It was a dark and bitingly cold night when 70 or so education activists gathered at the town hall in Seattle to boycott Michelle Rhee. She was in town to promote her new book. Students and members of several groups including Seattle Education, Social Equality Educators, and Socialist Alternative met in solidarity to protest Rhee’s support of corporate reform, charter schools, and high-stakes testing.
Students protest Rhee’s support of charter schools that segregate or “colonize” minority and poor students.
High-stakes tests favored by Rhee have led to a curriculum of “teaching to the test” and less art, music and P.E. in schools.
During Rhee’s tenure as Chancellor of Washington D.C. Public Schools, widespread cheating occurred.
There are at least 3,000,000 teachers in America who have more education expertise than Michelle Rhee. Jonathan Kozol is one that has written prolifically about America’s poorest students. The difference between educators like Kozol and Rhee is that Rhee is in the pocket of her billionaire funders who favor privatizing our public schools, and that buys her influence.
Charter schools disproportionately enroll poor minority children and are known to push out students with special needs, students with behavioral problems, and English language learners.
This one’s for you Bill, Eli, Walton brothers and sisters.
Michelle Rhee, corporate education reformer was in Seattle Tuesday to promote her new book, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First. On the book jacket, Jonathan Alter champions her as “a hard-charging champion of education reform and a strong Democrat,” while Geoffrey Canada calls her “a national treasure.” Apparently reviewers at Amazon.com have a different opinion. Currently, the book has received a one-out-of-five star rating.
From Amazon cirtics:
There are a lot of stories where she’s the only one who cares about kids. She blasts the other teachers at the school where she taught at when she was in her 20′. The politicians, her central office staff, teachers and principals in DC, a funder who won’t give her enough money — they just don’t care. No one cares except Michelle.
When she quits DC’s schools, it’s more of the same. She name-drops all the people who called her and said they wanted to hire her and talk with her–foundations, the Aspen Institute, the Hoover Institution, Meg Whitman, Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel. But she says no. Instead, she asks the Walmart family to give her $100 million to start her own organization, though it’s not clear whether she got the $100 million or what her organization, called StudentsFirst, actually does with its money. Do they put it into schools and classrooms? Is it a lobbying firm? A PAC? A charity like March of Dimes, only for schools?
If you’re really into Michelle Rhee and want to know all about her, hey, go ahead and read the book. Different strokes for different folks. But if you’re looking for an honest self-appraisal of her career, or if you’re the least bit skeptical or if you think critically about what’s really best for kids, this isn’t worth reading. Lots of people see Diane Ravitch as an alternative to Michelle Rhee, but I’d recommend John Merrow’s The Influence of Teachers: Reflections on Teaching and Leadership, which is far more serious and thoughtful than this.
Protesters in Seattle aren’t really that into Rhee, and they already know plenty about her. They met outside the townhall where she spoke passing out leaflets, picketing, and chanting for an hour before she spoke, although you wouldn’t know it from the Seattle Times coverage of the event. A more accurate account was provided by one of the attendees, Steve Nesich:
I sincerely mean no hostility or personal slight towards Sarah Freishtat, the young intern who wrote this story. I’m certain, like many young writers, she possesses a great deal of potential.
But, unfortunately, this is exceedingly poor journalism. It resembles the “puff pieces” I normally associate with some mass market magazines, replete with full page, full color ads, targeted to a demographic obsessed with frivolous distractions such as celebrity, fashion and “lifestyle”.
This view was reinforced, right down to the jarring, pseudo-Saskia de Brauw “wannabe” photo image.
For someone apparently unfamiliar with Rhee’s history, I assume it’s easy to “fall for her”, in more ways than one. Rhee is known for her ability to read and manipulate people, and leveraging that to get what she wants from them. Perhaps that explains the superficial and fawning coverage; however, it doesn’t justify or negate it.
Freishtat’s obsequious tone permeates this entire article. Her narrative demonstrates both a woeful lack of perception and the pangs of an aspiring, but malleable young journalist, desperately hoping to “stay in touch” with someone as wealthy and “connected” as Michelle Rhee.
I was at Rhee’s presentation, and the hall—with a surprising number of vacant seats—was far from “overflowing”. And a high percentage of that audience was clearly disturbed by Rhee’s “stage smile”, and overtly hostile to her many distortions and fabrications.
Ironically, one of the few clearly accurate parts of this story quoted Rhee as saying “if she could do it all over again, she would manage news sources better.”
Judging by the final copy in this “Edu Celebrity” piece, I’d say that Rhee has clearly accomplished the “news management” part of this—exceedingly well; she apparently managed to turn you from a news organization—at least in this instance—into a very compliant “marketing and promotions firm”, with all services courteously provided, gratis, by the compliant “professionals” at The Seattle Times.