Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fenty, Rhee Learn Nothing

The mark of a mature human being is the ability to meet life's challenges with grace and dignity, accept the mistakes made along the way and learn from them.

Adrian Fenty does NOT seem to be able to do that:

After touring polls across the city, I encountered Fenty at 5 PM on the corner of Calvert Street and Wisconsin Avenue, in the heart of Ward 3. Polls were still open; Fenty was trolling for votes.

Would he have done anything differently?

“Absolutely not,” he said. “Of the hundreds of decisions I made, I would not have changed one. I have no regrets.”

Michelle Rhee has learned nothing from Fenty's nine point loss Tuesday either:

So, it turns out, the problem with school reforms in D.C. -- which contributed to the defeat of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary -- wasn’t that some of them were punitive and nonsensical. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said in an interview today that the people just didn’t get it.

It’s the people’s fault, actually.

In an interview that Rhee did today with Nora O’Donnell, a reporter for MSNBC and a conspicuous fan of Rhee’s, the chancellor concedes that “we didn’t do as good a job as I think we could have in communicating why we were making the decisions that we did that sort of led people to be suspicious.”

It’s a communications failure, as it were.

She further suggests that people didn’t like the reforms -- which include linking teacher pay to student standardized test scores (a terrible idea) and increasing the number of standardized tests kids must take (another rotten idea) because they were hard.

The people just don’t want “hard” reform.

“Reformers across the country knew when the mayor and I took these aggressive reforms on that it was going to be tremendously difficult... People need to see how hard the work is.”

Refusing to look at one's own actions, take responsibility for mistakes made, and adjust one's behavior accordingly - not, in my opinion, a mark of a mature human being.

Fenty and Rhee both prefer displacing blame onto others:

People just don't get it.

Consensus doesn't matter.

Only I have all the answers for the school system and I WILL force people to accept my will for the system or die (figuratively, of course) trying.

That is the Rhee way.

That is the Fenty way.

(It is the Bloomberg way too, and with such deep pockets, he often does get what he wants...)

That is the Chris Christie way.

This way of doing things seems to appeal greatly to the corporate media.

The op-ed writers at the News, Post and Times love it - my way or the highway, get tough with "those" people, push through reforms no matter the lack of consensus or evidence for them.

It is a fundamentally flawed way to govern, in my opinion.

It builds lots of resentment in the people shut out of the process, and in the case of the ed deform movement - funded by a few billionaires, developed by a few think tanks funded by those billionaires, and shoved through by a bipartisan contingent of corporate-friendly politicians - it is building more and more resentment among many parents, students and teachers.

We'll just have to keep fighting to have our voices heard.

The ed deformers have the money, the media and the politicians in their pockets.

But we can still take actions every day to push for a more inclusive, democratic school system that teaches students more than test prep.

We can do this in our schools, in the city, in the media, on the Internet.

As Howard Zinn once wrote:

We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.


  1. love zinn. love your blog. hope rhee gets her ass handed to her. perhaps the tide is turning. i won't be able to stay in education if it doesn't. the machine is chewing me up right now. it's just a matter of time before it spits me out.

  2. Hmm... sounds like the way oligarchy works.

  3. Anon, thanks for the kind words. I hope the tide is turning somewhat too. We'll see. Rhee sounded last night like she is gone. I hope so. She's an awful human being, so seeing her swept (yes, I said swept) out is nice. Now she can go back and keep an eye on KJ and make sure he doesn't maul any 16 year olds.