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Posted at 12:57 PM ET, 01/22/2011

What Rhee’s comments about her children say about her

By Valerie Strauss

Suddenly parenting styles are in the news, thanks to Yale law professor Amy Chua’s new book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” which espouses Chinese traditions of child rearing that, in Chua’s case, included rejecting her kids’ homemade birthday cards for their lousy quality and forcing one of her daughters to do 2,000 math problems a night after she came in second in a math competition.

(Why didn’t you and I think of that?)

Now we hear from Michelle Rhee, former D.C. schools chancellor and rock-star school reformer, who recently said the following about her two children and aptitude for soccer:

"We’ve lost our competitive spirit. We’ve become so obsessed with making kids feel good about themselves that we’ve lost sight of building the skills they need to actually be good at things.

"I can see it in my own household. I have two girls, 8 and 12, and they play soccer. And I can tell you that they suck at soccer! They take after their mother in athletic ability. But if you were to see their rooms, they’re adorned with ribbons, medals and trophies. You’d think I was raising the next Mia Hamm.

"I routinely try to tell my kids that their soccer skills are lacking and that if they want to be better, they have to practice hard. I also communicate to them that all the practice in the world won’t guarantee that they’ll ever be great at soccer. It’s tough to square this, though, with the trophies. And that’s part of the issue. We’ve managed to build a sense of complacency with our children."

I could ask why she is insulting her children in public to make a point, but that would be so American of me, so I won’t. Instead:

1) Rhee doesn’t blame the soccer coach for not raising the level of her children’s play. Instead, she blames their own lack of ability -- which she notes is such that all the practice in the world might not help them be great.

It seems fair, then, to ask, why Rhee insists that teachers should be held solely accountable for how well students do; she has even argued that it is fair to take a child’s standardized test score and use it to evaluate his or her teachers and determine their compensation. Hmmmm.

2) I’m going to assume that Rhee's comment that her children “take after their mother in athletic ability” is not an argument that genetics is dispositive, because, of course, that doesn’t leave much room for improvement by means of education. It also justifies telling kids that all the practice in the world at something won’t make them great.

But Rhee says all this in the context of how Americans have “become so obsessed with making kids feel good about themselves that we’ve lost sight of building the skills they need to actually be good at things.”

Yes, a self-esteem movement in this country did exist, and yes, it did go overboard in trying to make kids feel great about themselves, and yes, it is true that telling kids (and adults) that they are great doesn’t make them great.

That doesn’t mean that bashing kids over the head is a better approach to getting the most out of them. Ultimately, they just wind up with a bashed head. (And yes, as always, there are exceptions -- Chua’s children, for example, who seem to have turned out to be lovely people and who defend their mother’s harsh parenting approach. But the failure of one extreme is hardly a case for another extreme.)

Getting back to Rhee's recent comments, she further said:

"Take as a counterpoint South Korea, where my family is originally from. In Korea, they have this culture that focuses on always becoming better. Students are ranked one through 40 in their class and everyone knows where they stand. The adults are honest with kids about what they’re not good at and how far they have to go until they are number one. Can you imagine if we suggested anything close to that here? There would be anarchy."

Her comparison to South Korea is perplexing. She seems to be holding it up as some sort of model for American schools. Yet the South Korean education system works much differently from the kinds of systems that Rhee herself supports in the United States.

For one thing, the South Korean system from kindergarten through high school is run by a centralized government administration. Rhee, a champion of charter schools that by definition operate outside central bureaucracy, can’t be in favor of that, can she?

And yes, South Korean students do exceptionally well on international tests. But consider this, from an article in Asia Times Online:

"What the stats don’t tell is how drearily authoritarian classes often are. Flair and creativity are rarely rewarded. Instead, teachers drum into students a ton of stuff they must learn by rote so as to jump through hoops leading up to the all-important university entrance examination."

