May 3rd, 2009

Michelle Rhee in Washington, DC
Michelle Rhee in DC Series Podcast: Rhee speaks about her national media profile

( Click here to download the podcast )

Michelle Rhee discusses the impact of national media coverage on her relationship with DC’s teaching force, and by extension, the contract negotiations.

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Interesting that Rhee blames Time for using the witch photo for the cover, saying they had many other choices. Of course they wouldn’t have had the choice of that photo if she hadn’t posed for it.

Why would she pose for such a photo? Many people DC felt that it did a great job of capturing her personality. Maybe the photographer, skilled in the craft of capturing a subject’s essence, simply chose the most expressive photo.

Great point, E! I was thinking the same thing. She posed for the photograph and then passed on the accountability to the magazine for using it. And this from a woman who has become a media darling by preaching “accountablility”. If she had at least shown some contrition. Her explanantion confirms that she is more of a politician than an educator.

Chancellor Rhee says, ““In the op-ed I reiterated what I’ve said lots of times before, but I was just giving a more holistic view.” However, earlier comments she’s made do not support that statement.

Here are a few examples of what she said in the 2/9/09 Washington Post op-ed and what she’s said at other times during her tenure as head in DCPS

2/9/09 Op-ed: “I do not blame teachers for the low achievement levels.”
10/29/08 Five Year Plan: “too many of our teachers are not up to the demanding job of educating our youth effectively. We therefore plan to identify and transition out a significant share of the teaching corps in the next two years.” DCPS_Five-Year-Plan_Draft_Oct_29_2008.pdf page 26

2/9/09 Op-ed: Those who categorically blame teachers for the failures of our system are simply wrong.
11/08 Atlantic: “As a teacher in this system, you have to be willing to take personal responsibility for ensuring your children are successful despite obstacles…You can’t say, ‘My students didn’t get any breakfast today,’ or ‘No one put them to bed last night,’ or ‘Their electricity got cut off in the house, so they couldn’t do their homework.” http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200811/michelle-rhee

2/9/09 Op-ed: “Teachers deserve recognition and respect for their efforts.”
12/8-08 Time: “The thing that kills me about education is that it’s so touchy-feely”… People say, ‘Well, you know, test scores don’t take into account creativity and the love of learning,’… I’m like, ‘You know what? I don’t give a crap.’” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862444,00.html

Maybe in your next segment you confront Chancellor Rhee with some of her many contradictions and watch her talk her way out of them. She’s very good at that sort of thing. It would make good TV and would give viewers further insight into her character.

Please consider asking Chancellor Rhee which of these direct quotes reflects her attitude about teachers:

Time Magazine, 12/8/08: “We’re in Washington, D.C., in the nation’s capital, and yet the children of this city receive an education that every single citizen in this country should be embarrassed by.” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862444,00.html

Three months later, in a letter to DC teachers: “You are the agents of social justice in our nation’s capital. You’re far more powerful than the Senators and Congressmen who work just blocks away from our schools. By pushing forward in the face of daunting challenges, you are providing the one thing that will give our children the opportunities they all deserve: an excellent education.” http://www.k12.dc.us/chancellor/documents/Letter-from-Chancellor-Rhee-March-13-2009.pdf

Which is it, an education for the entire country to be embarrassed by or an excellent education in the face of daunting challenges? Has she changed her mind? If so, why would she want to replace a significant share of teachers?

Well done once again E —- clearly, you too have been doing some extra reading on the Chancellor. Thanks for putting her in the proper perspective. I wish the media would really ask these supposed titans of education the types of tough questions you propose. Not only that, it would be nice to see some major investigations into the whole standardized testing and related industry profiteering that NCLB has ushered in. Americans should be more familiar with the name Sandy Kress.

I’m learning (*reference below) that Chancellor Rhee of the DC Public Schools and Chairman Mao of the People’s Republic have both been media darlings in their day.

During the Chinese revolution, Edgar Snow of the Saturday Evening Post and NY Herald-Tribune described Mao as “direct, frank, simple, undevious.” Harvard Professor John K. Fairbank, upon his return from China, commented that “The Maoist revolution is on the whole the best thing that has happened to the Chinese people in centuries.” Simone de Beauvoir thought that “the power [Mao] exercises is no more dictatorial than, say, Roosevelt’s was,” and Sartre chimed in saying that Mao’s “revolutionary violence” was “profoundly moral.”

In the present day, hopefully those who speak out about their experiences with Chancellor Rhee’s administration will ultimately be taken seriously and won’t have the frustrating experience that Chinese Nationalist Captain Hsu Chen had after seeing some of Mao’s practices first hand. He wrote: “I talked to every visitor, til my tongue dried up and my lips cracked…I told them about the heartless and bestial deeds of the Communist bandits…. But I was unable to wake them up from their dreams, but rather aroused their aversion.”

*Source: Barbara Oakly, “Evil Genes” Prometheus Books, 2008 pp. 241, 242.

[...] Rhee speaks about her national media profile (5/3/09) [...]




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