Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

The Cult of the Private Sector

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Her tenure also exposed the shortcomings of the cult of the private sector. Behind Ms. Black’s appointment seemed to lie the assumption that surely, if someone had succeeded in the rough and tumble of the private market, doing well in the softer, less-well compensated public sector would, by comparison, be a piece of cake. Hedge fund managers, who have played a dominant role in pushing market-oriented school reforms, like nonunionized charter schools, have had their comeuppance as improving achievement has proven far more difficult than they anticipated. And yet the worship of the market is so complete that even a Democratic president’s signature initiative relies on a competitive Race to the Top. In fact, the qualities needed to run the New York City public school system — not only a knowledge of education, but also some understanding of the circumstances of regular New York City students and their families — are not easily learned in the penthouse suite. (emphasis mine)

This is an excerpt from Richard D. Kahlenberg’s piece in the New York Times about the departure of Cathleen Black as New York City’s School Chancellor position.  While the comparison isn’t exactly apples to apples, I think the bolded segment above really reflects the sentiments displayed in the Wisconsin collective bargaining fiasco.  There seems to be this underlying belief with those who argue for Governor Walker’s proposals that public employees are overpaid in their “piece of cake” jobs.  I’ve seen in many instances where as way of backing up their arguments, commenters crow the “if you think your job is so hard and you’re so under-compensated, why don’t you quit your job and get one in the private sector?” line with reckless abandon.

There are, of course, even more direct applications to the disdain in the air over Wisconsin’s teachers, but as with both cases, I think the story playing out across Wisconsin and the rest of the country is as old as the hills.


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