Ann Kjellberg and Leonie Haimson, eds.
A Martian reading this collection of essays would find himself picturing an apocalypse of epic proportions in the education system of America's largest city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is caricatured as an authoritarian cowboy shooting wildly from the hip, backed up by revolver-toting schools chancellor Joel Klein, whooping and hollering at his side. Though the book describes itself as an attempt to create an informed debate over mayoral control of public education in the Big Apple--the continuation of which is currently before the state legislature--it is, in fact, a nonstop attack on such control. To put it simply, "When Mayor Bloomberg took control of the public schools in 2002, that tradition--in which the mayor relied on and respected the professional judgment of educators--was abandoned, and the city embarked on a form of intrusive and authoritarian mayoral control unprecedented in the city's history." Written by a posse of academics, journalists, and activists with a keen interest in New York City public education, its chapters cover topics from class size and school overcrowding to Bloomberg's Panel on Education Policy, which replaced the school board, and the city's school "progress reports," which grade the schools independently of state and federal metrics. The verdict on all these is negative. Some of these criticisms are surely warranted. But nobody can legitimately say of this collection that it's balanced or impartial. You can download a digital copy for free or purchase a copy here.