Saturday, February 19, 2011

Still Another Public Tour!

Sunday, February 27 -Walk the Upper East Side- Let's explore the "homescape" of those who were successful in making New York the city we know today. After all, our mayor Mr. Bloomberg is another February birthday, and lives happily near Central Park. We'll explore the Gold Coast, from E. 70th Street on up to Carnegie Hill - and learn just how close Tricia Nixon is to San Francisco rock music! (And consider this picture: what is there now?)

Meeting Spot:5th Avenue & 70th Street: the memorial for Richard Morris Hunt on the Central Park Side of 5th Avenue at 11:00 am. Cost: $20 per person.

Please contact The Street Teacher by e-mail to register and confirm. Rain or Shine - but leave a phone number in case of emergency!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Sunday, February 20 - Abraham Lincoln's East Village, and More - Let us continue our Presidential Month by beginning our walk through one of the "best neighborhoods

of North America" near the site of Lincoln's famous speech which won him the Republican nomination for President. We will also walk through this great neighborhood and hear stories of its past residents, and wonder of their dreams as newcomers either to New York or the United States - or both!

Meeting Spot, Time and Cost: Astor Place, near the Mud Truck on 4th Avenue and E. 8th Street, next to the uptown #6 Subway at 11:00am: $20 per person.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Should Teachers Have Tenure?

Good morning! This Month's "Talk of New York" begins with a somewhat unusual piece, perhaps, but I think I should publish it here (I have written it as an on-line commentary on an article regarding teacher tenure in the New York Times on 2/1/11) because I feel it relates to everyone's experience as a walker in the city. We all educate each other, in some way, and I wanted to declare my attitude toward this major issue of the day. Please comment as you wish!

As often as there are under-performing teachers, or even bad teachers, I am struck by the lack of attention to the influence of parents in this complicated process of education. In other words, I believe that the neglected element in this equation is the parents, particularly in the "lower performing" districts.

If education is valued highly by the parents, and if the benefits of education can be demonstrated by the examples of the parents (either by their professional stations or the respect accorded them in their every day activities, preferably both), then that is one great advantage.

But, if the parents have not had the good fortune of education, and by that measure are unable to demonstrate that education works, then that's where the life-long effort to be educated and to improve one's station in life is at least as powerful a lesson to impart on their children as simply the inherited advantage of prior education - perhaps even more.

So, I feel it is a responsibility of a community, and I do mean the elected officials, to be instrumental in the education of those parents - in the improvement of their lives.

Departments of Education shouldn't concern themselves solely with the children of their populations, but with everyone's continuing education.

Just as our society seems rooted in our pursuit of the "American Dream," we should understand that it is largely a fiction created at least in part to keep the large majority of the population striving on a treadmill that only guarantees profits for the owner of that treadmill, and stasis for everyone on it. If that pursuit were to be accorded as prime a place as we all seem to agree it deserves, then other priorities should be recognized in their proper rank.

Such as:
1. Raising children: child development, skill acquisition, the importance of and definition of unqualified love.
2. Making a home safe: children first, parents second, elders third
3. Creating and maintaining self-supporting neighborhoods: economics: raw materials, productivity, profitability and investment in that community
4. Community relations: internal and with neighboring communities
5. Inter-community relations: "foreign trade"

Just those 5 elements seem to me to be the priorities. Teacher tenure? Desirable, even a great idea - but who is the real teacher of the children: the parents, the community, every person with whom that child interacts each day is that child's teacher. Each of those interactions reflects an important element of each child's curriculum: the values of his or her community. A child should be able to sense what his or her family, friends, neighborhood, and greater community holds as desirable - every day. The teachers are really now in an unwarranted and exalted station in their student's value scale: we would hold those teachers up as the ONLY ones responsible for their education, when they are only one element.

Perhaps it's important to realize that of all the teachers our children may have, it is their most important teacher who has lifelong tenure, and who can have either the most positive impact, or a very negative one: their parents.
From the Vigeland Park, Oslo, Norway
We should not "fire" them, of course. But, as with teachers and other professionals, our society should require continuing education of our children's most powerful teachers, their parents, and accord them the respect that implies.

And now! Can you imagine the conversations we ALL would now have - if ALL of us were involved in our continuing education in - developmental psychology! in child development! in disease prevention! in international relations! in reading and communication!

And here's the most important element of our New Curriculum: in listening. Ah, the peace that shall come from ... understanding!