Soft-Core Porn and the Crisis of School Leadership
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.
David C. Berliner has authored more than 200 articles, books and chapters in the field of educational psychology teacher education, and educational policy, including the best-seller The Manufactured Crisis (co-authored with B. J. Biddle) and six editions of the textbook Educational Psychology (co-authored with N. L. Gage). He is a past president of the American Educational Research Association, and of the Division of Educational Psychology of the American Psychological Association. Berliner is a Regents' Professor at Arizona State University in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies division.
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