Chapter 51: McTeacher
I was lucky enough to be a fly on the wall at Mayor Bloomberg's last meeting as the education mayor of New York City in late 2013. Fortunately I had a recording device attached to one of my tiny wings. This is what it picked up. Present along with the Mayor were outgoing Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Bloomberg's P.R. adviser, his education aide and assorted lackeys.
Bloomberg: (aside to Walcott) Glad you could make it, Dennis. We've got important business to discuss today.
Chancellor: Yes, you were a little secretive about it in your memo.
Bloomberg: Sorry about that but I wanted everyone to hear at the same time.
Bloomberg: (to entire assembly) So, this meeting is about what we're going to do with that $500 million race-to-the-top money we won for implenting the new FTT evaluation plan.
Lackey #5: FTT?
Bloomberg: Fire-the-Teachers plan. Don't you read any of your emails!
P.F. Flack: Ah, Mr. Mayor, it isn't wise ....
Bloomberg: Not now, Bob. I'm reprimanding this young woman for not reading her memos.
Lackey #5: Sorry, sir.
B.oomberg: Go get me some coffee. (Lackey #5 leaves shamefully.) Anyway, now that we've got our FTT system in place, we can start getting rid of real tachers and start hiring people we can use. I want to make one more lasting imprint on the schools before I check out of here.
Lackey #3: Like you did with Cathie?
Bloomberg: (reddening): I'm talking about the race-to-the-top money. That $500 million!
Lackey #1: You're going to decrease class size!
Lackey #2: You're going to renovate some of those decripit old buildings!
Bloomberg: Of course not.
Lackey #3: You're going to use it to attract more highly qualified teachers!
Bloomberg: Don't be ridiculous. Didn't you read the memo on menial labor in the classroom?
Lackey #4: You're going to upgrade technology ....
Bloomberg: No, no, no! Now listen. What is the most successful educational institution in the country?
Lackey #7: Harvard.
Lackey #11: Princeton.
Bloomberg: (exasperated) No!
Lackey #4: Yale!
Bloomberg: NO! NO! NO! I'm talking about - what-cha-ma-call-it. You know, B.C. What's it called? Burger College?
Lackey #17: Boston .....
Bloomberg: You know, Burger U.
Lackey #2: Oh, you mean Hamburger University.
Bloomberg: That's it. Hamburg U.
Lackey #8: You mean that school in Germany where the Beatles studied?
Bloomberg: No. I mean McDonald's training school where they churn out menial labor like so many Big Macs. Did you ever hear of one of those stores closing?
Lackey #22: Well, there was one ....
Bloomberg: Of course not and you know why? Because they control the education of their work force. Control the mind and you control the body.
Lackey #19: Isn't that what the public schools are already doing?
Bloomberg: I'm not talking about kids. I'm talking about adults. Teachers. McTeachers!
Lackey #7: Are you going to serve fries with those McTeachers?
Bloomberg: Hey, not bad. Check into that. Just make sure they're organic potatoes - and no soft drinks! Now, here's the plan. Entry level managers will be Regular Burgers. Get it? Regular Burgers.
Lackey #9: Oh, you mean like the cheapest burger on the menu.
Bloomberg: No! I mean like the burger of a town. You know, someone who lives there.
Lackey #8: You mean burgher.
Bloomberg: That's what I said. Burger.
Lackey #8: No, Mr. Mayor, burgher.
Bloomberg: Is there an echo in here! Anyway entry level will be RB - regular burger. First promotion will be to ....
Lackey #!5: FF?
Lackey #!5: Filet of Fish.
Bloomberg: No! CB - Cheese Burgerr.
Lackey #8: You mean Cheese Burgher.
Bloomberg: That's what I said. Now that promotion will earn you 50 cents an hour more.
Lackey #12: More than what?
Bloomberg: Minimum wage, fool. You're fired. You've got ten minutes to clear your desk. (Lackey #12 leaves dejectedly.) Is there anyone else here who doesn't know the basics?
Lackeys all shake their heads.
Bloomberg: Now where was I?
Lackey #13: Minimum wage plus 50 cents.
Bloomberg: Yeah, on second thought make that minimum wage plus 35 cents. We don't want to make them greedy. Next step up?
Lackey #15: QPB?
Bloomberg: Excellent. See my secretary on the way out for your bonus.
Lackey #15: What's that?
Bloomberg: Bloomberg Radio lapel pin. The Quarter Pound Burger .....
Lackey #8: You mean, Quarter Pound Burgher.
Bloomberg: Right. This will be the store manager level.
Lackey #16: I get it. Then the Fish Burgher will be in charge of ....
Bloomberg: What are you talking about? Fish is a sandwich, not a burger.
Lackey #8: But maybe a burgher.
Lackey #8: Well, a fish burgher isn't exactly a fish burger.
Bloomberg: What's he talking about? If I knew what he was talking about, I'd fire him but I don't know what he's talking about.
