"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Bloomberg Picked Cathie Black: Larry Flynt Was Not Available

Until David Berliner wrote the op-ed below, "Soft Core Porn and the Crisis of School Leadership," I had never considered Cathie Black an educator, but educator she has been for teens and wives around the world, I now realize.  Her flagship pub, Cosmopolitan, still beckons (if you find drugged anorexics alluring) from the the checkout stand of every supermarket, with a new collection of articles each month on how to be an inventive whore for your husband or your man in order to keep him from going to whores he would, otherwise, have to pay for.

Offering an on-going seminar, you might say, on domestic tranquility through womanly debasements, Black's Hearst publications, including, Seventeen, are educational mainstays in how to appear weaker and dumber than your man while keeping him wrapped around your gilded cage panting to get in.  Cathie's mags have offered educational guidance on female preening and posturing and manipulation for generations of women who are now sending their children to schools that Cathie runs.  To call her a non-educator is clearly wrong-headed, and for my earlier angry grousing on the matter, I sincerely apologize to her and to her patron, Prince Mike.

With that preface, Dr. Berliner:
by: David C. Berliner, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

I must state at the start of this essay that I am no prude, no Victorian. In fact I am generally quite tolerant of contemporary mores in the area of sexuality. But I have my limits. I still expect my school leaders to behave with sobriety, to be prudent, to not push the limits of our secular and permissive society and to model more of what might be called traditional American values. Although I choose to live my personal life according to more modern and secular values, I do not see my position to be hypocritical. I think modern youth needs some grounding in prudence, restraint and responsibility, before their involvement in the difficult work of becoming a responsible young adult in our tumultuous times. Perhaps this belief is shared by others and is why there is such a furor over the new MTV show "Skins." The blatant sexuality of the young people in this TV show, understandably, is scandalizing many of those who worry about the moral behavior of our youth. But for some reason they let another questionable event go without protest.

For reasons I don't understand, the chairman of a large corporate entity that publishes salacious material was selected to be the leader of a major American school system. I always had considered some of this business leaders' publications akin to soft-core pornography. Thus, I wondered about the propriety of this person's appointment to lead a school system and the lack of attention to the persons publication record. The new school leader in question, while in business, published magazines with suggestive photos and articles. For example, highly sexualized, barely clothed woman stare out at you from some of the chairman's best known publications. The women often have what on the street would be called a "come hither look." Often these women are in intimate positions. Some pictures suggest bondage by the woman, to please a man.
This chairman/now school leader has published prose like this:
Mikayla felt his lips trail down the side of her neck. Her body stated tingling with anticipation. He caressed one nipple with his tongue, then the other....
He pressed his hands between her thighs, spreading her legs. She moaned as he gripped the band of her silk panties and pulled them down....
Nik led her to the bed.... Then suddenly his mouth was on her, exploring her with his tongue as he gripped her ankles with his hands.
A month later another one of the publications of the chairman/now school leader included this:
His hands, hardened and callused ... ran up her thighs, until he reached her panties. She felt a quick tug and heard a ripping sound, then felt his fingers, gentle and tender, finding her, stroking her and bringing her to higher and higher levels of pleasure.
.... He entered her slowly, deeply, but then pulled back out. He groaned with pleasure.
"Please" was all she could utter.
In what genre might we classify the prose represented by these recently published excerpts from the chairman/now a school leader? Readers may disagree but I would label them "woman's romance," soft-core pornography, or both.
On another page of a publication by the chairman/now school leader one woman tells us that the casual sex she engaged in was "so good, it was worth the guilt." One can question the wisdom of such advice to any young woman, but to teenagers still in school it is simply bad advice. In fact, in the advice realm, the chairman/now school leader seems quite enthusiastic about what is possible sexually.

For example, the chairman recommends the following as fun: That woman/girls choose a deserted corner of the parking lot and back in. Then put up their sunshade on the windshield and hang their jackets on the hooks over the back windows, so it's harder for people to see in. The chairman then recommends: "Jump his bones." Other advice to spice up relationships include light whipping, or a new high-tech form for arousing a male partner, namely, texting pictures of your vagina via your cell phone to your boyfriend across the table while dining out. Apparently, when he checks his mail, his appetite is increased!

