It’s been an interesting week in education news. Michelle Rhee is taking heat for her failure to acknowledge a memo regarding cheating in her district, and Ben Chavis’s American Indian Public Charter School had its charter revoked by the Oakland Unified School District because of Chavis’s money embezzlement. It comes to my mind that so many of these charlatans in the ed reform movement could never have gotten as far as they have without journalists willing to sing their praises. But even these adoring journalists may be increasingly unable to portray them in a positive light. Michelle Rhee benefits from journalists like Richard Whitmire, who praised her in his 2011 book, The Bee Eater, as well as David Gregory of Meet the Press. Gregory even had this to say to Rhee at an education panel in 2010 as she prepared to step down from DC Public Schools:
“Before we begin, we have Chancellor Michelle Rhee here, and I just want to say publicly what I say privately, which is, thank you for what you’ve done, thank you for your commitment, for your leadership, for your stick-to-it-ness and for the result that you have achieved. Washington, D.C. will miss you greatly… But your commitment to kids and to education endures and there will be a great many people lining up to support you and your efforts.”
Fortunately, Frontline PBS poked a hole in the generally positive media narrative by raising serious questions about the cheating scandal.
As for Chavis, information about the ridiculous nature of the school that he was running has been available for a long time, but Washington Post education journalist Jay Matthews, as recently as this week, lamented the fact that the “nation’s best high school,” could be getting shut down. For years, Chavis’s network of schools have been unapologetic in their use of humiliating disciplinary tactics, as well as their lack of computers and refusal to hold field trips earlier in the year before testing is finished. Every educator that I know recognizes it as a grim and joyless model of education, as well as one that does not prepare students to be innovative or creative thinkers. And yet, one of the nation’s top education journalists chooses to allow himself to be enthralled.
Luckily, I think the public (and school districts) are starting to wake up to what phonies these supposed reformers are. It’s becoming evident to more and more people that Rhee fostered a culture of fear and paranoia in DC related to testing that led to cheating. The evidence that she ignored a memo about this cheating casts her role in an even worse light. In Chavis’s case, anyone who has bothered to read about his school can see that it was one of America’s worst schools, not one of its best. I’m hopeful that even Jay Matthews’ positive coverage will not be able to obscure this fact.
On this site, Gary Rubinstein has referred to the ed reform movement as a bubble. The bubble appears to be bursting.