Michelle Rhee Offers To Take Someone's Dignity Away

There is a scene in John Merrow’s PBS feature on Michelle Rhee and described in his new book, The Influence of Teachers, in which Chancellor Rhee is talking with members of Merrow’s film crew and casually announces that she is about to fire someone – and asks the crew if they would like to tape it. Fire someone on video. The person’s dignity is stripped away. But so is the humanity of Michelle Rhee.
Mike Rose


Give It Back, Or We'll Take It Back

Let me not mince numbers. Over the last decade and more, median income has stagnated. Net worth has declined. Mass unemployment has become a chronic, unshakeable illness--and youth unemployment is a full-blown crisis. Happiness and satisfaction have flatlined, while trust and a deeper sense of meaning have plummeted. The picture is as undeniable as it is dismal: these trend lines map the contours of a deeply broken economy, society, and polity.

No amount of polite hand-wringing or half-hearted tweaks from the complacent frequent-flyer class will provide cover at this juncture. The message is clear: Unenlightened soul-sucking planet-eating bean counters of the universe, your day is over.
Umair Haque


Wednesday Cartoon Fun: The Gerbil In The Room Edition

Rhee Is Wrong. Again. It's About Poverty, Not Teachers

With so many dollar to raise (a billion of them) before the 2012 elections, who can blame [Rhee] for pulling lines out of her broomstick to spice up the slick ads for potential donors. Here is a recent fabulous fabrication that Michelle offers during a staged discussion led by Rupert Murdoch's chief advisor on education, Joel Klein:
"When I travel around the country talking about these issues, I inevitably come up against, you know, wealthy folks in the suburbs who say, 'Well, but my kids are fine,'" Michelle Rhee, a former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor, said during a recent gathering at The Daily.

"I say, 'Did you know that the top 5 percent of kids in America, the top five — the ones that are going to Choate and Andover and all these great places, they are 25th out of 30 nations, compared to their global counterparts?''
Could Rhee have gotten her numbers from Klein's researchers over at Fox News, where they simply make it up when the facts don't support their agenda? Michelle certainly did not get them from the most recent international test comparison (PISA) published by OECD, which has been all over the media since early December.
  • Of all the nations participating in the PISA assessment, the U.S. has, by far, the largest number of students living in poverty--21.7%. The next closest nations in terms of poverty levels are the United Kingdom and New Zealand have poverty rates that are 75% of ours.
  • U.S. students in schools with 10% or less poverty are number one country in the world.
  • U.S. students in schools with 10-24.9% poverty are third behind Korea, and Finland.
  • U.S. students in schools with 25-50% poverty are tenth in the world.
  • U.S. students in schools with greater than 50% poverty are near the bottom.
Jim Horn

Kenneth Mars: R.I.P.

Kenneth Mars (April 14, 1936 – February 12, 2011) was an American television, movie, and voice actor. He may be best-remembered for his roles in several Mel Brooks films: the insane Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind in 1968's The Producers, and the relentless Police Inspector Hans Wilhelm Fredrich Kemp in 1974's Young Frankenstein.


Monday Cartoon Fun: Egypt Edition


Poverty Will Overpower Education Reform, So Deal With It!

The biggest barrier to educational achievement today is not any of the things the media talk endlessly about: poorly prepared teachers, badly run schools, too many tests, low standards. It’s child poverty—which, like poverty in general, has just dropped out of the discourse. The Democrats don’t talk about it, except to wag the finger at deadbeat dads and teen moms, and the media don’t talk about it except in the context of crime or individual triumph. In fact, from the coverage you’d think our current crisis chiefly affected the middle classes—office managers, newly minted lawyers, college grads who have to move back in with their parents—when actually the unemployment rate for people with college degrees is 4.2 percent, which is where it was for all Americans before the recession. By contrast, for those with only a high school diploma unemployment is 9.4 percent; for high school dropouts it’s 14.2 percent. And those figures measure only those actively looking for work, not the millions who’ve given up or have never held a job (some 16.5 percent of black men over 20). All those women pushed off welfare, called success stories because they got a job as a receptionist or a security guard or a clerk, with supposedly the hope of something better to come? Forget them.

Inconveniently, though, the poor and near poor, whom we don’t care about, come attached to children, for whom we supposedly have some concern. So how are the kids doing?

Some facts from the National Center for Children in Poverty: one in five families is food-insecure, i.e., they don’t have enough food for everyone in the family at least some of the time. Health? Poor children are far more at risk than better-off kids: from secondhand smoke (32 percent vs. 12 percent of nonpoor children), low or moderate levels of lead in their blood (30 percent vs. 15 percent), lack of health insurance (16 percent vs. 8 percent) and lack of dental care (18 percent of poor kids hadn’t seen a dentist in the past year vs. 11 percent of nonpoor children, which is bad enough). Poor children are more likely to have asthma (18 percent vs. 13 percent). They are more likely to have missed five or more days of school for health-related reasons (20 percent vs. 15 percent). Twice as many poor parents report that their child has “definite or severe” emotional, behavioral or social problems (10 percent vs. 5 percent). Poor kids are also more likely to be obese, to get insufficient exercise, to be diagnosed with ADHD or other learning disabilities and to have mothers who are in poor health themselves. No wonder they are less likely to be described by their parents as being in very good or excellent health (71 percent vs. 87 percent).

Poor children’s home lives are more precarious. Almost one in five children in poor or low-income families had moved in the last year, which means disrupted schooling and stress. In 2007, 1.7 million kids had a parent in prison, including one in fifteen black children. In 2008, around 460,000 children spent time in foster care. In 2009, 2.2 million were being raised by grandparents or other relatives.

Poor kids are more likely to be raised by single mothers and to have parents who didn’t finish high school or go to college. Even just living with other poor people seems to harm kids. Those who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods have lower reading scores; so do low-income kids who go to schools where the student body is 75 percent or more minority. Most black and Latino kids attend such schools. By the age of 2, poorer children have fallen cognitively behind those from wealthier families.
Katha Pollitt

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