I've just returned from dropping our fourth grader off at his public school, my seventh grader walked herself to her public middle school, and come January I will cross my fingers and light a candle as I apply to get our four-year-old into public kindergarten.
Cathie Black, the New York mayor's nominee for school's Chancellor, knows absolutely nothing at all about any of these things.
Alan Singer wrote cogently here last week about why she is so dangerously unqualified.
In many respects I am pro-Bloomberg. I voted for him last time around and since I returned to my native New York five years ago after several years on the West Coast I have found it both lively and livable. I grew up on the Upper West Side in the 70s and 80s in the same catchment where my son goes now, and back then my parents wouldn't have dreamed of entrusting me to the very same school where I've sent two, going on three, of my children. Not only is it a wonderful free education, it is a better education than what I paid for back in LA in private school because there our local school was both vast and failing.
The mayor and outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein have a mixed record for school reform, but Bloomberg's installing his unqualified friend Cathie Black into one of the most important education jobs in the country is imperial, irresponsible, absurd and insulting. This high-handed act threatens to scuttle his legacy as one of the more transformative mayors in this great city's history.
If Ms. Black were a Steve Jobs, a visionary manager and innovator, then of course New Yorkers would be thrilled that a newcomer to education was arriving. Instead she is an executive from a dying industry -- publishing.
If Ms. Black had shown a passion for educational reform for years through charitable work then she would be worth, possibly giving the benefit of the doubt. Instead she has shown almost no interest during her career and now has to cram to "get up to speed."
If the mayor had consulted with the legion of dedicated educational reformers from Geoffrey Canada to Michelle Rhee to Arne Duncan before deciding by imperial fiat on his crony, then he'd have my vote.
The mayor should quietly ask Ms. Black to withdraw her name from consideration and then he should perform a proper search for a dynamic and charismatic leader to lead the nation's largest public school system into the future.