Myths About Businessmen Running Schools

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg witnessed the resignation of his Chancellor of Education, Joe Klein and replaced the former business leader with a female business woman, Cathie Black. Naturally, since she was a success in business there is no need for her to have any knowledge of the world of education. I always find it surprising that President Obama did not appoint a former business executive to head the Justice Department since under the former Attorney General there were numerous problems. Obams’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is a former businessman. The theory of having business leaders assume control of school systems is since they know how to produce cars, they certainly know how to produce students. Anyone reading these words has worked in an occupation in which it took years to learn about all the facets of what you do and nothing could replace hands-on experience. But when it comes to school, the opposing view prevails, the less you know about teaching or teachers or students, the more successful will be your leadership. We can only be grateful this theory is not present in our business world or our medical world or our legal world.

Children are unique humans and each is like a flower which must be individually nourished. We plant corn and apply chemicals and treat one stalk as other stalks, but the process of education requires a gardener mentality. It requires leaders who understand the psychology of change in schools and methods that can be used to sabotage change. For example, Joe Klein boasts of rising test scores under his leadership, but anyone familiar with the New York school system knows tests giving in schools were “dumbed down” and teachers spend their time in test preparation rather than in developing critical and creative thinking young people who felt challenged to learn.

Businessmen do not understand how children learn or how teachers can be effective in the classroom. One can not go by test scores. For example, in some schools teachers who are tenured can make certain they receive classes in which there are superior students and thus have higher test scores. In some schools, children who are failing are encouraged not to come to school on test day–there is hard evidence this was done in Texas when George Bush was the governor. How many businessmen understand what I just wrote?