And there’s this, from a 2010 article entitled “The Reluctance of Korean Education in the Face of Change” in the Academic Leadership Journal :

“In general, the Korean system of education does not seem to value student creativity as a notable asset and thus it is hard for people with new innovative ideas to move to the forefront of the system in order to bring about positive change and to create something so great that the whole world would give it merits in the form of a Nobel Prize.”

This can’t be what she supports either, can it?

Rhee doesn’t believe in social promotion, but, in South Korea, grade retention is not permitted (nor, for that matter, is it permitted in Japan -- or Finland).

Rhee has evolved into a national spokesperson for modern school reform. That’s why what she says is important. But when she says things like the above, it is fair to ask whether she is, in fact, the best person to be at the forefront of a serious reform movement.

-0-

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 22, 2011; 12:57 PM ET
Categories:  Michelle Rhee, School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  amy chua, battle hymn of the tiger mother, chinese mother, education in finland, finland schools, grade retention, michelle rhee, parenting styles, rhee and soccer, soccer, social promotion, south korean schools, tiger moms, tiger mother  
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Comments

Touche Valerie... It appears Ms. Rhee speaks with a forked tongue.

Posted by: Incidentally | January 22, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

How about this take-off on Rhee’s comment in the Atlantic about teacher responsibility:

“As a soccer coach in this system, you have to be willing to take personal responsibility for ensuring your children are successful despite obstacles…You can’t say, ‘they suck at athletics,’ or ‘they get no encouragement at home,’ or ‘Their mother has no athletic ability.”
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200811/michelle-rhee

Or this riff from the Harvard alum newsletter:

“People told me I couldn’t do make kids soccer stars because the kids came from athletically deprived homes, that they sucked at soccer, just like their parents,” she recalls. “The reality was that they went from the bottom to the top, and their home environment didn’t change. What changed were the adults in front of them who were coaching. That gave me the conviction that athletic outcomes are dependent upon what the adults are doing.” http://www.hks.harvard.edu/news-events/news/alumni/michelle-rhee

Posted by: efavorite | January 22, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the supreme irony of Michelle Rhee is that she herself subscribes to the Tiger Mom philosophy, which can be roughly translated to "The parent is the primary educator of the child and so you'd better not let up for a second or your kid might fail." Yet she and so many other people are trying to pretend that the teacher alone (i.e. without the cooperation of the parents) can be successful." Why?

Someone with knowledge about how children learn should be at the forefront of educational reform.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 22, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

What Michelle Rhee misses here is that we have teams that kids can play on even if they are not the greatest--even if they don't practice. Do her kids have fun playing soccer? That's all that matters right now. I just came from a recreation league 7th-grade basketball game. As I watched the boys play, Michelle Rhee's words came into my head: "These kids suck at basketball." But it doesn't matter because they are playing for fun. Some might rise above the pack and play more serious basketball in the future, but right now, all these 7th graders of varying heights, abilities, and weights (all playing together) is a beautiful sight.

Posted by: ocisab | January 22, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Whatever happened to playing sports for FUN?? Fresh air and exercise are an added benefit, as is learning to be a part of a team.

My daughter was terrible at softball--but she loved it. She knew she was not good enough to play on a high school team, but she continued to play in a rec league. She improved evey year and it was a great experience for her. We were her best cheerleaders, but we never told her how "good" she was. (We also didn't bust her for poor performance. Any kid knows when he has done a sorry job. The parent does not need to reinforce that--unless it is a true lack of effort.)

