Guest Column: Rebuttal of Chuck Sweeny’s assessment of schools

By Norman Bleed

Contrary to Register Star Senior Editor Chuck Sweeny’s April 12 analysis, “Rockford’s school problems” are indeed “about superintendents.” For instance, for this last hire, the two finalists were black females. We were set up! We weren’t looking for “change,” we were looking for a black female, and for her definition of “change.” And, unfortunately, we hit the jackpot.

What our problems are not about, again contrary to Sweeny, is the community’s “historic”—a cheap shot, in the midst of a larger cheap shot—“inability to commit to providing quality education for all children.”

Rome is burning—Rockford will continue its decline until we recoup a reputable school system—and Sweeny can offer only red-herring platitudes like this.

Sadly, most blacks here think a black superintendent is great, even when she’s awful and, by everyone’s admission, devoid of the job’s stock-in-trade, “people skills.” So, I say let’s hire a black now, but make sure he’s a “he”—and drill-sergeant tough. Finally, everyone will win.

Increasingly, we’ve been falling prey to superintendent-as-God thinking, which just happens to suit these mostly mere itinerant charlatans just fine. Arrogant, imperious, self-indulgent spendthrifts, for them there is no Higher Power than themselves.

And just as acknowledging God in school has become an unthinkable outrage—reversed, of course, when major tragedies occur—the idea that we’re all His children, forget about race, is equally repugnant to our modern sensibilities.

With today’s greater sophistication, we even go to great lengths to ensure that young people are not exposed, as we perhaps were, to the notion that all knowledge is linked in a meaningful way—each piece part of a cosmic jigsaw puzzle. No, we now “know” better than that.

So, instead, we cultivate the child’s natural self-absorption by steadfastly obviating any reference to either any objective moral code, or his ever being answerable to one.

On the contrary, we teach him, by example, to put his trust—Job-like, no matter what happens—in a “real” reformer, a “real” supreme being: Our superintendent! Even, and especially, if her life revolves around settling racial scores, personally and professionally. Sick.

Like her, Sweeny wants to hold only the various adults accountable: for not “ladling” the “soup” of education out fairly. He takes two vicious swipes: at long-suffering property-taxpayers, for their not being sufficiently “committed”; and at teachers, for their somehow picking-and-choosing who will listen attentively to their lecture, and do the homework.

There are howling jackals all around us now, baying how Rockford is, and must become only ever more, an “urban” school district. But that simply means: ever more spent, for ever less result. And it will ruin Rockford.

Sure, all children can learn, but it’s hard work. Some prefer to believe the popular fiction that school is supposed to be easy and fun, and choose not to learn. Simple as that. The only real classroom is the one in one’s own mind. Theirs—by choice—is empty.

Norman Bleed is a resident of Rockford.

From the May 4-10, 2011 issue

One thought on “Guest Column: Rebuttal of Chuck Sweeny’s assessment of schools

  • May 5, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Norman makes some valid points. One point I would like to add is Rockford’s naivety with regard to the various “snake-oil” salesman. Seems like we embrace any and every carpet-bagger who blows through town selling consulting, or some new-age way to better educate kids. We simply can’t seem to resist. We simply can’t believe that a local solution is a good one.

    We are also totally sold on the idea the more money buys bigger and better. I wonder how much more money we’ll end up paying the next super????

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