As someone involved in the education reform movement, I hate to criticize Michelle Rhee. That said, if you want to bring about a better education system, you have to know the source of the problem. That’s the only way you can develop a solution.
Rhee’s article is an lesson in problem avoidance. It makes the point that education reform is a political battle. So far, so good. It’s high time that high profile people started talking like this, though I suspect much of that can be attributed to Chris Christie’s surviving the campaign of lies put out by the teachers unions and bloated bureaucracy.
Where the article fails is her failure to take on the 800 lb. gorilla in the education debate. After being successfully targeted for destruction by these engines of greed and mediocrity, Rhee turns tail and opines the this is what unions are supposed to do. This is a travesty.
What I’ve Learned
We can’t keep politics out of school reform. Why I’m launching a national movement to transform education.
The teachers’ unions get the blame for much of this. Elected officials, parents, and administrators implore them to “embrace change” and “accept reform.” But I don’t think the unions can or should change. The purpose of the teachers’ union is to protect the privileges, priorities, and pay of their members. And they’re doing a great job of that.
What next, Michelle? “Kim Jong Il’s role is to turn millions of North Koreans into brainwashed, undernourished midgets building bombs to terrorize neighboring nations, and he’s doing a great job of doing that.”
Not to paint the unions as bad as Kim Jong Il, but the comparison still fits. Teachers unions, along with the feather-bedded layers of administrative bloat, are the primary obstacle standing between the taxpayers and the educated populace they are paying for, but not getting.
Rhee’s argument would be much more powerful if she simply said that unions role in the education debate is morally illegitimate. They are preventing the nation from creating a just and effective education market, and they are doing so for the purpose of simple greed and power.
Why congratulate them for being immoral? Rhee at least gets one thing right when she closes her article with the following observation and action plan.
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.
[Just FYI, yours truly has been saying that for years now.]
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.
Fair enough, Michelle, but if you are really up for a fight, don’t unilaterally disarm yourself. The existing system needs to be dismantled, and it will take a good dose of righteous moral outrage on our part, directed at the morally illegitimate financial interests that have grown rich, protected and powerful that the expense of America’s children.
Americans turned against segregation when they saw the true nature of the segregationists. It’s time for us to do the same to the government/education complex. Telling people unions are “just doing their job” isn’t cutting it. Unionization has no place in the public sector. Every dime they extract is at taxpayer expense. Their existence is an outrage.