“If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs. So we’ve got to invest,” so said President Barack Obama when he visited Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on Friday, Oct. 24.
Who wasn’t in the room? Barely concealing how hyped they were, were former state Comptroller Carl McCall; Reps. Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries; City Comptroller John Liu; Assemblywoman Annette Robinson; state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery; City Council Members Al Vann, Jumaane Williams and Darlene Mealy; Gov. Andrew Cuomo; Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Commissioner of Education of New York John King; Medgar Evers President Rudy Crew; Sen. Chuck Schumer; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; mayoral candidate Public Advocate Bill de Blasio; and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.
The students were excited and patient as secret service and NYPD cops mingled with the crowd in the packed auditorium. Outside, crowds had gathered up and down Albany Avenue, adjacent to the Albany Houses. A heavy, heavy police presence was in effect.
Fifteen gifted and focused pupils were brought before the media to wax lyrical about how wonderful they feel their schools are. Controversy reigned at the beginning of the two-year-old school though, which took up space in Paul Robeson High School and partnered with IBM to give space to 300-plus citywide students. It was part of Bloomberg’s small school movement, wherein he went on an educational rampage, closing established schools and paradoxically opening small ones in the same building.
Some of the Paul Robeson students said that they felt like “second-class citizens” in the building they are now sharing with this highly touted, much praised new school. This just as Bloomberg’s Panel for Educational Policy was set to meet on Wednesday, Oct. 30 for another pseudo public meeting to “discuss” the “vote” on the proposed co-locating of two more Brooklyn schools—M.S. 113 Ronald Edmonds Learning Center and Andries Hudde Middle School—with two new charter schools.
After landing Marine One in Prospect Park, Obama announced, “I used to live across the street from Prospect Park.” Last Friday though, Obama told the cheering audience that it “is good to be back in Brooklyn.”
As he recognized several elected officials, one of the greatest applause-drenched moments was reserved for the “principal here at P-TECH, Rashid Davis, who I am pretty confident is the coolest-looking principal in America. I mean, there just are not that many principals with dreadlocks and yellow kicks.”
Continuing, Obama said, “I’m here because I wanted to come here ever since I talked about you in my State of the Union address this year, because what’s going on here at P-TECH is outstanding, and I’m excited to see it for myself.
“When I was living here, Brooklyn was cool, but not this cool. I’m here today to talk about what we need to do, as a country, to build the same kind of opportunity for your generation, for the next generation, and for your kids, and for future immigrants.”
To rising applause by those assembled, Obama continued, “This country should be doing everything in our power to give more kids the chance to go to schools just like this one. We should be doing everything we can to put college within the reach of more young people. We should be doing everything we can to keep your streets safe and protect you from gun violence.