Wednesday, October 13

That's Edu-tainment!

Ian Urbina and Sarah Wheaton,"Rhee, Washington Schools Chancellor, to Resign". October 13

GOODBYE, Failing DC Schools™, Hello AEI sinecure, Educational Consultant to NBC, and six-figure book deal; we'd like to see serial liar Rhee put her career where her lyin' lips have been, and sign up for seven years as a non-union teacher in a charter school. One which admits not just the identical depressed-socioeconomic-level students as its public school neighbors, filtered through parental interest, but the same percentage of learning and emotionally disabled, the same percentage of non-English speakers, and agrees to keep them there short of prison or death. Y'know, just like the real public schools do. (And good luck finding one.) Furthermore, we'd like to see her work her Education Miracle with hormonally-mazed eight graders, not 6 year-olds, on the grounds that that's the level where the US supposedly falls behind the rest of the world, also known as Scandinavia. We'd like to see her do it with independent observers there to make sure she isn't teaching to the test, and others making sure that Joel Klein isn't dumbing down the test itself. We wanna see her live on the income, make herself available 24/7 for student and parent calls, and have her pay cut at the whim of her boss, then be fired because she's accrued seniority. We still wouldn't believe her; that much is already settled. We just think it would be a good first step, like giving Eric Erickson and Jonah Goldberg fifteen-month hitches as forward artillery spotters, or putting a banker in prison for theft. You know: symbolic.

Comedy aside, why was Michelle Rhee's proboscis in the DC mayor's race in the first place? For the sake of the children? And having made that decision, and lost, how does she come to refuse to resign, as any half-honorable hack would've?

The first sports hero I ever chose for myself--I was a baseball fanatic from the cradle, but So's My Old Man--was the great Kansas miler Jim Ryan. He's the reason I became a track and field man. I've seen the start of the Indianapolis 500 from the pits. I saw Maris and Mantle hit back-to-back home runs in '61. My school was the last to win the NCAA Men's Basketball championship undefeated, and the Colts won a Super Bowl. And nothing has ever matched the excitement of just warming up in the infield before a dual meet, or hearing the breath go out of a guy as you passed him on the stretch of a quarter he though he had won. And there's not a record in the books now that isn't tainted, and all because nobody said anything while obvious cheats grabbed the glory. Just win, baby, and no thought for tomorrow. A whole generation of baseball stars won't be in the Hall. Lance Armstrong, who would've been a great and inspiring story, will instead be covered in chess for eternity. Just win.

And apparently no one under forty knows any different, and everyone over forty is too corrupt or conflicted to say anything. Joel Klein is a cheap political hatchet-man who either ran a con game or doesn't know one when he sees it; Michelle Rhee's accomplishments are writ in vapor. They're just the latest mouthpieces for a scam that's been going on since Brown, and which, in the past few decades, has found union-bashing more profitable than tightening the nuts and bolts of local educational systems. But they don't get called on it, even after the fact, even when they lose. We know teachers, or their unions, are not the problem with education; we know there's not a single problem to correct, or a single goal to reach; we know we couldn't reach it if there was. The whole thing's bullshit. It's not the first time somebody's tried to sell the stuff, but I'll be goddamned if I remember so many people being convinced they're eating Tootsie Rolls.

Anyway, so long, Michelle. I wish I could say Goodbye.


Fearguth said...

I've always suspected you had a soft spot in your heart for Michelle Rhee. Now it's more than a suspicion.

Davis X. Machina said...

There's no real, actual, existing constituency for improving public schools powerful enough to improve public schools. If there were, there wouldn't be the way they are now.

We have, after all, public schools, as good or as bad as the public is willing to stand for. They were not, pace "A Nation at Risk", imposed by some foreign occupying power.

What there are are pressure groups who have various uses for a school crisis as a tool to employ in the advocacy of issues unrelated to actual schools.

If -- conceding arguendo --our schools suck, it's because sucky schools have a constituency, more likely there is a constituency that on balance prefers sucky schools to other policy outcomes, and one that is large enough to drive policy.

Would that we had politicians honest enough to run on a platitude-free, low bullshit, platform of "They're bad, but hey, they're not that bad. This way you get to keep your money."

The decrease in hypocrisy would be a social good, all by itself.

Anonymous said...

Well, first of all, public schools don't suck. American public schools are great. The first lie is that there is a crisis. The correlation between educational outcome and parental income is a near perfect as you can get.
Second, the battle against public schools is a feint in the battle against pensions in America.
"Those darn unions!"

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher, or, more correctly, I TRY to be a teacher. While I agree that what is currently put forward as "problems"--reading, math, science scores, especially vis-a-vis Europe--are not the problem. These are just ways to fund(read: lots of $) test promotion entities (like ETS)and out-sourced edu organizations. But having said that, our schools do, in fact, have a problem. We have middle and high schools where
most students feel like losers. Much of what passes for acting-out, gang-banging, whoring, bullying and dropping out is an effort to mask students' feeling lost, alone and wandering aimlessly in an unfriendly universe, populated by dangerous strangers.
"The soul of the individual is the fate of the nation," as Theodore Ruszak said.

Fiddlin Bill said...


FDChief said...

"Much of what passes for acting-out, gang-banging, whoring, bullying and dropping out is an effort to mask students' feeling lost, alone and wandering aimlessly in an unfriendly universe, populated by dangerous strangers."

Perhaps, ummm, because the universe IS a relatively unfriendly place - in that a stray bullet, a speeding car, a flu virus will kill you in a heartbeat - populated by not particularly unfriendly but typically indifferent people, most of whom are strangers.

This has been unchanged since the Black Death.

The question is WHY is all of this happening in public schools NOW, at a time in civilization wealthier and safer than any in history.

I have no idea, but I can't imagine it is because the U.S. public schools circa 2010 are such a specially dangerous, unfriendly place to be lost in compared to, say, the industrial slums of Victorian England or central Germany during the Thirty Years' War.

-dg said...

I like your choice for Erickson and Goldbergs MOS, "hey guys, you just sit in this hole and watch, you don't have or run around or do anything, good luck". Somehow I suspect it is not a 15 month kind of job, but that's kind of a feature not a bug.