Phil-osophically Speaking: March 27, 2014


School’s Out

The Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once observed that the greatest danger to liberty lurks in the minds of men with zeal, all those social reformers who are well-meaning but without understanding. I don’t know about the well-meaning part, but Bill deBlassio’s assault on Charter schools is certainly stereotypical of those bereft of understanding.

One of the saddest things about these school closings is that nearly all the parents of the children who benefit from Charter schools voted for that overgrown Sandinista who is now the new mayor of N.Y.C.  I wrote about my fears of deBlassio’s hard left philosophy not long ago and it’s all coming true faster than I could have imagined. DeBlassio is more interested in protecting special interests, like the self-serving teachers’ unions that supported and elected him, than educating underprivileged children. The fact is that Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of the Success Charter Network, has created an education program that is superior to the public education system, which has been failing for years.

As Casey Stengel was fond of saying, you can look it up. While only 30% of citywide students passed math exams last year, 82% of the children attending Success Charter Network, most of them living in Harlem, passed it. The improvement in reading and comprehension scores are also impressive. Instead of embracing this success and seeing it as a siren call to reform, deBlassio and his equally benighted cronies are trying to amputate it as if it was some cancerous appendage. The deBlassio administration has completely divorced itself from common sense and human decency.

Success, even its prospect, unhappily, breeds enmity from entrenched interests who see themselves threatened by innovation and reform. Mayor deBlassio fell into a cozy marriage with public education unions, who are now like piranhas circling in fetid waters. The upshot is that children suffer.  The mayor defends his actions by fulsomely opining that he is only axing the three planned Academy Success Schools because he wants to keep the level of education the same for everyone. Apparently, the mayor wants all underprivileged school children in his city to fail equally. We have a perverse egalitarianism being administered by a despotic extremist.

Even Governor Cuomo, nurtured on shibboleths you find on left-leaning bumper stickers, once opposed school choice but has since had a change of heart.  Now this dauphin of political royalty is stridently criticizing closing these schools. It’s a welcome change for sure, though a decidedly suspicious one. But then shrewd politics is not an occasion for punctiliousness, especially when one stumble from his party’s front runner may award him the scepter and diadem in 2016.

Public opinion has been so disaffected from the deBlassio debacle that even the N.Y.C. Republican party could winkle something good out of it by borrowing a page from the opposition’s playbook and call it the “War on Children.” For years these limousine liberals have talked about the downtrodden and the moral necessity for equal opportunity while at the same time it sends children to failing schools even as they send their own children to private ones. It is the most shameless kind of hypocrisy and it’s no surprise that such sanctimonious duplicity has deBlassio’s poll numbers plummeting way down into the murky deep.

With an African-American wife and children who are multi-racial, you would think the mayor would have more sympathy for the plight of minorities. Children who don’t graduate high school will earn much less over their lifetime than those who do and are also much more likely to use drugs and run afoul of the law. Ideology may trump all in the short run, but you can’t chicane and elude the people forever.

DeBlassio has gone straight off the rails and into political perdition by cutting $210 million in building funds and aborting the space sharing building arrangements adopted by his flawed but manifestly superior predecessor. The schools were to operate rent-free in city-owned facilities under deals forged under Mayor Bloomberg, an enthusiastic supporter of Charter schools. That has all been washed away under the deBlassio tide of intolerance for school choice.

If there is something that can be salvaged from this ignominious shipwreck, even if redemption is but for one irrefragable moment, it’s that many have come to understand that elections have consequences.  It’s but one more fact touched with sadness; the road to wisdom is indeed a hard and painful one. Children are the bridge to tomorrow. It’s a damn shame to see an elected official who is so recklessly self-absorbed with protecting his own political capital that he is willing to sell out the only future we’ll ever know.

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