Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Rob Astorino's Education Plan Gets A+

I have taught in New York State colleges for 23 years, with 16 at the City University of New York's Brooklyn College.  From the beginning of my academic career, I have noticed a gap in writing skill among all but the most elite college students.  The problem is acute at Brooklyn, and eight months ago I described my frustrated efforts at improving things in a Pope Foundation on Higher Education Commentary.  Besides lacking writing skill, many of my students lack arithmetic-and-reading skills.  Since Brooklyn's students score  around the median for college students and are probably in the top 25% of New York's public school  grads --Brooklyn accepts 31% of applicants--the problem is pandemic.

My students also often lack interpersonal skills and have little understanding about the basics of American culture and the American workplace.  The situation is unhealthy. Significant resources are being expended on education without results--or rather, the results are that the students spend long years in college and end up working in jobs that were once occupied by high school dropouts.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has just released his education platform.  It is strong, and it addresses my concerns.  It is visionary, but it is not a radical plan, nor can it be if Mr. Astorino is to be elected. Rather, Mr. Astorino addresses nuts-and-bolts issues.  Paramount among these is his call to repeal the Common Core, the program that Governor Andrew Cuomo rammed through the legislature without much debate.   Sacrificing New York students' needs for grant dollars, Governor Cuomo pushed for Common Core in response to pressure from the Obama administration and Bill Gates.

As Mr. Astorino points out, the Common Core suffers from the liabilities that the Democrats attributed to President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.  For much of President Bush's tenure, the Democrats criticized the "teaching to the test" that his No Child Left Behind Act required.  President Obama's and Governor Cuomo's Common Core intensifies teaching to the test.

In an interview I did with education professor Michael Apple of the University of Wisconsin, Professor Apple said that the Common Core is likely to squeeze out the basic skills training that inner city students most need because it fixes a recipe to which teachers must adhere.  As a result, weak students who lack basic skills, inner city students, will suffer because teachers won't be able to focus on areas of special weakness.  In-depth grammatical instruction will continue to be overlooked as  it has been for a century.  Students who have learned English on the street will not  have remedies.

In addition, the Common Core is an assault on the Constitution because it is a federally initiated education plan that used public money to motivate or coerce states into complying with a federal plan. About four-fifths of the states have adopted it, even though there is no evidence that it works.  Education should not be subjected to federal control.  Centralization radically increases the threat of the use of the education system for totalitarian propaganda.  Mr. Astorino notes that, besides constituting an abuse of federalism,  the common core lowers standards.

Mr. Astorino also advocates taking politics out of education and increasing parental choice. These are good ideas.  In light of Albany's corruption problems, which have worsened under Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mr. Astorino advocates making membership in the Board of Regents elective, removing power from the speaker of the assembly,  and making the commissioner of education subject to the Board of Regents' approval.

Some of the shorter-term issues that Mr. Astorino addresses include increasing the extent of vocational education in the high schools and making foreign language instruction part of elementary school education.  He also advocates increasing coordination among the four-year colleges, the community colleges and the high schools.   That and introducing increased job counseling will also significantly help inner city students, who lack parental guidance.

Mr. Astorino would also establish a system whereby parents can be given school choice in the face of school failure.  He advocates introducing financial literacy and life skills training into the education system.  Mr. Astorino would increase the attention paid to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.  The Chamber of Commerce has long pointed out that STEM education will lead to the most successful careers and the most productive economy.

Mr. Astorino's plan reflects greater sense and concern for preparing students than any I have seen.  I have for years tried to introduce skills training into the business program in which I work--without success. Many students enter the workforce without any idea as to how the economic system works, how to succeed in the job market, how to function in the workplace, or how to communicate. 

