Parents, teachers, students, and citizens: The movement begins with you.
I could spend some time bashing Rhee, but, at the end of the day, it will be pointless. Whether we like it or not, her message resonates with many people. As polarizing as she is, she is continuing to press forward in her quest to reform public education that consistent with privatization. Plus, her allies of powerful, wealthy individuals and entities are growing. In a Newsweek cover story released today, Rhee made it clear not only she is in the fight for the long haul, but also she will fight against anyone who obstruct her efforts to "transform education" i.e., allow a corporate takeover of public schools. Just as in her condescending "manifesto" with her former boss, ousted DC mayor Adrian Fenty, she blamed teachers unions, school boards, and others for being obstacles to her brand of change; even though she acknowledged, in the Newsweek piece, she failed to involve teachers, parents and the community more during her tenure in DC. Essentially, Studentfirst.org will become a propagation instrument to further polarize the public in the education reform debate.
What I find most amusing, yet hypocritical of Rhee's new initiative is her rationale for conflict, as described in the final paragraph of the Newsweek article:
Lastly, we can’t shy away from conflict. I was at Harvard the other day, and someone asked about a statement that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and others have made that public-school reform is the civil-rights issue of our generation. Well, during the civil-rights movement they didn’t work everything out by sitting down collaboratively and compromising. Conflict was necessary in order to move the agenda forward. There are some fundamental disagreements that exist right now about what kind of progress is possible and what strategies will be most effective. Right now, what we need to do is fight. We can be respectful about it. But this is the time to stand up and say what you believe, not sweep the issues under the rug so that we can feel good about getting along. There’s nothing more worthwhile than fighting for children. And I’m not done fighting.
As passionate as she sounds, this is a woman who has NEVER -- to the best of my knowledge -- made a concerted effort to collaborate with others in reforming education, particularly with those who dissented her stance. Successful civil rights activists always sought consensus first! All of this hoopla are nothing more than Rhee using her public relations prowess to bulldozer her soundbites in the public psyche...and they are eating it up, begging for more.
There is a lesson to be learned here. We educators and public school advocates have to do a better job in getting the truth out. We all agree our public schools are broken and desperately need to be fixed; we diverge in how to do it, maybe with the exception of "cleaning house" at top-heavy central/district office. It is a sad case that ed deformers and teachers are fighting with one another over what is academically best for the children. But are children the REAL focus here? Both sides claimed so. However, the actions of both sides are contrary and questionable. Nevertheless, I will never side with anyone who oppose public schools and the professionalism of teachers. It will be ideal if both parties can actually put their differences aside and make reasonable compromises for the sake of the children. Unfortunately, that is a mere fantasy as the "righteous" ed deformers drew blood first, long before Studentsfirst.org. According to public opinion, Rhee and her ed deformer cohorts are winning, but it's not over yet.
UPDATE: In case you missed the Oprah episode when Rhee first announced Studentsfirst.org, you can see it below...