Temple announced last month that Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street will become an adjunct professor of political science on Main Campus for the Spring 2008 semester.
Despite being highly criticized during his two terms as mayor, Street is slated to instruct two sections of an urban politics and policy class. My initial reaction to this was one of outrage. Along with the other residents of Philadelphia, I watched Street make one poor decision after another. Now Temple students are supposed to learn about urban policies from him. Maybe his curriculum will include corrupting a city and giving jobs to unqualified friends.
Randall Miller, a political analyst and St. Joseph’s University professor, agrees that Street has made some mistakes along the way, but said the mayor has also done some beneficial things for Philadelphia as well.
“Street doesn’t stand in the way of progress,” Miller said. “But he hasn’t encouraged it.”
He suggested that although Street may have honorable intentions for the city, his lack of enthusiasm makes him appear weaker.
Honorable as he may be, the Temple graduate and former English teacher will have a lot at stake when he takes his position in front of the classroom in January.
“People see Street as being ineffective,” Miller said. If this perception of him as mayor carries over into the classroom – as it should – Street will need to be prepared to defend his actions as head of the city.
In an exclusive interview with The Temple News, Street said he is ready and qualified to teach this course. His background in teaching will surely come in handy, but his approach to running Philadelphia may come into question.
Miller argues that the class should focus on urban policy as a whole, not solely on Street, but as a man with a reputation of being a dishonest and corrupt, some part of the class will need to focus on those shortcomings.
“He needs to be honest and recognize his success and limitations,” Miller said.
Though Street undoubtedly made mistakes along the way, some of his proposals for the city, including the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative and making Philadelphia more tech-savvy, could have been highly beneficial. Another sign that Street might know more than people give him credit for was his announcement that other former Philadelphia mayors will be guest speakers in his class. Miller sees this as a “terrific” idea, as the speakers will be able to give students other perspectives, and allow for more student engagement.
Even if Street proves successful at teaching urban policies, he has proven otherwise when it comes to carrying those policies out. He may win over students, but Street can never redeem himself for his two terms as mayor.
Shannon McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.