Posted by: mmkm | January 22, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The article seems to stray from understanding the essence of each woman's core beliefs and parenting style: for Chua, the standard she holds for her children, combined with the quality of the relationship she has built with them. In the end, both survived and thrived, based on how her girls have turned out, and have retained their relationship with one another. For Rhee, she simply said that the the quality of her daughter's soccer skill does not equate with the level of accolade decorating their rooms. Rhee's core belief is trying to instill an accurate reflection (from her sacred position as parent, as does Chua. I am assuming they are said in the context of a loving relationship) of their ability, their effort, and the payoff they received. She likens this to South Korea's perspective that children get an accurate reflection of ability, effort and standing. All of the examples of Chua's eforts (2000 math problems) or Rhee's comparison (rank order of 1-40) are far too extreme for my household and value system, but I embrace the fundamental belief system that both women hold.
As mothers and fathers, our best parenting techniques (and discipline) are based in our loving, honest assessment of our children's natural abilities, temperament, drive and developmental phase. If we aren't up for the task, then the teachers and coaches of the world do step into that role, with some obvious deficit in the devotion to the long range balanced success of the child.
Parenting that is engaged but dispassionate (in its truest meaning: fair, just, calm) teaches our children about themselves (how they learn, how they apply themselves, how they achieve) might be the best action towards "anti-entitlement," "anti-slacking," "anti-whining," and "anti-where-do-I-fit-malaise," alas, the true "anti-drug."

Posted by: esseww | January 22, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Linda asks, "Yet [Rhee] and so many other people are trying to pretend that the teacher alone (i.e. without the cooperation of the parents) can be successful. Why?"

Perhaps because in the case of poor kids, she puts the teacher in the place of the parents - stupid, of course - and insulting to the parents, and of no help to the kids.

As long as reformers insist that teachers are completely responsible for kids' education, they are not helping kids; they are just helping the teacher turn-over rate, which in turn helps the teacher recruiting and training firms.

In other words, this attitude keeps adults employed - but not the ones who are directly helping children.

Posted by: efavorite | January 22, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully her ex will get full custody of the kids when she moves to Sacramento.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 22, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully her ex will get full custody of the kids when she moves to Sacramento.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 22, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Some highly effective educators are still not grasping the reality: parents are not going to get "better" at parenting, coaching, etc., anytime soon. And there's little the govt or teachers can do about that--in several consecutive lifetimes.

Teachers need to face the reality of the students coming to school as-is. It's sad but true. The related reality is that the kids can't wait for more inaction by some of those paid to be instrumental in their education.

Since the response of even some talented educators is to take zero responsibility for any portion of education and to blame results on everything but their own performance, as well as to resist perf measurement, teachers and their unions draw expected attention. This comes from parents, other citizens, our elected representatives, and numerous other stakeholders.

The next few political campaigns will be notable for both parties largely agreeing on this view. It hardly took Rhee to light this fire; it was already burning many, many years before she arrived in Washington.

Posted by: axolotl | January 22, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

If Rhee and Chua think the countries of their ethnic heritage are so much better, then why don't they move there?

Rhee should also mention that her IMPACT masterpiece does NOT allow teachers to speak to students as she speaks to her children. If we do, we are marked down--not that I would speak to my students as she and Chua speak to their children. In my opinion, they are abusive mothers.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 22, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

In the same interview when M. Rhee said her kids "suck" at soccer, she also said this--

Interviewer: Why are you so impatient?

Rhee: I went to this conference the other day, on innovation, and they were talking about how kids who grew up in immigrant families and farm families were the best innovators—perhaps because the farm culture encourages tinkering and such. And I said,

“Let me break this down for you: What farm families and immigrant families have in common is their attitude toward kids—

‘Shut up, stop whining, and work hard.’

....and later, she says this--

Interviewer: How does that relate to education?

Rhee: Look how we’re treating our teachers. We’re going to treat all teachers the same: You’re all great. No, you’re not. Some of you suck. Some of you are great. Reward the great ones, fire the sucky ones, right?

here's the link to the article in the Washingtonian

”http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/people/17501.html---

What does this mean about our country that so many leaders in elected office, corporate boardrooms and the media have elevated and empowered someone who thinks and speaks like this about children and the professionals who teach them?

