and say, `We should have paid attention," he said.
The phone calls seem to signal a new height in tensions between the Cuban community and the black superintendent, who has had two former employees allege that he discriminates against Hispanics.
The deposition Perez quoted last week was part of a lawsuit brought by Marjorie Santayana Figueira, a former school district employee who alleged discrimination after she was forced to resign in 2005.
Her lawyers sought to establish a pattern of discrimination by Crew against Hispanic females. They included testimony from former Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Sonia Diaz, a Puerto Rican who says Crew told her that she was hiring too many people who ''looked like'' her and that "Cubans are the enemy.''
Crew has had troubles with the Cuban community, most notably last year when two members of his staff alleged they heard former state Rep.Ralph Arza use racial epithets in reference to the superintendent. An ethics complaint filed by Crew was dismissed because he had not personally heard the slurs.
Arza, a Cuban American, resigned from office for his role in threatening a colleague who had filed a Florida House rules complaint alleging Arza used racial epithets to describe Crew.
But Barrera said the highly publicized incidents aren't indicative of how the public feels about Crew.
''I wouldn't say the Hispanic community is against Rudy,'' he said.
"I would say there's a loud minority against the superintendent. We never hear from the silent majority.''
Crew has been accused of discrimination by several former employees, including a white woman who says she was demoted so her job could go to a minority, and a former assistant School Board attorney who says she was forced to retire while other, less qualified Hispanics were promoted.
Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.
StuckOnthePalmetto had some thoughts on this story at the time, as did some of his readers: