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Education Linked to Economic Recovery


New York Gov. David Paterson says the industrialization of America was an outgrowth of its emphasis on public education.
Photo by Bruce Gilbert

New York Gov. David Paterson praised educators as the key to renewed prosperity in the United States in a keynote address delivered on March 6 at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning education conference.

“People wonder, as they fear and feel anxiety over our future, whether we can return prosperity to this country in the 21st century,” he said. “We actually don’t have to look to 21st-century ideas to accomplish this. We can go back to the 19th century, where some of the most poignant history will help us.”

The governor’s speech, in the grand ballroom of the Hilton New York, occurred on the first day of the two-day conference, which featured 90 workshops and more than 100 vendors. It was presented by public television stations Thirteen/ WNET and WLIW21, along with Fordham’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) and several major corporate sponsors.

Paterson cited The Race Between Education and Technology (Bellknap, 2008) by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz as a strong argument for increasing aid to education.

Goldin and Katz, he said, argued that the industrializing of America caused it to grow into an economic superpower, but that industrialization was fueled by education. The high school movement dictated that neighborhoods, towns and villages of more than 500 people have a public high school.

The results, Paterson said, were spectacular.

“By 1960, 70 percent of American children graduated from high school, and by comparison, in Great Britain, only 9 percent of 17 year olds were even still in high school. This is when we became the economic leaders,” he said.

“Education comes from the Latin word educo, or educare, which means to lead out. The best way to lead ourselves out of this economic crisis is to make sure we have the best-educated young workforce in the world, and then we’ll solve any problem put in front of us, as America has before.”

Earlier in the afternoon, attendees packed a conference room to hear “Our Changing Understanding of Leadership,” a panel moderated by James Hennessy, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Education.

Panelists included William F. Baker, Ph.D., president emeritus of WNET and Claudio Acquaviva S.J. Chair and Journalist in Residence at Fordham; Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers; Ernest A. Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators; and Sandra J. Stein, CEO of the NYC Leadership Academy.

When Hennessy asked how Stein’s non-profit group differs from traditional leadership training, she pointed to her success coupling yearlong residencies with classroom simulations, which then are followed by coaching. The experience, she said, helps principals approach their schools as if they were CEOs allocating resources.

Speaking on the structure of the New York City educational system, Iannuzzi said that collaborative leadership was losing ground in favor of a top-down managerial style. Instructional teams, collaborative teams and community-schools teams should be integrated into schools to give a voice to teachers, he said.

“What I’m saying to you is not new. To take a very quick quote from John Dewy in 1903: ‘It is essential that every teacher have some regular and representative way to register judgment upon matters of educational importance, with an assurance that this judgment would somehow affect the school system,’” Iannuzzi said.

Stein noted that compassion and ego reduction can be taught to emerging leaders. Logan returned to the idea that top educational administrators need to set an example, so that teachers and principals feel comfortable voicing dissent without fear of retribution.

Kindness, he cautioned, is also not always obvious.

“Most people always think that they’re kind. You ask anyone who’s being a horror, they’ll never tell you they’re not kind,” Logan said.

Baker quipped that, at a recent TV appearance promoting his book Leading with Kindness(AMACOM, 2008), he received a call from an industrial psychologist from Oregon on this very topic.

“She calls herself the Boss Whisperer,” he said. “Her job is to whisper in a person’s ear, ‘This is the way you should really behave. Even though your intentions are right, you’re not behaving the right way.’”


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