Log in  |  Search

Waist Deep In The Big Muddy, And The Little Fool Says To Push On

This morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott appeared at an American University forum with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and the mayors and school superintendents from Chicago and Los Angeles. A video of the forum is here.

Bloomberg defended giving out invalid and inaccurate Teacher Data Reports as providing “information” to parents, saying it was “arrogance” to suggest that peddling wildly inaccurate information was a bad idea.

He made a feeble attempt at backtracking from a prior statement that in his ideal world, he would fire half of the teachers and double class size. “Class size is important,” he opined, but not as important as other things such as teacher quality.

At the very end of the program, Bloomberg displayed his education acumen and keen political ear by declaring that “teaching to the test is exactly what we should do.” And in defense of this position, he invoked a Pete Seeger song, “Waist Deep In The Big Muddy.”

While Michael Bloomberg dedicated his youth to obtaining a Harvard Business School M.B.A., the best minds and hearts of his generation were fighting to end the war in Vietnam. With very little knowledge of that struggle, Bloomberg did not seem to realize that Seeger’s anthem (lyrics below) is actually a metaphor for the American political leaders who mired our nation into the Vietnam war, at every turn escalating the war and bringing us in deeper. Indeed, it is a metaphor that has considerable resonance for the “education reform” work of the NYC DoE under his administration. (Video and lyrics after the jump.)

Lyrics to Pete Seeger’s “Waist Deep In The Big Muddy”

It was back in nineteen forty-two,
I was a member of a good platoon.
We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,
That’s how it all begun.
We were — knee deep in the Big Muddy,
But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?”
“Sergeant, go on! I forded this river
‘Bout a mile above this place.
It’ll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.
We’ll soon be on dry ground.”
We were — waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, “Sir, with all this equipment
No man will be able to swim.”
“Sergeant, don’t be a Nervous Nellie,”
The Captain said to him.
“All we need is a little determination;
Men, follow me, I’ll lead on.”
We were — neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,
We heard a gurgling cry.
A few seconds later, the captain’s helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, “Turn around men!
I’m in charge from now on.”
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn’t know that the water was deeper
Than the place he’d once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
‘Bout a half mile from where we’d gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I’m not going to point any moral;
I’ll leave that for yourself
Maybe you’re still walking, you’re still talking
You’d like to keep your health.
But every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We’re — waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
Tall man’ll be over his head, we’re
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on!



  • 1 Remainders: Casey: ‘Big Muddy’ applies to DOE’s missteps | GothamSchools
    · Mar 2, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    […] UFT’s Leo Casey would like to adjust Mayor Bloomberg’s “Big Muddy” education analogy. (EdWize) […]

  • 2 Dimitrios Gallis
    · Mar 4, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Let all the voters realize the harm that mayoral control of our school system has done. When someone that is obviously ignorant about education constantly injects such absurd comments, it’s time to bring back the Board of Education. As a teacher in one of the 33 transformation/restart schools he is threatening, I cannot wait for this dark period for our school system to end when he is finally our of office. Yes, good teachers are important, and after 28 years in the profession I can honestly say I’ve only come across a handful of really bad ones. On the other hand, I have come across more than a few truants and kids that don’t do homework or study. Yes, maybe Bloomberg did end social promotion from one grade to the next, but instead he created the conditions for “social graduation” from high school. Employers and colleges are beginning to call attention to this “Big Muddy”