Philadelphia Weekly Makes the Academic Connection (and Takes a Poke at Arlene Ackerman): Hoot!

Jacob Lambert’s commentary on public school problems in this week’s issue of Philadelphia Weekly is worthy of a Hoot.

The short piece, called “Ackerman’s Disciplinary Inaction,” contrasts the public schools of Philadelphia with the nearby suburban schools. Lambert uses two incidents—the Center City flash mobs and the Lower Merion webcam scandal—to frame his comparison of the school districts, and to shed light on the very different shortcomings of each.

The juxtaposition of the near-riot among unsupervised Philadelphia school kids and the inappropriately attentive supervision of the Lower Merion administration is perfectly symbolic of the different districts.

But, more specifically, this article discusses the shortcomings of one person: superintendent of Philadelphia’s public schools, Arlene Ackerman. Lambert criticizes Ackerman for being ineffective at stopping school violence and general disorder since taking the superintendent position. He hangs his criticisms particularly on a what he describes as an airy editorial Ackerman published in the Inquirer two months ago. Lambert interprets Ackerman’s editorial as shifting responsibility for the problems facing the schools to everyone else: “Ackerman, the person most responsible for addressing school violence, for controlling the mayhem, was handing us the reins. It was everyone’s problem to cope with; once divided, it became nobody’s to solve.”

Lambert draws a connection between Ackerman’s lame leadership and students’  lack of discipline. He says that Philadelphia schools, which are experiencing real, systemic problems, need someone more creepily overbearing, like the administrator who is said to have spied on a student through a school-issued laptop.

While I hope and assume Lambert doesn’t want someone who would actually go that far in charge of schools, his call for backbone and order in the district is much-needed and well-crafted.

A Hoot for you, sir. Keep howling.

– Jared Brey

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