Posted by: AWCG | January 22, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

axolti, I think you have missed the point. Teachers do know and accept children "as is" and understand that parents might not change. Teachers are fine with that and educating all of the students in their classroom; they are simply tired of being expected to have students at grade level when they enter the classroom 4 years behind, or when they have just arrived to the country and speak very little English.
They are tired of having people state teaching is easy despite the odds in many students' lives. They are tired of districts creating a one size fits all evaluation system, that compares wealthy wards results to the poorest. The teachers know the reality; the problem is people who pretend the reality has no effect on the classroom.

Posted by: researcher2 | January 22, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Does Washington Post have healthcare benefits? Counseling, professional or otherwise? Valerie, darling, you are obsessed with Michelle Rhee. It is not healthy. I am not sure if you are aware, but people have let go of Rhee and so should you. Please go out and find more intriguing stories. Rhee, the swiftly forgotten despot, is the very educational hyperbole of “the sky is falling.” In comparison to Jay and Turque (whose stories I gladly read and share with my students), I am shocked WP still prints your stories (which I BAN from my classroom).

In short, if you worked in DCPS, you would have been fired by now for not composing favorable pieces. Finland, Korea....what's next? Albania? Where is your all-American optimism for DC children? I am not sure what will take to kick up a notch in your writing: an editor's scold, a firm reprimand from the supervisor, Prozac, or a vacation?!! Whatever you do, please insert some vibrancy. Like other media conglomerates are making promises about Palin, you should try not to write about Rhee in the month of February at all.

Rhee-Free February!!! You see, it even rhymes.

Have a nice weekend.

Posted by: inickdc | January 22, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Ironic to read this just after Sargent Shriver, who along with his wife Eunice established the Special Olympics, passed from the scene. By the words from Rhee, she clearly would oppose Special Olympics, which has done more positive for special needs children than anything else in my 64+ years on the face of this earth.

Posted by: teacherken | January 22, 2011 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I suppose my age is showing, but I just can't grasp the fact that someone who says people "suck" would be held in high esteem by citizens who should know better. Rhee's speech does indeed reveal much about her but many people don't seem to hear it. I find it very puzzling.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 22, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

axolotl will never name names.

@"What does this mean about our country that so many leaders in elected office, corporate boardrooms and the media have elevated and empowered someone who thinks and speaks like this about children and the professionals who teach them?

Posted by: AWCG"

Ditto.

Miss Rhee has spoken the way she does because she knows she will not be questioned on it. Reporters do not have the background to compare, as she speaks, what she just said to what she said in another venue.
Do you think that for one minute that Jay Mathews or someone at a cocktail party will ask her why she lied on her resume about the Baltimore Miracle?

Posted by: edlharris | January 22, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Something organizational science teaches is that people "tune out" negativity. Hence, regardless of the effect it has on the employee as a person, to get the most work out of people, stroke their egos.

Posted by: blasmaic | January 22, 2011 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Rhee complains about praising children for no real accomplishments and giving them a false sense of said accomplishments. So what is it when a person inflates their own accomplishments, such as claiming to have raised the proficiency of their students from the 13th percentile to the 95th in one year, or jiggling around with who gets to take the test (keeping low performers off the test) then claiming you raised test scores? She wants to have it all - she wants to pretend to be some toughie who doesn't put up with this false praise except when it is directed towards herself and is based on false accomplishments. She has absolutely no shame.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | January 22, 2011 8:15 PM | Report abuse

I was wondering when I would read an article that pointed out that Chua's parenting style directly challenges the idea that the teacher controls all the factors in a child's academic success. I refer to the idea that the "most important factor in the child's learning is the teacher."

I have known students like Chua's children. They are extremely easy to teach.

South Korea probably does have a good education system. But don't South Korean moms take on a lot of responsibility in teaching their kids at home?

The cultural factors in South Korea, and Chua's family are so important when it comes to achievement. It makes me feel uncomfortable because I was taught that it is important to have fun.

Rhee points out the different values she has for the kids when playing soccer. She tells them that to be good at soccer they have to practice. She's right.