Other advice presented is from men to women. One guy says he liked it when his date undid her shoes under the table at a restaurant and gave him "a foot job under the table." Another reported "This girl was riding me in reverse cowboy when she stopped, leaned way forward and started sucking my toes." Still another told women what he liked about his ex-girlfriend: She would "put my whole package in her mouth. Then she would hum to create vibrations."

And we also learn from the horoscope in a publication of the chairman/now school leader that Aries men, in particular, are visual and thus would like to have sex doggie-style in front of a mirror. On the other hand, the chairman apparently believes that Taurus men would prefer woman to slowly lick down their chests and nibble their thighs, before ending up at their package. Gemini men, different than others, like to take the lead, so, ladies, bend over against a wall and have these gentlemen enter you from behind and let the Gemini guys set the pace and depth for themselves. Capricorn men are equality minded so, ladies, you might want to "Guide him into 69, with you on top, using your lips and tongues to trigger insane pleasure." And if you forget all these helpful hints the corporation headed by the chairman has an iPhone and an Android application offering you the sex position of the day, allowing your phone to choose your position!

Honestly, you cannot make this stuff up! As I stated at the start of this essay I am not personally offended by any of the text cited. What I do find distasteful is that women are presented as objects in these publications, apparently under the guise of making them powerful. To me, the major publications under the chairman, now a school leader, make objectification of women their theme. A smart business person like the chairman must understand that the stories told, the advice given and the photos that accompany them could be harmful to youth. That is probably why, stuck away in an obscure part of the publications from which I drew my illustrations and in small font, the chairman cautions "The models photographed ... are used for illustrative purposes only: [This publication] does not suggest that the models actually engage in the conduct discussed in the stories they illustrate."

The former chairman, Cathleen Black, was recently appointed by Mayor Bloomberg of New York to be the Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools. By all accounts she is a successful businesswoman. Among other accomplishments she was chairman of the Magazine Division of Hearst publications, whose flagship magazine is Cosmopolitan. The examples I just provided of what Black has published for girls and young woman all come from the January and February 2011 issues of Cosmopolitan magazine, selling well on newsstands across the country right now.

Although many complained about the mayor's appointment of Black because of her lack of knowledge about schooling, I was surprised there was no mention of the appropriateness of her appointment on the basis of her ethical and moral fitness to lead our schools. Doesn't that count anymore? Where were America's conservatives, such as Alan Bloom and Bill Bennett, when her appointment was announced? I expected them to be outraged. Where was the Christian right, when so clear a secularist and morally suspect person as Black was appointed? Why did Pat Robertson and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council give Black a free ride? Where were the critics, now attacking "Skins," when Black was appointed? Why weren't critics pointing out that the success of Cosmo and other magazines over which Black has editorial responsibility (e. g. Seventeen, Marie Clair), is not based on their literary qualities, unless sexual titillation is the readers' goal.

I am afraid that I see a difference only in degree, but not much of a difference in kind, between Black and two other successful publishers, Larry Flynt and Hugh Heffner. But they would never be allowed to interview for the job, despite equal records of business success. My question is this: Shouldn't an appointment of this magnitude have generated more debate? Black's lack of knowledge for the position of chancellor of the New York City schools is surely matched by the questionable moral values expressed in the publishing empire she headed. But debate about her lack of knowledge has been muted and debate about her moral fitness to lead the system has been virtually non-existent and that makes me angry.

Debate should have occurred. What Chancellor Black believes and does will, literally, affect the lives of millions of American teachers and students in New York and the nation. I am appalled that a position of this significance can be obtained without proper and public vetting of the candidates qualifications, especially when it is quite clear that her knowledge and her moral vision are both questionable. Although we have been told that mayoral control of the schools would aid in reforming them, it looks to me like mayoral control of the schools simply allows for the old New York patronage system to continue.

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