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Michelle Rhee the Sarah Palin of school reform

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A law suit continues in California brought by Silicon Valley mogul David Welch and his faux populist front group Students Matter. Michelle Rhee, a leader in the school reform movement is also a party to this latest effort to bust teachers unions.

Welch hopes to pretend that inner city schools have a high percentage of incompetent teachers. They flip civil rights language on its head to pretend that teachers skills or lack thereof are a civil rights violation. This conveniently ignores study after study that places a high priority on poverty itself and a lack of classroom resources as the major culprits in inner city education issues. Rhee's solutions never deal with these issues at all.

Rhee has claimed that the public schools have a multitude of incompetent teachers and that Unions prevent them from being fired. If you kook a Rhee's first year as a teacher, where by her own admission she had few classroom management skills and at times demonstrated a lack of common sense, she could be construed as an incompetent teacher.

There is no reliable measure for identifying what incompetent means and often incompetent has really meant teachers with long teaching histories and tenure, advanced degree's and participation in the teachers unions Rhee hopes to bust. All teachers at present, must complete a series of education classes that include, child development, child psychology and teaching methods classes, then do student teaching and finally successfully pass standardized tests called the Praxis I and II tests that measure a teachers knowledge of teaching practice and their subject matter. Few professions are more rigorous in trying to make sure the art of teaching is practiced by each teacher with excellence.

Jim Horn described her as the Sarah Palin of school reform while others like Dr. Mercedes Schneider see her as sociopathic. I tend to see the whole school reform movement as a cheap corporate con that replaces education with indoctrination.

Because one of Rhee's stated goals is to get more teachers in the classroom with no formal training, the real motive of school reform would seem to be cheap labor and corporate profits not education quality. It also is hard to claim that a teacher with their M.Ed. is incompetent while someone with no training is a model of excellence.

Paulo Freire whose 1972 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed influenced my whole approach to teaching would look at school reform as an attempt to install a top down pedagogy of oppression, in short a banking or factory model of education, as opposed to a healthy dialogue between students and the teacher.

My experiences in the classroom demonstrated to me that there are a multitude of ways children learn. The factory model puts a premium on compliance not on critical thinking. The standardized testing does little beside identify what the corporate powers that be identify as essential knowledge with the tests mimicking the old factory quality controls making sure each student product meets factory specifications.

For the Michelle Rhee's of the world students don't really seem to matter, it is about vanity, celebrity and power not students.



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