Wednesday, May 13, 2009

School Board Members in the Old Days

A frequent commenter to The Education Report, the Oakland Tribune's blog, recently shared his views with me about school board members. Calling himself Nextset, he has remained anonymous for years, but has revealed to readers that he is an African American lawyer who grew up in the East Bay. He's conservative, attended Catholic schools, and is probably about 60 years old.

Sharon Says:

Nextset: I’m intrigued by this comment, “The public school board members should be the town fathers (or the female equivalents) - the industrialists, the professionals, the people that hire and fire a thousand workers.”

Someone else recently mentioned to me that the profile of the school board in days-long-ago was something similar. I have no personal knowledge of those times.

So who would these people be? Are they really out there somewhere? My guess is that if they are, they don’t care much about the public schools — nor even have them on their radar — because they have never used them, not even the “better” ones in the hills. And this would perhaps be because their desire for social class self-segregation is so extreme, and it has also been that way for many years.

Give me some ideas here.

Nextset Says:

Sharon: The ruling class of a town or region traditionally were the (male) local industrialists or their nominees, the leaders of the local professional community, law enforcement, the religions. These were the same people that traditionally controlled the local draft boards, the county supervisors and the city councils.

They used their civic positions to develop the town/city for the future. They drew up the plans for the public infrastructure and public monuments and buildings. They controlled local judiciary appointments and elections. They generally saw to it that the city thrived and grew.

By operating the local school boards they made sure that the proletariat was prepared to enter industry, military and even to go on to higher education. The upper class tended to have their own schools but public schools in areas not dominated by the lower middle class were run to feed to Universities. Piedmont, for example.

You never saw on school boards the likes of what we have now. Single mothers, lower middle class politicians, non-professionals, non-university educated.

The bunch I’m describing can typically be found in Rotary Clubs - and not the ancillary smaller clubs, the big-town main clubs like Downtown Seattle Rotary. Membership was invitation only and exclusive. Blackballing was practiced.

When these people ran schools you didn’t have schools that worried about students being happy or pacified.

Things have changed. Most of the change points to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. At least it was at that point that agendas were altered.

The ruling class disidentified with public education and turned it over to the lower class - that is operators from the lower middle class. The uppers stopped taking school board seats. As a result the operation of the schools changed from future oriented and more authoritarian to female dominated/social worker thinking. So the urban schools crash and burn.

Successful societies are not matriarchal. And permissiveness doesn’t work, especially if you are trying to get upward mobility for the lower classes. You just give them all the rope to hang themselves.

Nextset Says:


The changes in the early 1960s saw the democratic party coalition of ethnics & labor consolidate electoral power in the urban areas. The largely republican town father types retreated and democratic machine candidates took over school boards. Back then the urban school boards were stepping stones to higher office. While the boardmembers were stepping they introduced pacification to the largely ethnic constituency with lots of feel good measures that served to drive the white and republican families out of public schools and the urban areas. Eventually the disidentification with public schools were so great the town father candidates didn’t even want the school board seats and districts such as OUSD, LAUSD, Detroit School District, Cleveland School District, etc were turned over entirely to lower class & minority candidates as well as left wing/social worker types.

It may also be seen that from that time manufacturing and industrial production started moving to Taiwan and other parts east, Town Father types became disinterested in hiring public school products and politically abandoned the public schools to the social democrats.

The Rotary Crowd today run smaller businesses and are only interested in hiring University Graduates for their (smaller) law firms, banks, consultancy businesses and political offices. So they are still great movers and shakers in college boards. You no longer see the owners and operators of a local soft drink bottling plant, steel mill, factory etc at Rotary. The industrialists are just gone and the ruling class of the Brave New World no longer seem to need the public schools.

When I continue to refer to BNW I’m thinking of that state where you are born into your class, live, associate, school and date only within your class, and take occupation based on your class and social position with little upward mobility.

This is the opposite of what we had in the mid-20th Century where with public school education (and a military stint?) one could come from a farm or a trailer park and still reasonably expect to move into medicine, law practice, or senior positions in industry or civil service. Black or White.

Many of the highest civil servants in the East Bay from the previous era - Black and White individuals - came from poor families in rural areas of the USA, relocated here for WWII jobs. I am thinking of specific Superior Court Judges and Police Chiefs. That kind of social mobility is what we are destroying with schools such as OUSD. By the time a lower middle class student at OUSD reaches 18 they are so far behind in education, training, and Deportment (most important) that such students for the most part are unable to survive the cut-throat competition from the private school (professional class) students and may not even want to compete because they find the new experience of competition unpleasant. I saw this at UC Berkeley and at Law School where the black public school students seemed to be shell shocked at the way things were and just fell away. (The UC Berkeley black drop rate is pretty notorious. The black bar pass rate is published every 6 months on the state bar website.)

I believe the mortality rates of these kids are worse because they weren’t stressed enough previously.

