"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Michelle Rhee's Minstrel Rendition of the Plight of Poor Parents

Michelle Rhee, self-proclaimed lifelong Democrat, suffers the same problem as many other "Democrats" who believe that schools can achieve alone what poverty makes impossible.  For some, this phenomenon represents a disabling stupidity that arises when wishful thinking pokes your eyes out; for others like Rhee, it represents the most crass form of self-serving cynicism and exploitation of the poor.  For in the process of celebrating her feigned blindness to the real problems of health gaps, job gaps, food gaps, housing gaps, opportunity gaps, and quality of life gaps, Rhee uses the test score gap as an excuse to adopt the corporate welfare policies of the Oligarchs who sign her paycheck every week, who don't give a rat's patootie about the poor who provide the pawns in their hard-fisted game of crushing public institutions and labor unions, while psychologically sterilizing the poor.

In this post at HuffPo, she dumps the toxic voucher term for the more misleading "private school scholarships:"

. . . .I know some advocates of private school scholarships [school vouchers paid for with tax money] hope for a system where eventually all public financing for schools would follow children to the school their parents choose. I take an approach that puts more faith in the public school system. I believe we can improve our public schools. But as many traditional districts around the country are seeing, giving parents choice in the form of charter schools and private scholarships forces districts to improve to keep their students. I'm not for school choice for its own sake. I am for choice because it can, directly and indirectly, provide better opportunities for low-income children -- not simply more opportunities.
I also believe schools that receive public funding to educate poor kids ought to be held accountable for student progress. That means, like public schools, they should have to measure academic growth in objective ways, such as on standardized tests.
I don't believe in silver bullets. I don't think there is any one answer to fixing this country's educational shortcomings, and I don't believe private scholarships alone are the answer. Rather, I think in the long run, our school system should include a mix of high-quality traditional public schools, successful public charter schools and private schools attended by some low-income children who receive publicly funded scholarships. I believe that kind of mix will create the right opportunities and choices to serve our kids well and push our educational system toward becoming what we want and need it to be. . . .

Michelle's minstrel version of educational justice for the poor has been played to exhaustion, and what is left as the blackface rubs off is the pure racism and total disregard for the people she exploits in order to score ideological points for the corporate education deform agenda.

Does she really believe that the public does not know that the voucher and charter solution has been discredited even on the basis of the only criterion that she cares about: test scores?  Does she really believe that forcing private schools to adopt the same dumbed down high stakes tests that we have forced onto our public schools will make them better or serve any legitimate definition of accountability?  Does Rhee forget the corruption that resulted from her own test-driven reign in DC, the one now under investigation?  Does she really believe that draining away millions of tax dollars to pay for corporations to run charter schools or pirvate religious schools can in any way strengthen public schools by making them poorer?

If she were really concerned about poor parents looking for quality schools, she would be a real leader, rather than the nasty corporate neoliberal sheep that she has become.  That would require her to speak up for making quality education an important component of building and rebuilding quality communities where people have real jobs, mental and physical health and respect, rather than some positivized pipe dream that cannot entirely scrub the reality of hunger, deprivation, and all the other effects of poverty.  Education must be central piece of that larger effort to reform poor communities, but schools or teachers can never do it alone, especially while those oligarchs rich enough to do something about poverty continue to ignore it even as they prey on the poor by taking what little public investment remains for them to benefit their own bottom lines.  Could there be a worse way to make a living?  How do people like Rhee sleep at night?

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