Mainstream American culture thinks playing organized sports for fun is important for children. Other cultures think academics, piano playing or hard work (in the case of lower working class immigrants) is more important.

Chua thought playing the piano was highly important and she made her daughter practice for hours. She didn't think acting in a school play was important. The American cultural value of everyone working together to put on a play was lost on her. The soccer trophy for participating and learning teamwork and trying is lost on Rhee.

Parents emphasize what they think is important. All parents do this, but they do it about different things.

Americans care a lot about fun and sports. Other Americans like video games and watching TV. Others think homework is important.

I strive to make sure my children think learning is fun. We read, act out plays, make up math word problems for fun. We play math puzzles all the time. Maybe someone from another culture would think I'm crazy trying to make everything fun all the time, since real life is not always easy.

What is "better"? To teach kids to love learning or to excel? Can both be done at the same time? Does having fun mean you are not pushing the child or student hard enough?

What about rote learning vs. creative learning? Creativity is very difficult. Not everyone can handle that. Don't we under employ memorization here? Shouldn't we teach the power of memory, how to think critically and how to be creative? If we teach all three, standardized tests that depend on rote learning will give poorer results. What are our goals?

Posted by: ubblybubbly | January 22, 2011 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Another excellent article, Valerie.

We all know Rhee's management style is that of the "Chinese Tiger Mother" but, let's hope her parenting is far less severe than that of Chua. How much do you want to bet that Dunan and Obama are extolling Mrs/Dr Choa's parenting style?


Posted by: lacy41 | January 22, 2011 8:22 PM | Report abuse

As a leading spokesperson for the new reformers, Rhee represents the selective use of data to promote ideology—without regard to the full picture that invariably discredits that ideology. . .

Rhee, along with Gate and Duncan, are ironically offering data themselves that inexperience and a lack of expertise does NOT qualify someone to be an expert in education. . .A modicum of knowledge about statistics, the history of education, and the complex nature of teaching and learning would serve them all well. . .

http://dailycensored.com/2010/12/02/the-education-celebrity-tour-legend-of-the-fall-pt-ii/

http://dailycensored.com/2010/12/17/fire-teachers-reappoint-rhee-legend-of-the-fall-pt-iii/

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Finnish-Envy-by-Paul-Thomas-101214-873.html

Posted by: plthomas3 | January 23, 2011 7:50 AM | Report abuse

I never cease to be amazed at how inarticulate Rhee is. I've seen her speak a number of times and have read dozens of articles in which she is quoted. Other than her twisted perception of education, I always come away amazed at her vocabulary and word useage.

Posted by: lulu99 | January 23, 2011 7:58 AM | Report abuse

"We’ve lost our competitive spirit. We’ve become so obsessed with making kids feel good about themselves that we’ve lost sight of building the skills they need to actually be good at things."

I agree. Our schools became feel good factories, t-ball leagues: That's where no one kept score; everyone was declared a winner; and in the end, everyone got a trophy. Talk about ridiculous. This mindset is why some reformers have called for competition to be incorporated into our schools.

And yes Valerie, you are obsessed with Michelle Rhee. She's left DC. It might be helpful if you focused on different topics - at least with some of your columns. There's more to talk about in 2011 in education and education reform than Michelle Rhee.

Posted by: phoss1 | January 23, 2011 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Call out Rhee for her hostile behavior and harsh speech directed toward her own children, students, and teachers. The antagonistic words make her very small, and she’s becoming a wacky cartoon character.

Individuals who consistently demonstrate narcissistic behavior traits and continually seek the limelight are unfit to lead any organization. Rhee makes it all about her as she uses others for personal gain.

Before interviewing Rhee, require journalists to shadow teachers in classrooms for a week and the dialogue will change.

Will China and Korea welcome her padded resume and masking tape? How long would Rhee’s nonsense and hostility last in Finland?

