Monday, December 20, 2010

Krugman and Carr Columns in NY Times: Did Zombies Eat Waiting for Superman Director Guggenheim's Brain?

“I think so many people are seeing business and how it is conducted in the abstract that they have no idea about how these decisions play out.” - From David Carr's column, NY Times

This quote could also be applied to the abstract concepts being pushed by the ed deformers - I must have heard the word "choice" a hundred times at last week's PEP (I'm still working on the video) over  PS 20K being undermined by allowing Arts and Letters to expand from a middle school to K-8, thus competing for the same kids PS 20 serves in the very same building. So what if PS 20 kids have to eat lunch at 10:30?

My favorite NY Times columnist Paul Krugman (When Zombies Win) and business columnist David Carr in (A Lesson on Wall Street Failure) have two interesting and intersecting articles in the NY Times today that touch on many of our core issues.

First Krugman:
When historians look back at 2008-10, what will puzzle them most, I believe, is the strange triumph of failed ideas. Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything — yet they now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever.
Krugman is talking economics, not education. Wouldn't we love for him to take a hard look at the free-market fundamentalist ed deformers. The zombies with their vast propaganda machine lined up against teachers certainly seem to be winning (though once we have our film "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" out the tide will turn- I'm always the optimist.)

Carr touches on one of the Zombies in chief, Davis Guggenheim who made the propaganda film we are responding too.
It’s awards season again, and critics and the academy members are deciding on their top film picks of the year. But in many corners of the business community, the issue is already settled: “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” is the year’s must-see film.
On Wall Street and on Silicon Valley office campuses, in hedge fund boardrooms and at year-end Christmas parties, it seems you can’t have a conversation without someone talking about the movie that finally lays bare America’s public education crisis. [Sure David Carr - don't let the Zombies eat your brain by believing the manufactured chrisis.]
“Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” is one thing that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg agree on, Rupert Murdoch talks about to anyone who will listen, David Koch of Koch Industries promotes, and Paul Tudor Jones and many of his hedge fund brethren work to support. 
More Krugman extracts (with my notations linking to ed deform)
people who should have been trying to slay zombie ideas have tried to compromise with them instead. And this is especially, though not only, true of the president.  [Obama has gone way beyond zombie ideas on ed deform.]
...President Obama, by contrast, has consistently tried to reach across the aisle by lending cover to right-wing myths. [CHECK]
...And how effectively can he oppose these demands, when he himself has embraced the rhetoric of belt-tightening? [Ed Deform is all about belt tightening - go after teacher salaries and disparge class size as a factor.]
Yes, politics is the art of the possible. We all understand the need to deal with one’s political enemies. But it’s one thing to make deals to advance your goals; it’s another to open the door to zombie ideas. When you do that, the zombies end up eating your brain — and quite possibly your economy too.  [And eating your public education school system too.]
Back to Carr
Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” follows five children and their parents as they run a gantlet to gain access to high-performing charter schools because the alternative — the public system — is a complete disaster. The film has caught the imagination of the business community because it represents a reckoning for public education and its chronic failures, making the very businesslike case that large school systems and the unions that go with them must be replaced by a customized, semi-privatized education in the form of charter schools. 
 Carr echoes Krugman when he says:
Which is odd when you think about it. If you are looking for an American institution that failed the public, made resources disappear without returning value and lacked accountability for its manifest sins, the Education Department would be in line well behind Wall Street.

By now, the notion that business is a place built on accountability and performance should be as outdated as the one-room schoolhouse. Ask yourself, what would happen if American public schools were offered hundreds of billions in bailout money? [HMMM- maybe lower class size to match private schools?] One outcome is not in the cards: its leaders would not end up back at the trough so quickly, sucking up tens of millions in bonuses as Wall Street has.
If the captains of American business are looking for a holiday movie, I have another suggestion for them. I’m not talking about “Inside Job,” which is a scabrous take on the well-documented story of how the American economy was nearly tipped over by business greed and incompetence [We must try to get the director, Charles Ferguson, to look at the ed deformers].
Nah, I’d buy them a bucket of popcorn and sit them in front of “The Company Men,” a moody and elegiac feature film starring Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper as businessmen who have a moment of clarity about how American business lost its soul.

As executives at GTX, a fictitious multinational corporation involved in the transportation business, among other endeavors, they watch as many of their colleagues are laid off to meet inflated earnings targets and as numbers get ginned up to keep the stock price growing and potential acquirers at bay. And then their turn comes.

At that point, “The Company Men” becomes a film about the loss of privilege: Porsches are sold and driven away, access to the private golf club is denied and suburban mansions go on the market. But the movie delivers, over and over, a message that far from being a center of American know-how and ingenuity, much of modern business is now preoccupied with goosing the share price and tricking up the year-end bonus — about getting over by getting by. 

all the energy and resources go into the kind of financial engineering that creates quarterly numbers that Wall Street buys into.
“They are responding to the needs of the market, to the institutional investors — the large mutual funds, the money market funds,” he said. “And when you think about it, that implicates all of us because we are all investing in the market one way or another.” 
 And the takeaway is:
“I think so many people are seeing business and how it is conducted in the abstract that they have no idea about how these decisions play out.
 But Carr doesn't make a strong connection between the bullshit of WfS with the rest of the on-target stuff he is talking about.

Both Krugman and Carr articles are at Norms Notes:

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