Bloomberg’s new schools chancellor reveals herself as an idiot

When a friend read this story to me on Satuday, my jaw almost literally dropped. At a meeting with parents and education officials last week, New York City’s brand new schools chancellor Catherine Black, who has no previous experience in education, made some remarks that were so incredibly stupid and inappropriate you wonder if she can survive in the job. Here’s the story from the January 15 New York Post:

Parents fume over Black’s ‘birth control’ quip about overcrowding

Now that’s Black humor.

Less than two weeks into her new gig, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black has riled parents and public officials by jokingly suggesting that “birth control” was the solution to school overcrowding.

The off-color quip came in response to concerns by public-school dad Eric Greenleaf, who said at a meeting of parents and officials at state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s downtown office that there will be “huge shortages” of classroom space in lower Manhattan in coming years.

“Could we just have some birth control for a while?” Black cracked. “It could really help us all out a lot.”

The public-service novice, who has spent her entire career in media and publishing, also dropped jaws at the meeting by likening her task of satisfying space-crunch concerns in every neighborhood to making “many Sophie’s Choices”—a reference to the book in which a mother in the Auschwitz death camp is forced to decide which of her two children will live.

“Everybody’s face fell. You don’t want to hear that reference when you’re talking about children,” said Tricia Joyce, whose kids attend the perennially overcrowded PS 234 in TriBeCa. “She could have been nervous, it could have been the first thing that came to her mind.

“I just hope she chooses to do something much better than what she says.”

Some who were at the meeting said Black’s levity was especially inappropriate given that she was addressing a community whose complaints about the scarcity of public-school seats has for years seemed to fall on deaf ears.

They said they came to hear solutions, not stand-up comedy.

“Those kinds of comments show a lack of understanding of what parents are going through,” said Julie Menin, chair of Community Board 1.

“The parents I spoke with after the meeting were very concerned about the comments she made because we’re grappling with real issues.”

After initially declining to comment, Department of Education spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz emphasized that Black takes the issue of crowded schools seriously, which is what prompted her participation in the monthly task-force meeting.

“She regrets if she left a different impression by making an off-handed joke in the course of that conversation,” said Ravitz.

Still, the sudden speed bump came just as Black was trying to pick up steam after a rocky appointment process—and it raised new concerns about her lack of education experience.

“Overcrowding is not a funny subject,” said city Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn). “Constituents have expressed concerns that Cathie Black is not qualified for this job, and my role is to stand with them always, as I do in this case.”

[end of article]

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James P. writes:

“Less than two weeks into her new gig, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black has riled parents and public officials by jokingly suggesting that “birth control” was the solution to school overcrowding. “

I wonder how much of the overcrowding in Manhattan schools is due to immigration, and not to the fecundity of the non-immigrant population? [LA replies: A great deal of it.] It is certainly the case that immigration is a major cause of school overcrowding here in northern Virginia. Yet if Catherine Black had suggested “immigration control” as the solution to school overcrowding, the screams of rage would have been so loud she’d probably already be fired.

Rick Darby writes:

Before I got farther into the Post story I was about to disagree with you. I still do, partly. What’s the big deal about a joking suggestion that more birth control would ease the problem of school overcrowding? Are you going to be like one of those feminist-bots hissing, “That’s NOT funny!” ? We do live in an overpopulated world. We do need more birth control. Or do you think birth control is sinful?

But yes, Cathie Black should have stopped while she was ahead. Comparing her job to making “many Sophie’s choices” was real bad form. Did she have any idea of the implications?

So, I’m with you halfway.

LA replies:

This was not a private discussion among conservatives shooting the breeze about the problems of the world. This was the schools chancellor of New York City, speaking at a meeting with parents’ representatives and education specialists.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 17, 2011 11:13 AM | Send

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