In A Brief History of Reform!, life-long and much beloved educator Deborah Meier contrasts the educational philosophies of John Dewey, who believed the school should model and therefore teach democracy, and Ellwood Cubberley, the technocrat who promoted so-called scientific management of schools. As an educator Meier founded schools that modeled Dewey’s philosophy; Cubberley was the direct ancestor of today’s school reformers.
Today Meier celebrates New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s appointment of Carmen Farina, a 40-year teacher, principal, and school administrator—her entire career spent serving the children of New York City.
Clearly Farina and de Blasio have much work to do to curb special favors like free rent for charters and to undo policies like almost universal school choice at the high school level. This is the policy that the Annenberg Institute for School reform exposed last year for assigning what New York City schools formally designate as “over-the-counter-children” (the children of parents who do not participate in school choice but instead expect the district to make a school assignment) to schools already being dismantled in preparation for closure. And then there is the school closure policy itself that is already underway to dismantle several of New York City’s comprehensive high schools one grade at a time. Addressing these issues will be a daunting task.
As we begin a new year, however, there is reason for optimism in New York City. A forty-year, veteran educator has been appointed chancellor. It wasn’t too long ago that the outgoing mayor appointed as chancellor Cathleen P. Black, whose work experience was limited to publishing—overseeing Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and Good Housekeeping for Hearst Magazines.