Mr. Astorino is an educational visionary who is offering New York a set of short-term and long-term solutions that will change students' lives for the better.  This is in stark contrast to the Cuomo administration, which has put the Common Core grant money before the students' needs.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The New York Times's Refusal to Back Andrew Cuomo

The New York Times has endorsed neither Andrew Cuomo nor Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary.  The Times criticizes Cuomo's failure to clean up Albany's corruption, and they acknowledge that his opponent, Zephyr Teachout, has the knowledge and will to do so.  However, they claim that Teachout lacks the necessary breadth of knowledge to be governor.  This claim seems irrational.   Four years ago, the Times believed that Mr. Cuomo had such breadth, and eight years ago it believed that Mr. Spitzer had such breadth. The only explanation for such repeatedly flawed judgments is that the Times is embedded in the corruption that it claims to criticize.

The son of Governor Mario Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo had worked as a prosecutor, specialized in homeless issues, then worked as chief of HUD. He then became a prosecutor again before running for governor.  In other words, his breadth was limited to criminal law, homeless issues, and housing.  As housing commissioner he was a failure,  and the subprime crisis of 2008 is attributable to inept polices that he recommended in the early 1990s.  There was little breadth to Mr. Cuomo's resume in 2010.

In contrast, Zephyr Teachout was a law clerk for a federal appeals court judge. She then became a law professor. She has founded an organization aimed at fighting big banks. She has been involved with founding another organization aimed at increasing transparency in the federal government.

Cuomo's breadth included homelessness, housing, and criminal law.  Teachout's breadth includes law, teaching, banking reform, and broad reform of government. Her background seems as broad as Cuomo's was, so the Times's reasoning is inaccurate.

The Times has favored two seriously flawed gubernatorial candidates in a row: the mentally unstable Eliot Spitzer and the corrupt Andrew Cuomo. Both were New York insiders born on third base; both were unqualified, by moral defect, to hold high office; and both received the Times's support despite evidence of moral failure having been readily available.

Now that a talented outsider, whose views coincide with the Times's, makes herself available, the Times can't bring itself to support her. The Times is committed not to the public good but to the perpetuation of an elite.  Its silly advocacy of trivial taxes on the rich cloaks a broad advocacy of massive subsidy to the rich through low-interest-rate policies and regulation that protects the largest businesses. Its instinctive resistance to supporting an outsider evidences its commitment to elitism in the name of Progressivism.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rob Astorino's Cease and Desist Letter

The New York Post reports that Rob Astorino is sending Andrew Cuomo a cease and desist letter concerning defamatory TV ads that Cuomo is running.  Cuomo has obtained a $35 million campaign coffer from contributions from billionaire developers in New York City.  It's funny that Democrats claim that Republicans are the party of the rich when Cuomo's campaign is being funded by the wealthiest people in America. 

Cuomo came to office claiming to clean up Albany, and he appointed a commission under the Moreland Act, which allows the governor to appoint commissions to investigate wrongdoing in state government. In this case the commission's members were sworn in by the attorney general, so the commission may have had a dual nature. When the commission uncovered Cuomo's using the same ad-buying firm as the legislators under investigation, Cuomo and the legislature killed the commission.  New York has a cesspool government, and Cuomo has floated to the top. 

Now, Cuomo runs defamatory ads about GOP candidate Rob Astorino. When he was HUD chief, Cuomo established a policy that banks must make subprime loans.  That policy opened the door to the economic collapse of 2008.  His disregard for ethics and lack of common sense are doing to New York’s democracy what Cuomo did to the American economy in 2008.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Is Barack Obama Gay?

One can argue that this Reverend Manning Internet video is not the most reliable information source, but given the American media's inability to print or broadcast truthful information about Barack Obama, the video may be more reliable than the New York Times or the boneheads on television news.  Is Mia Marie Pope real?  Are there other eyewitnesses?  Is there a presidential barber who is in reality one of those gay muscle guys who comes in to give Obama a presidential haircut, shave, and massage each week?

I'm in favor of equal rights, and plenty of gays deserve to hold higher office. New York's Mayor Ed Koch, for instance, was a major improvement over his predecessors Robert Wagner, John Lindsay, and Abe Beame.  Recall that great movie Advise and Consent in which a young senator is blackmailed because he once had a homosexual liaison. Obama should neither be ashamed of nor persecuted because of his sexual identity.  On the other hand, if the American media has been lying or been unwilling to investigate claims like this, then I'll take Reverend Manning.