Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Happened to Joel Klein?

I've been thinking all day:

What is up with Joel Klein becoming Darth Vader? What happened to that guy? How does someone go from being a nice Jewish boy from Queens, a Supreme Court clerk, and a Department of Justice anti-trust lawyer to being the grim reaper of public education? 

Anyone? (Please comment.)


  1. I like a lot Steven Johnson's notion (in his Ghost Map book about finding the cause of cholera in London in the 1850's)that people get "blinded by a theory." London public health officials and scientists of the time thought that cholera came from the air. They acted to rid the city of the smell of all that human waste by dumping it all into the Thames, that is, their water supply.

    A certain notion of education blinds Joel Klein. He's got a simplistic notion of what test scores might indicate, a biased idea of what teachers can do, and chooses to ignore the huge complications that arise from children raised in a poverty culture.

  2. I can only imagine that a kind of arrogance and ignorance has taken hold. We seem to believe that anyone who ever attended school can be an expert and that all skills and insights from one profession transfer to another. Everything I have read from Dan Willingham and others indicates that knowing a lot about mathematics does not mean you are well read and informed in literature nor do we get good at things without practice.

    In New York and in DC I would value someone taking the helm who has thought a lot about education and has had the experience of succeeding and failing in their efforts.. I would hope they have a strong sense of curiosity and humility and was unfailingly respectful of people and the difficulty and importance of the work. Possession of these characteristics would just indicate the conversation could begin.

    Thank you Rachel for your efforts to provide a place for open, respectful and informed discussion on these topics.

    What happened to Joel Kline, I wish I knew.

  3. Perhaps there's Very Bad News coming down, so Klein got out of the way before it could do him or the school district as much harm.

  4. Maybe what happened to Joel Klein was Michael Bloomberg. As a longtime loather of Bloomberg, I think this partnership was corrupted by the mayor's belief that he not only occupies a sphere somewhere above mere mortals but can direct traffic in areas where he is utterly ignorant. Bloomberg wants "performance," and that's what Klein had to strive for. But, hey, I'm just guessing. For more, you'd have to talk to my friend Doreen, an elementary school principal in the South Bronx, who dreams of strapping on brass knuckles and meeting Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein in a dark alley.

  5. Joel Klein's personality is even worse than Bloomberg's. He is arrogant, heedless, and prides himself on ignoring parent and teacher concerns. He ignored audits, ignored the law, and pretty much ignored every person who was not in his Park Ave. cocktail party social set. His middle name was "Sue me" and he was, often...and usually lost. He was also a terrible manager.


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