Questions go beyond schools CEO

“The Philadelphia School District is experiencing a leadership crisis. Amid all the controversy surrounding Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, however, it’s easy to forget to ask whether the School Reform Commission is serving the interests of the city’s public schools.

Some education advocates have wondered if it’s time to get rid of the SRC, the appointed body charged with overseeing the Philadelphia School District for the past decade. In a series of articles for the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, the activist and retired Philadelphia schoolteacher Ron Whitehorne highlighted some of the major criticisms of the SRC, including that it provides no real oversight of the superintendent, simply rubber-stamping whatever comes across its desk. Whitehorne also noted that the SRC’s decisions are too often made behind closed doors, and that its meetings are not very accessible to parents and concerned citizens. . . .”

This is an excerpt from my commentary in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Questions go beyond schools CEO.”  Please click here to read the entire article.  You can respond or provide feedback by clicking on the comment button below.

Thanks for reading.

–Christopher Paslay

2 thoughts on “Questions go beyond schools CEO

  1. Your comments on the Philadelphia schools are thought-provoking, providing a perspective not readily available in traditional news coverage or even from my own network, who are neither parents nor teachers. I react, though, to your comment that Democrats take the urban (read also African-American) vote for granted. First of all, the Democrats are, among others, urban and African-American; the Republicans are not.. That statement reads to me the same way that someone might take their own family for granted. Until the Republican party becomes more sensitive and responsive to Philadelphians, we will continue to vote Democratic. I personally considered voting for Sam Katz until I walked over to a campaign office and was handed a flyer produced by the Republican City Committee with not-so-veiled racial comments about “taking back” the city. A Republican candidate (dentist from Montgomery County) had racist billboards posted on Roosevelt Boulevard. To draw Philadelphia votes against Ed Rendell, the Republican party nominated the hapless Lynn Swann,former football player, a pattern repeated in their selection of their party chair and the carpetbagger who ran against Barack Obama in Illinois. When the Congress appoints a committee of twelve to make decisions that will affect us all, the Republican party appoints six white men, the Democratic Party appoints a woman, a Hispanic, and an African-American, not a token among them.. At a Republican event on the Main Line, the person introducing George Bush made derogatory statements about Philadelphia, asking the audience whether it wanted its community to look like Philadelphia. If what I am hearing from my own network is true, many Philadelphians would like alternatives to some of the Democrats who run this city. Until we have choices from Republicans, we will continue to vote Democratic.

    • Patricia,

      You make a good point about not having many legitimate Republican candidates in the city of Philadelphia. This year’s mayoral race is a perfect example. It wouldn’t make sense to vote Republican simply for the sake of trying to gain political leverage by not voting Democrat. I’m glad to know that you and your network would like to have alternatives to some of the Democrats in Philadelphia; there are many people, myself included, who feel the same way.

      You mentioned that the Democrats are themselves urban and African American and the Republicans are not. I interpret this to mean that Democrats are more sensitive to the needs of minorities because some are minorities themselves, and because of this win the black vote. I’m not going to deny this. However, there are dangers with this general line of thinking. When President Bush asked the people at the National Urban League Conference in 2004 if minorities took the Democrat vote for granted, Al Sharpton later responded by saying that it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who earned the urban vote through the “blood of the martyrs” during the Civil Rights movement, and that this vote was not for sale. Interestingly, the black journalist Juan Williams wrote in his book “Enough” that this was absurd. He pointed out that over the last 30 years, every major urban city in America has been controlled primarily by Democrats, and that in these big cities people were still poor, their schools still inferior, that the wealth and achievement gaps between white and black were still large. In other words, why not try something new?

      Which brings me back to your point that there are no viable Republicans in Philadelphia. It was interesting that every time you referred to a black Republican in your comments you called them a “token” or another name like “hapless” (Lynn Swann). This just may be exactly why there are not many black Republicans: because they are consistently labeled and ostracized by the black community. Think of Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, Herman Cain, etc. Each and every one of these people were called “sellouts” and “Uncle Toms” by many African Americans.

      This isn’t healthy and this is what I’m talking about. “Democrat” doesn’t necessarily mean “minority/cultural pluralism” and “Republican” mean “white/assimilation”. There is some of this at the root of each party, sure, but there are also policies and values that transcend race and culture. In fact, many African Americans, as well as Latinos, seem to be social conservatives. They are big into religion and the church, are pro-life and believe in traditional marriage. These are more Republican ideals. When the Republican City Committee handed out flyers that talked about “taking back” the city during Sam Katz’s campaign, it didn’t have to be a “black” versus “white” thing. It was probably genuinely meant to be a political thing, meaning it was time for the Republicans to take back the city from the Democrats who have ruled Philadelphia for the last 60 years; of course, everyone will have a personal interpretation based on their own life experiences.

      I too agree that we need viable political alternatives in the city of Philadelphia. Thanks for writing.

      Chris Paslay

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