San Diego Watch: Retiring school chief puts on political hat

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Still no word as to whether GCS superintendent Terry Grier will load up the truck and move to San Diego. But here’s an interesting tidbit to share.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. From the Voice of San Diego comes a lengthy Q&A with retiring San Diego city schools chief Dr. Carl Cohn. And after he retires in the next few days, he’s not exactly hitting the links or heading up the I-5 to go to Disneyland.

He’s planning to stump for US Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)

I can’t make this stuff up, people; this blog just writes itself.

Here’s a short excerpt, the complete article can be accessed here (thanks to my friend Pierce, from SAVE GCS ARTS for passing this link along):

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. You’ve been an outspoken critic of No Child Left Behind. If I get the gist of your argument, it’s that the law sets the bar too high, too quickly, and it’s unrealistic. Are there revisions to the law that would address your concerns, or do you feel the approach itself is fundamentally flawed?

I think it’s fundamentally flawed. … It ignores everything we know about modern management.

There’s a man named McGregor whose Theory X and Theory Y sort of defined large organizations. Theory X is that people are basically bad, can’t-be-trusted, ne’er-do-wells who won’t do the work. So punishment, and identifying people as failures, is the way you improve an organization. McGregor’s Theory Y suggests that most people want to do the right thing, are hardworking, and if you can come up with ways to positively motivate and inspire them, they will get the job done. … For me, No Child Left Behind takes Theory X and applies it to all schools in America. (The idea is that) identifying people as failures is a powerful motivator for improvement. I think that is fundamentally flawed as an approach.

Given that, why did you decide to leave (San Diego Unified), and why mid-year, instead of finishing out the year?

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. 2008. I’m fascinated with this as a political year, and a year of significant change in America. I really want to be free to endorse Barack Obama, help him win the California primary. If I want to go to Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire or Nevada, I can do that. … The 2008 election is unfolding and I really want to get out there and do my thing. I hope that doesn’t sound too selfish. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t really have to work. … I really want to get out there and support those candidates and issues that I think are big-time, generational sea change in America.

Do you see Obama as part of that?

Sure. Definitely. … This really is a candidate who clearly is not part of the polarization of the last 15 to 20 years, and is also very comfortable in his own skin. … He’s at a point now where he sees clearly the big challenges facing Americans, sees them as problems to be solved, and he’s not bound by the extreme polarization in the country. He’s a transformational leader. So getting with that, in my judgment, is the best hope for children. Some people would say, well, being a superintendent in school [gives you] a much more direct impact on children. But you know, I have done this for a while, and the prospects for children in the larger country that we call America don’t seem to be getting better. Leaving the superintendency and getting involved more directly in the political process seems like something I have the luxury to do — and I hope people don’t feel like I’m abandoning children.


E.C. 🙂


One Response

  1. “I don’t know if it’s the polarization of political extremes here or what. You have this somewhat emerging, progressive, tingeing blue city in a larger, ruby-red county. …” Carl Cohn on San Diego.

    Hey, that’s just like Guilford County. Grier would be mighty comfortable there.

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