Friday, February 14, 2014
Chancellor Farina strikes again
In a meeting on Tuesday Chancellor of New York City Schools Carmen Farina said, in reference to how important it is to have pre-K classes:
“The grade at which we look at incarceration in the future is third grade. Third-grade reading scores nationally are the grade by which jails are chosen to be built.”
That's the kind of statement a lot of people will hear, and just sort of let go in one ear and out the other, without really thinking about it. But let's hit the pause button and think about this one for a moment. Farina's statement makes no syntactical, grammatical, or logical sense.
By her first sentence, does she mean that we pick out children in the third grade and mark them for future jail terms? (Silly me, I thought that jail terms are handed out because of crimes.) Does she mean that future felons start to contemplate their sentences while still in third grade? Or did she mean that future wardens start thinking about their jobs while still in third grade? (If they are, then they certainly showed more foresight about their careers than I ever did.)
Her second sentence was even worse. First of all, reading scores are scores: they're not third grade. That makes as much sense as saying that someone's time for the 400 meter dash is eleventh grade. (What??) Secondly, if you read that sentence closely, it almost sounds as if Chancellor Farina is saying that the jails themselves go through third grade. Thirdly, how could national reading scores determine which local jails will be built? (Or is she referring to the federal penitentiary system?)
Keep in mind that Chancellor Farina was chosen out of all the teachers and principles in the NYC school system because she is, theoretically, the most capable, intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, and eloquent educator the entire system has to offer.
In any case, Chancellor Farina seemed to be talking in one of those Google translations of a foreign language: you have to try to glean the gist of what she's saying from the jumble of words which pile out in seemingly random order.
What I think she's trying to say is that by third grade most kids are on a path which will lead either to a life of law-abiding productivity, or a life of crime.
That may be some truth to that, but the influence of pre-K is negligible at best. There have been all sorts of studies indicating that whatever benefit is derived from Head Start disappears by third grade. And any honest psychologist will tell you that the direction a person's life takes has to do with a multitude of factors, most of which have to do with the type of family he's from, how much love and attention he got, whether his parents set good examples, his friendships, his hormonal levels, his impulse control, and his IQ.
The de Blasio/Farina push for pre-K has much more to do with increasing the number of teaching jobs available, which in turn increases the size of the teachers' union, dues toward which are automatically deducted from teachers' pay. The union then contributes much of that money to Democratic political candidates, all of whom are then beholden to the teacher's union.
It's a tidy little arrangement. (In the future, whenever you hear an educator talk about how something has to be done for the children, bear in mind that it's really the teacher's union which will benefit.)
In closing, I would just like to say that the time at which we look at judgment in the future of chancellors and mayors is this past week. Pronouncements about weather and third grade reading scores are the time by which judgments are choosing to be made.