I want OUSD to run a tougher school, and that takes a far tougher school board than we have here.

Sharon Says:

So this would explain the tremendous drive by the venture philanthropists to wipe out local control (i.e. publicly elected school boards), but ONLY in communities with school districts that that are majority low-income, and thus with less educated parents.

The school districts in middle-class, more affluent communities are considered capable of managing themselves, so they won’t be challenged by the “reformers” in the same way.

Someone I read described this new method of school reform as an upcoming American apartheid system of education. Someone else who personally experienced Africa in the late 1950’s told me the direction we are heading reeks to him of Africa’s days under European colonialism. Of course it all is a result of our continuing desire for class, and to a lesser extent, racial segregation. Having actual ghettos in our cities makes this easy to do.

I know that in Chicago, mayoral control of the school district has resulted in his appointing a set of millionaires to the school board, where they work with the appointed superintendent to manage things. (

In NYC, billionaire Bloomberg took control of the school district, appointed Joel Klein, a former US prosecutor, to be the schools chancellor and has given him complete authority to do what he pleased. There is some sort of fake community panel that was created; it has no teeth and goes along with whatever he says. The general public voice is pretty much totally ignored.

In DC, Mayor Fenty has done the same thing as in NY; he appointed Michelle Rhee to run the district.

In each of the cases above, there is a set of behind-the-scenes high-level operatives, people like billionaire Eli Broad, and others. Some are local, but many are not.

From what I’ve been told, the stealth group here in Oakland was led by Gary Rogers, father of Brian Rogers. I know of at least one instance of his group meeting with Ward early on to give their two-cent’s worth for how things should go. This is all going on under the public’s radar, and this is how these people want it to be. They won’t like this post.

I suppose there’s always been someone managing the “ignint” masses, but it seems like it is getting to be more and more. I definitely think these elites are going about this public school reform-business wrong in two very important ways.

First of all, they are too alienated from the local community and therefore, can’t be trusted. Good leaders need to be in touch with the masses and consider their needs and views, otherwise it is simply strong-arm imposed fascism. As far as I know, we are still a democracy and people — even poor, uneducated people — should be able to have a say.

Everyone wants a good school in their neighborhood, and no family wants to see a school they are fond of and has a history and connections with, be labeled as “failing” and then get “disappeared.” The ram-it-down-their-throats method used by this current group creates a lot of hostility and is going to backfire once people catch on.

The second problem is the way that all these business people, and the people they hire to do their bidding, are products of a specific, relatively newly emerged MBA culture (just since the 1980’s). This group believes that anyone with an Ivy League MBA can manage anything, even though they have no “domain knowledge.” Learn more about this mentality by listening to

I’ve written more about it @

This is the same mentality that brought us Enron and the financial meltdown. It is well-described by Malcolm Gladwell @

At the end of this article, Gladwell cites the success of Southwest Airlines, who uses a different management model. That company’s “secrets for success” are described @

It seems to me we here in Oakland could learn something here. Shouldn’t we be having some sort of city-wide task force or forum?


Ted said...

Nextset says that "industrial production started moving to Taiwan and other parts east, Town Father types became disinterested in hiring public school products and politically abandoned the public schools to the social democrats" as if the industrial production got up and left on its own. It didn't leave on its own, the town father types were no longer interested in the 10% return they used to get from manufacturing when they could get 35% from the financial shenanigans that ultimately led us to this recession/depression. To go with Nextset's metaphor, the town father types turned out to be deadbeat dads. Once the communities were no longer useful to them, they left. No sense of responsibility even though it was the community that enabled them to get rich through skilled labor and government support of infrastructure. The loss of industry and the jobs wasn't something that just happened, it was the result of an irresponsible, self centered class of robber barons, who also incidentally benefit from the lowest tax rates in generations.

When Nextset writes "successful societies are not matriarchal." he is just revealing the prejudices of his generation. 4 names: Elizabeth I and three of Oakland's most successful, effective, school changing principals: Amy Hansen, Jamie Marantz and Sheila Andujar.

Finally, I doubt that the "town fathers" did any better with Oakland schools than our current school board does. I have relatives and family friends, now in their 80's, who attended or taught in Oakland in the 40's and 50's and it was a rowdy urban school district back then too. When Fremont played Mack in the 1940's students were frisked for weapons at the gate - so what else is new?

Nextset's narrative also does not account for the effective pre-civil rights era African American schools, run by and for African Americans, that offered a rigorous education with high expectation for their students.

nikto said...

The quote, "successful societies are not matriarchal," reveals far more than prejudice.

It reveals a sick, twisted mentality that cannot, ultimately, be reasoned with.

I know we live in a "daddy" society, and strongarms rule much of the world, but that is decidedly a BAD thing (but only if you have eyes, ears, a brain, and a conscience).

It is screamingly obvious that "nextset" has none of these things to any use-able degree.

Alas, that is what we are
up against.

Might as well be realistic
about it.

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