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The Cuomo Paradox aka A Tale of Two Cuomos
I read an article in my local Sunday paper today that dealt with Andrew Cuomo’s reflections about his father as a person and as a governor. I made mental note of many things but out of respect to the elder Cuomo was not going to say much. It was something in the closing statement that tipped me over the edge and made me decide to write. The statement: “I believe my father’s spirit lives in the hope of a young boy sitting in a failing school who can’t yet speak the language.” It exasperated me that in his eulogy for his father Andrew still could not resist inserting a political barb attacking public schools.
Make no mistake, Andrew was well aware of what he said, and attempted to use his father’s legacy to further his own political agenda. In a word, I found it to be despicable. I then went online and found the transcript of Andrew’s eulogy for his father and my mental notes became highlights and actual notes in side margins. I was amazed at how much Andrew recognized in his father and astounded by the fact that he seemed to have learned so very little.
One of the statements made about Mario was, “Mario Cuomo was at peace with who he was and how he saw the world. This gave him a great strength and made him anything but a typical politician.” It is irony at its finest. The son refers to the father saying he was “anything but a typical politician,” and does so in a context that is very flattering and complimentary. Andrew, however, has time and time again shown himself to be all that is wrong with American politicians. An example of that can be found here: http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com/Stories/2013/Oct08/cuoworking.html
He has failed to keep major promises regarding campaign finance reform (http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/capitol-cash-andrew-cuomo-article-1.1018179 ); has back peddled on his promise to clean up Albany http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/08/nyregion/after-moreland-commission-shutdown-by-gov-cuomo-loopholes-live-on-in-albany.html?_r=0 ; has broken his word to teachers regarding his own legislation
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/30/nyregion/cuomo-in-reversal-vetoes-bill-that-would-have-protected-teachers-from-low-ratings.html ; broke his word to the Working Families Party after the most recent election http://dianeravitch.net/2014/10/12/governor-cuomo-breaks-his-promise-to-working-families-party/ and http://perdidostreetschool.blogspot.com/2014/10/cuomo-breaks-working-families-party.html ; and his attack on the teachers and their unions are a direct assault on a profession that is 75% women which is contrary to him campaigning for women’s equity. Mario was, according to Andrew, “a man of principle — of honor, of duty, of service and that defined his life.” Andrew has proven himself to be the antithesis of all that.
Andrew went on to say that his father “was a humanist. He had strong feelings of right and wrong based on his religion, philosophy and life experiences. He was very concerned with how people were treated and that was the arena that drew him in.” According to dictionary.com a humanist is “a person having a strong interest in or concern for human welfare, values, and dignity.” Andrew again recognizes a tremendous quality in his father but seems incapable of humanism himself. I offer any of the above links as partial proof of that. One only need to look at Andrew Cuomo’s treatment of those with differing opinions from his own to see that humanism is a foreign trait to him. Ask any parent, community member, or educator if they feel he has treated them with dignity regarding his stance on public schools. Ask any gun owner throughout the majority of geographic area in in NYS if they feel they have been treated with dignity. At the time of this writing I would venture to say that many in law enforcement may have an issue with their treatment by the governor….he has avoided saying anything regarding the current state of affairs in a potentially no win political situation. That circles back to the calculation of a politician. Ask public employees and union proponents if they feel treated with dignity. Ask the 46% of New York State residents that did not vote for Andrew Cuomo in November of 2014 (http://elections.nytimes.com/2014/new-york-elections ) if they feel that their values are respected or that they are treated with dignity. That is not a misprint; 46% of NYS voters voted against Governor Cuomo. One need only look at the map in the previous link to see how divided our state truly is. This division serves no one but Andrew. This may sound like a contrarian statement but the more he can divide us the greater his political strength. Mario Cuomo would say today “that it’s time for this city to come together….,” the son has failed to even come close in uniting our state.
Andrew further stated “He [Mario] was humbled to be in public service and had disdain for those who demeaned it, with scandals or corruption, or cheap public relation stunts. It was a position of trust and deserved to be honored,” and “My father was skeptical of the people and organizations that profited from government — to whom government was a business, rather than an avocation. And he always focused on the goal of government rather than the means — the product not the process — to help the people, the student, the parent, the citizens.” So many of Andrew’s statements and actions are contrary to the traits he himself recognized in his father. Look at some of Andrew’s greatest campaign contributors; look at his campaign “war chest,” look at Pearson and companies that have profited from doing business with Andrew Cuomo the Governor http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/05/nyregion/in-lopsided-money-race-cuomo-campaign-is-awash-in-cash.html . As for cheap PR stunts how about the Moreland Commission?
The next two quotes I will address as they pertain to education. The first: “He believed Jesus’ teaching could be reduced to one word — and the one word was love. And love means acceptance and compassion and support to help people to do good. And that’s what he wanted government to be, a force for good.” The second: “positive course is to learn the lessons from the past tragedies to identify the necessary reform ….” Andrew, where education is concerned, has not shown love as acceptance nor compassion nor support to any who have dared voice opinion against his policies. His total disregard and disdain for parents and educators are evident in his unyielding support of Commissioner King, and his combativeness toward public schools and their teachers. While he may say he sees government as force for “good,” his actions indicate he sees government (HIS government) as a force to be used as he sees fit to advance his personal agendas. It is also incongruous that he refers to his father’s reference to Jesus’ teaching as love, compassion, acceptance, and support…all of which are extremely important to the long term success of our schools, students, and society, but none of which have any place in his evaluation of teachers. Perhaps he should just ask parents; they know who the good teachers are…they truly do. As for the second quote it is evident that Andrew has not learned the lessons from past tragedies to identify necessary reform where educational policies and practices are concerned. His love of standardized tests as an evaluative tool for students and teachers shows clearly he is not a student of educational history. His fondness of merit pay is misplaced as it also has been shown to not work. His complete embrace of RTTT and Common Core also show that research based practices are clearly not important to him.
I do agree wholeheartedly with one line that Andrew said about his father because to the best of my knowledge Mario Cuomo did indeed serve “12 years with integrity. You can disagree with Mario Cuomo over those 12 years, but he never dishonored the State and he never dishonored his position.”
Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the son.
Mario Cuomo imparted many lessons on governing to his most important pupil. It is obvious to me that the most important lessons, those of acceptance, compassion, and humanism were not learned by the student. I, however, do not blame the teacher for that.
Educator, parent, #stopcommoncore activist.