Rhee is pictured on the Time Magazine cover dressed in black and standing in a classroom with a broom- perhaps to encapsulate images of a witch and a muckraking reformer. Who knows? Michelle Rhee is being crowned the latest educational white knight with a silver bullet. Her major accomplishment in her one-and-a-half year D.C. tenor has been to cast a wide web of fear in the teaching and administrative profession as she has moved to dismiss both numerous teachers and administrators.
Rhee is also guaranteed style points by going after the teacher’s union- a familiar whipping boy largely because the union has never recognized that it needs to get beyond simply trying to get more money for teachers and actually try and do something to improve education.
But Rhee will ultimately fail (or rather accept a cushy policy-making post somewhere) largely because her assumptions about teachers are wrong. She’s looking for all teachers to be superstars and thereby applies the Lake Wobegon myth to the profession. “The biggest problem with U.S. public schools is ineffective teaching, according to decades of reseach,” writes the Time journalist with the Rhee messianic complex, a view to which Rhee certainly subscribes.
Well, first, decades of research have established that the biggest problem with American public schools is the unequal opportunities that children bring to the classoom. That has nothing to do with teaching and everything to do with society’s socio-economic differences, including genetic differences among schoolchildren.