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | January 23, 2011 8:18 AM | Report abuse

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/education/jan-june11/koreaschools_01-21.html

This was a recent PBS commentary on S. Korean's Educational System, anybody who is reading this particular column should watch this clip.
This is like a nature vs. nurture debate which has never produced a clear conclusion.
Rhee is a national icon for the politicians who are throwing out what is good about our system in the name of improving education. We need reform, but not "Rhee reform." Her hypocrisy does need to be made public and I thank you for writing this article.

Posted by: ananna | January 23, 2011 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I agree with plthomas and the comment, "As a leading spokesperson for the new reformers, Rhee represents the selective use of data to promote ideology—without regard to the full picture that invariably discredits that ideology. . ."

SELECTIVE USE OF DATA... this is key. This data is nothing more than controlled and culled numbers used to support opinion yet POSING AS FACT. Why else do these business style education "reformers" do anything and everything they can to deny those with opposing views equal airtime???? And now with this new emphasis on child rearing... I wonder if competition is being taken to an extreme. Rhee is certainly entitled to have her opinions on education and child-rearing. Yet I now wonder if there will be a new "strategy" to promote a different culture's model of child-rearing? WIll those with her viewpoints create strategy to try and force-feed this on American parents? This is the unfortunate current "status quo" by those favoring a privitized business model of education. Why not a business model of parenting? Children are referred to as "human capital" by these education reformers!! With Klein working for Rupert Murdock, Bloomberg gaining school control in NYC and hiring Cathie Black (media mogul) as school superintendent and the likes of Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey dangling money at cash-starved school systems... the media is becoming under the control of a "single viewpoint"... hmmm is this not what we preach is one of the wrongs in countries like China, Cuba, North Korea and the likes... CENSORSHIP?????

Posted by: teachermd | January 23, 2011 9:00 AM | Report abuse

The problem with the DC schools is that they keep hiring unqualified and incompetent heads such as Michelle Rhee. You read it right, Rhee was unqualified and incompetent. In most states, Rhee barely qualifies to substitute teach. In many states, she could not substitute teach. So, DC had a person who could not get a job as a substitute teacher in most states heading the entire school system? To start with school reform, simply look at who is hired to run the DC schools: the unqualified and incompetent. Rhee was incompetent because she did not realize and understand HOW to run a school system.

Why does most of the media consider her competent in any way?

Posted by: fishman2 | January 23, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone read Sen. Kennedy's account of being sexually molested by his boarding school headmaster when he was 8? He didn't tell his parents, partly for the same reasons children don't report this--the headmaster was on the scene and his parents weren't, the headmaster was an adult in power and he was just a kid, he was ashamed and embarrassed, etc.--but also because he had been taught by his parents not to complain about unpleasant events or difficult situations but just to deal with them. In other words, to "Shut up, stop whining, and work hard."

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 23, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I think the problem the issue of teachers input and parent input is a difficult problem. The teachers I know do take their kids "as is" but recognize they are not the only factor. Partnering with parents is part of their job, but some parents are just AWOL, some because they are incapable of being constructive partners in their kids education, and some because they need to be educated as to how to be a good partner. My kids teachers always thank me for what I do with my kids that make their job easier. All my kids teachers are glad to have me, and do express concerns about kids that never have homework done, or always are late to school etc. My kids are in a DCPS title one school (60% school lunch eligible population). Their class just took the SAT-10 for the class level one above them and all passed, but my kids were in the advanced and top of their class. The big differential was not the teacher, but home. I, unlike many parents at the school have the resources for music lessons and other outside of school academic experiences, as well as a spouse. Many other parents are holding down two jobs and are lucky to check their home work, and many single parents. They need both those jobs to feed and clothes their kids. Putting it all on parents or teachers is crazy. Rhee is crazy in both directions it would seem.

Posted by: Mulch5 | January 23, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss-

You are completely devoid of any alternatives. You have no idea how to evaluate teachers- except by how many empty compliments they give you. You don't even comment on the substance of Rhee's comments. Instead, you create false contradictions.

