Monday, October 21, 2013


By dianerav in Diane Ravitch's blog

October 20, 2013   ::  This teacher, who requests anonymity for obvious reasons, has noticed a peculiar tendency on the part of editorial boards and business leaders to shower praise on educational leaders who act brusquely, with a maximum show of contempt for those they lead.  He calls this the “Dick Cheney” style of leadership. Those of us in New York have recently seen this kind of leader in our State Commissioner John King. He recently showed disdain for parents by lecturing them for over an hour at what was billed as a “dialogue about the Common Core,” then–after he was booed and hissed by those parents– insulted them as having been manipulated by “special interests.” The state board of Regents affirmed their support for him, even though he lacks the support of parents and teachers. They actually like the idea that they have a leader who is willing to bulldoze parents and educators.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy
NY State Ed Commissioner John King

That was the style that didn’t win in Iraq. It certainly won’t “win” in the field of education, where collaboration is needed among parents, students teachers, principals, district leaders, and state agencies. Braggadocio and swagger work in penitentiaries and in the military: not in education.

Here is a letter from a Los Angeles teacher:

October 20, 2013

In today’s LA Times, the editorial board came out in support of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and his iPad roll out with recommended modifications. REBOOTING L.A. UNIFIED’S iPAD PLAN

 The editorial begins:    “John Deasy, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, can be impatient and stubborn, qualities we often admire in him. It takes a sense of urgency to get things moving in L.A.’s schools, as well as a willingness to stand against the forces that resist change.”

And here lies the problem.

They still talk with school girl crush admiration about this man.  Other big city newspapers also use this IDENTICAL language to support their Superintendents who come in with their agenda to bulldoze the system.

I have been trying to think who John Deasy is.

He’s Dick Cheney brought in to run the school system.

They both share the same headstrong “sense of urgency” (for the love of God, can we PLEASE RETIRE THIS CLICHE!) and intolerance for those who stand in their way.  They both listen almost exclusively to people who have never been in the classroom while totally ignoring the advice from the “boots on the ground.”  They both push their positions without a trace of self-doubt or humility, completely disdaining the “status quo wimps” who dare ask them for real world rationales.  They both believe what they believe not requiring a trace of hard evidence to support their positions while utilizing aggressive, angry, bullying tactics to get their way.

Both Cheney and Deasy’s ”plans” have been developed in secret and then sprung on the public with an intense PR pressure for everyone to get with their program.  They are backed by powerful money forces that have vested interests in their decisions.  The hubris and over confidence and righteousness in their edicts is designed to intimidate their critics.  In the system, very few feel free to speak out against them for fear of reprisal and both Cheney and LAUSD proved quite adept at meting it out (Ask Valerie Plame or many of the politically active teachers in LAUSD’s jail).

Worse, I fear, they are NEVER held accountable for the wreckage they have wrought.  In fact, they just move on without reflection.  John Deasy will one day move on.  But we will be stuck with it.

Deasy has always enjoyed tremendous support from the LA TIMES editorial board.  If you read their editorial, their admonishment of Deasy with his iPad initiative is very mild and timid.  They still support the decision and don’t address some or the critics biggest complaints about it.

Whether it is John Deasy, D.C.’s Michelle Rhee, Philadelphia’s Mark Hite, Dallas’s Mike Miles, Bridgeport’s Paul Vallas or Chicago’s CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett  the main editorial boards of each of these cities have supported the Cheney-model management style they have brought to their positions.

Although he is no longer publicly embraced as the Genius he carried himself as, Cheney enjoys a lucrative retirement and is still treated with deference and respect by many of his true believers.  The swagger has worn off but look at the cost of what Cheney was allowed to get away with.

The kids would be far better off if the press were a tad more skeptical and aggressive toward those people in power who push their School Reform.   The fawning coverage Deasy has received from the LA Times and this most recent excuse-making for them does not serve the greater education community.

And the LA kids are the collateral damage.


2cents small On Sunday the LA Times attempted to rehabilitate John Deasy and his iPads plan

Likewise CBS’s 60 Minutes did a similar job the same evening on Dick Cheney with a segment on his heart transplant …and a book he has coming out (published by a CBS.subsidiary).

Both men have a reputation for heartlessness – and Cheney’s denial of ever being concerned that his health might have had influenced his decision making was almost refreshing in how true to form and his own sense-of-self  it was. Artificial pacemakers sometimes cause memory loss – but Cheney doesn't recall ever being either warned or concerned.

  • When Cheney’s doctor expressed concerns about how the stress of the vice presidency might be unhealthy for himself and the nation  Cheney  simply got a second opinion from a more respected cardiologist – who wrote a letter without examining him.
  • The fact that his own doctor – with whom he wrote the book he’s plugging  - had the remote control feature in his pacemaker turned off to save us from terrorist defibulator hackers and badly shielded microwave ovens is enlightening. As did the fact that this later became a storyline for Season 2/#10 “Broken Hearts” episode of “Homeland”.

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