An Equal-Opportunity Offender

Bloomberg, Black, and Klein

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s designation of Cathie Black as the next schools chancellor offends almost everyone.

To educators, Black’s lack of education credentials (like Joel Klein’s) shows Bloomberg’s basic disrespect for their profession. How would physicians react to the designation of a publishing executive as Surgeon General, or lawyers to Black’s designation as U.S. Attorney General?

Black’s private-sector, private-school background threatens public education loyalists, unionized teachers, and Democrats who view teachers unions as their allies — not to mention anyone who’s envious of the wealthy.

Bloomberg apparently didn’t discuss Black’s selection with anyone in government. This violates one of the fundamental precepts of organizational behavior: Touch base with your colleagues to show them respect. Bloomberg’s unwillingness to consult dissed every public official who has a real or perceived stake in the city’s education system.

Illustration: Blackeducator.org

As if this were not enough, the mayor’s anointment of Black rubs salt in the wounds of all of those who had opposed mayoral control when the state legislature approved it in 2002 and renewed it in 2009. The aptly named chancellor designee is their perfect bête noire.

But is it fair to say that Bloomberg’s decision to make a choice without consulting others is prima facie evidence of “arrogance” — usually viewed as a fundamental personality defect?

Not necessarily. Behavior is shaped not only by personality, but by circumstance. From this perspective, Bloomberg’s disdain for consultation was predictable given the political structure in which he operates: one that favors wealthy candidates accustomed to power long before they take office.

A successor to Bloomberg who shares this experience should be expected to show similar behavior — and could make Bloomberg look humble by comparison.

Finally, this observation: Mike Bloomberg didn’t make a decision not to consult with his peers. From Bloomberg’s lofty perspective — a perspective shaped by wealth,  success, and a formidable intellect — his peers probably are counted on the fingers of one carefully manicured hand. To him, the rest of us are lesser mortals.

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3 responses to “An Equal-Opportunity Offender

  1. The woman who never spent a day inside a public school, Cathie Black’s role as NYC’s new school chancellor will be to obliterate the teachers’ union, Not to improve the quality of education in the city

    http://sherrytalksback.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/nyc-lesson-plan-destroy-the-teachers-union/

  2. History repeats itself. Ed Koch appointed Bob Wagner Jr as chancellor but could not get a waiver for him. So he made him head of the Board of Education. Deja vu, sort of. Maybe she won’t get a waiver too, and the advisory board will suddenly become important. I doubt it.

  3. A good manager doesn’t need background in the content of what they’re managing, and just because someone has a strong background in their field doesn’t make them a good manager either.

    A good manager surrounds themselves and delegates to people who understand the components of their field. A good manager knows how to motivate and work with people and resources. A good manager can achieve objectives.

    Most opponents of Black are either representing special interests (like the unions, etc.) who feel threatened by a good manager taking over, or are Bloomberg detractors looking for any reason to bash the Mayor.

    I think we’ve had plenty of mediocre and bad Chancellors who’ve had education backgrounds. I don’t think Black’s background dictates that she would do better or worse than any of them.

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