(Lackeys begin checking their mobile devices.)
Bloomberg: Where was I? Oh yeah. The Cheese Burger is in charge of the grill. The Regular Burger will be in charge of fries and shakes.
Lackey #14: Wait. How can the Regular Burgher be in charge of fries? Wouldn't that be the Fry Burgher?
Bloomberg: Fry Burger? What the hell is that?
Lackey #14: It's like, you know, the mayor of french fries.
Bloomberg: No, that will be the Regular Burger.
Lackey #8: You mean Regular Burgher.
Bloomberg: That's what I said. Is that what I said? That's what I said! Next up will be, of course, the Big Mac.
Lackey #8: You mean the Big Mac Burgher.
Bloomberg: The Big Mac is a burger.
Lackey #8: Right but not a burgher.
Bloomberg: Of course it's a burger. I just said it was a burger. You don't have to call a Big Mac a burger. It's already a burger.
Lackey #8: But not a burgher.
Bloomberg: (Perplexed) Bic Mac Burger. BMB. I like that actually.
Lackey #8: But aren't we talking about teachers, I mean, McTeachers in McSchool rooms?
Bloomberg: Oh, right. So the Regular Burger will be in charge of academic supervision. The Cheese Burger will be in charge of Regular Burgers. The Quarter Pound Burger will be in charge of Cheese Burgers and the Bic Mac Burger will be in charge of all of them.
Lackey #17: Oh, you mean like a principal.
Bloomberg: No more principles in the new Fire-the-Teacher system.
Lackey #17: But don't you have to have principals, I mean, Big Mac Burghers?
Bloomberg: Big Mac Burgers, yes. Principles, no.
Lackey #8: But wait. Doesn't the quarter pounder have more meat than the Big Mac?
Lackey #11: That's right. The Big Mac is just a couple of little burgers. The quarter pounder is a big, giant one.
Lackey #17: But each of those little burgers is more than an eighth of a pound.
Lackey #6: So what? An eighth of a pound is a lot less than a quarter pounder.
Lackey #21: But there's 2 of them.
Lackey #18: Two times two is four.
Lackey #13: Four times two is eight.
Lackey #27: Who do we appreciate?
All Lackeys: Bloomberg! Bloomberg! Bloomberg!
Bloomberg: All right, all right - let's figure it out. Do I have some volunteers?
(Lackeys look at each other.)
Bloomberg: To go to McDonald's.
(Lackeys all raise their hands.)
Bloomberg: Okay, you and you - go to McDonalds. Bring back a Big Mac, a Quarter Pounder and a scale.
(Lackeys #7 and 14 run out.)
Bloomberg: We'll decide once and for all who is top dog.
Lackey #24: That's it! Why not call the principal Top Dog - you know, like a big hot dog.
Lackey #4: Yeah, a foot long hot dog. He could be principal.
Bloomberg: (scratching his chin) Hmmmmm.
Lackey #6: With ketchup or mustard?
Lackey #9: Mustard obviously.
Lackey #12: Why not put mustard on the first 6 inches and ketchup on the 2nd six inches?
Lackey #18: What about the relsih?
Lackey #21: You have to relish a foot long hot dog.
Lackey #8: But which has more meat? A foot long hot dog or a Big Mac?
Bloomberg: Hmmmm, good question.
Lackey #8: Why not send someone out for a hot dog?
Bloomberg: Good idea. Get going.
(Lackey #8 walks out.)
Bloomberg: Now as for the co-location of the university ....
Lackey #14: (eagerly) Which schools do you want to close!
Bloomberg: Yes, I've been giving that some thought. Obviously we can't put it in the Bronx and anyway we've already closed and opened so many schools up there that the natives are getting a little restless.
P.R. Lackey: You mean the "constituents," don't you, Mr. Mayor.
Bloomberg: Isn't that what I said? Anyway the Bronx is out and Staten Island is too far away.
Lackey #!9: What about Brooklyn?
Bloomberg: What do those yuppies and hipsters know about burgers?
Lackey #25: Well, there's Queens.
Bloomberg: Where's that?
Lackey #25: Out there on Long Island. I think it's next to Providence.
Bloomberg: Look, we all know that it has to be in Manhattan and it has to be down here near City Hall where future mayors can keep close tabs on what they're doing.
Lackey #22: How about my alma mater? Stuyvesant?
Bloomberg: Where's that?
Lackey #22: Right over there by the West Side Highway.
Bloomberg: That sounds good ....
Lackey #22: Of course, they've always got A's on their school report cards.
Bloomberg: Well, then, let's get to work. What's their ELL population?
Bloomberg: Well, let's get going. Start dumping some immigrants in there.
Chancellor: Well, Mike, they've got an entrance exam. You can't get admitted without scoring well above city averages across the board.
Ed. aide: It's one of the elite schools, Mr. Mayor. It has a long, established tradition.
Bloomberg: So did Taft, Columbus and Clinton. So? We can't run a school system on nostalgia. We've got to run it on sound fast food franchise principles. So let's get some immigrants in that place. Obviously that entrance exam is flawed and biased. Get the P.R. team on it. (P.R. Flack makes a note.) How many special ed. kids go there?
Ed. aide: Virtually none.
Bloomberg: Well, that's not right either. What's the suspension rate?
Chancellor: There's no behavior problems in that school.
Ed aide: Wait a minute, Mr. Chancellor. There was a Regents cheating scandal a couple of years ago. Remember that?
Chancellor: Vaguely. Fill me in.
Ed aide: A bunch of kids were using social media to pass around answers.
Bloomberg: Can we hire some of those kids?
Chancellor: They've moved on to mostly Ivy League colleges.
Bloomberg: I see. (to P.R. Flack) Keep track of those clever kids. They might have come in handy when they caught Joel and me dumbing down the state tests a few years ago to make it look like the schools were actually being reformed. (P.R. Flack makes a note.)
Chancellor: Hold it, Mike, I think we've got something here.
Bloomberg: Talk to me.
Chancellor: Well, it would take a few years to flood Stuyvesant with overage, underachieving kids, give it a couple of "F" grades and then phase it out - you know, like we usually do to schools. Maybe we can bypass all of that.
Bloomberg: I like your thinking, Dennis. Now I know why I chose you to replace Cathie.
Chancellor: Why not prosecute them for educational malfeasance or something like that, reduce the size by about 25 or 30%, then take over that part of the building to co-locate the burger college. Once we've got our foot in the door, it'll be a piece of cake to take over the rest of the building.
Bloomberg: Possession is nine-tenths ....
Bloomberg: (to Ed. aide) Get the legal team on this. I want Stuyvesant closed down by the end of the year. Start pressing charges against that principal immeidately.
Ed aide: The guy who was principal at that time already resigned, Mr. Mayor.
Bloomberg: Well, he probably hand-picked his successor. The legal people can dream up something. They're getting paid a hell of a lot of money for that sort of thing.
(Lackeys #7 and 14 return with the goodies.)
Bloomberg: Well, look who's finally back! What'd you do? Stop off for lunch somewhere?
Lackey #7: Well, you know, sir, we were at McDonald's.
Bloomberg: That's what I like - people who can take advantage of a situation for their own gain. Let's see that.
Bloomberg pulls out the Big Mac, unwraps it and holds it at arm's length.
Bloomberg: Okay, okay, that's about a quarter pound. Let me have the other one.
Bloomberg does the same with the quarter pounder, holding out one in each hand.
Bloomberg: Mmmm, they are pretty close. I'd say that Big Mac is a bit heavier.
Lackey #14: Here's the scale, sir.
(They place the sandwiches on the scale. The Big Mac is slightly heavier.)
Bloomberg: That does it. We'll call the superintendents the Big Mac Burgers.
(Lackey #8 returns with a foot-long hot dog in a wrapper.)
Lackey #8: You mean Big Mac Burgher.
Bloomberg: That's what I said! Let's see that hot dog.
Bloomberg holds the hot dog at arm's length.
Bloomberg: It's not as heavy as either of them but it looks better. I think we're going to reserve that title for you Dennis. From now on you're going to be Hot Dog Walcott.
Lackey #8: FLHD, you mean.
Lackey #8: Foot Long Hot Dog Walcott.
Lackey #2: But how are we going to fund this once the fire-the-teacher - I mean, the FTT money runs out?
Bloomberg: I'm glad you asked that question. (calls to outer office) Bill, come in here.
Bill: (entering) Yes, sir.
Bloomberg: This is my personal accountant. Bill, run the numbers by them, will you.
Bill: Well, it'll work like this. For each teacher the new FTT gets rid of, we'll save approximately $45,000 in salary alone.
Bloomberg: (licking his chops) See. See.
Bill: For every new teacher that gets hired in the new tier, the one with no health care or pension benefits .....
Bloomberg: That's not quite true, Bill. The benefits will be available.
Bill: Yes, of course, sir, but the price will be so prohibitive that no one will "opt in".
Bloomberg: Right. We'll give them the "opt in" option to make it look like they have a choice.
Bill: Of course. For every new teacher hired we'll save an average of about $83,000 per year in loss of benefits in the long run. That will be more than enough to fund the initial campus of the burger college and additional campuses and I was thinking about that as I listened from the other room, Mr. Mayor. As long as your closing Stuyvesant, why not just close all of the elite high schools and turn them into burger colleges. You can make Bronx Science the next new thing.
Bloomberg: I like it; I like it. Bronx Burger U. It has a nice ring to it.
Lackey #8: You mean, Bronx Burgher U., don't you, Mr. Mayor?
Bloomberg: Is there an echo in here?