Rhee says that making children aware of their performance is good, as is done in Korea- you choose an irrelevant aspect of Korean schools, their centralized nature and say that contradicts her position on charters. Contrary to brittle, limited mind such as yours, Rhee is obviously able to observe some positive aspects of that system without assuming you have to take all of them. So, you are wrong.

"Rhee doesn’t blame the soccer coach for not raising the level of her children’s play. " How do you know? She's not even addressing that part of the issue. She is addressing the point that the children are being given the feeling that they are great players without actually being great players. It is the culture of low standards for students argument, nothing to do with the teaching ability side of the equation. So, you are wrong again.

"I’m going to assume that Rhee's comment that her children “take after their mother in athletic ability” is not an argument that genetics is dispositive, because, of course, that doesn’t leave much room for improvement by means of education."
And your sarcasm fails here, because that isn't what she said. Of course there is a genetic component in learning ability, but even though great amounts of practice might not make you into Mia Hamm, and great amounts of studying won't always get you into Harvard, it WILL make you better. That's the point. End of story. Strauss wrong again.

It would be an exhausting waste of time to document all of your errors, but why not stop being a bitter, whining loser? It's fair to ask why a major publication like the Washington Post pushes this nonsense.

Posted by: staticvars | January 23, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

@It's fair to ask why a major publication like the Washington Post pushes this nonsense.
Posted by: staticvars | January 23, 2011 1:23 PM


And why do you bother to read and comment on such"nonsense."


@And yes Valerie, you are obsessed with Michelle Rhee. She's left DC. It might be helpful if you focused on different topics - at least with some of your columns. There's more to talk about in 2011 in education and education reform than Michelle Rhee.
Posted by: phoss1 | January 23, 2011

Valerie does comment on other topics. However, C'est Moi is positioning herself as an advocate of children and students, backed by fake data and strawman. She should be countered and questioned all the time. Oprah and Brian Williams aren't doing it.


I would like to see Valerie take up the status of libraries in public schools. The online article about the pathetic conditions of the Ballou HS library needs more coverage.
(And why did Katherine Bradley funnel $100,000 to Miss Rhee to pay Anita Dunn? That money would have been better spent at Ballou.)

Posted by: edlharris | January 23, 2011 1:41 PM | Report abuse

yes, ed, it seems that phoss and staticvars have at least as big a Valerie Strauss problem as Strauss has a Michelle Rhee problem.

Surely Rhee can take a little criticism.

Fear not -- Strauss doesn't have nearly the reach or influence that Rhee has -- yet.

Posted by: efavorite | January 23, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

yes, ed, it seems that phoss and staticvars have at least as big a Valerie Strauss problem as Strauss has a Michelle Rhee problem.

Surely Rhee can take a little criticism.

Fear not -- Strauss doesn't have nearly the reach or influence that Rhee has -- yet.

Posted by: efavorite | January 23, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Readers of history know that in times of great economic hardship, false prophets often appear and scapegoats are often named.

In these difficult times, "educational reformers" and others are trying to undermine confidence in our public schools in order to privatize these schools and gain access to the money. Teachers have become the scapegoats for these unconscionable frauds, probably because they are the biggest protectors of public education.

One of our greatest institutions and the bedrock of our democracy, our public schools, are being attacked. Many of us think it is extremely important to fight this. Until recently many journalists did not see what was happening but now more and more are speaking out. Valerie Strauss was one of the first.

So, Staticvars, the defense of public education is far from "nonsense" to many of us. Please join the fight to defend quality public education for ALL children.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 23, 2011 2:52 PM | Report abuse

"What the stats don’t tell is how drearily authoritarian classes often are. Flair and creativity are rarely rewarded. Instead, teachers drum into students a ton of stuff they must learn by rote so as to jump through hoops leading up to the all-important university entrance examination."

This is what I have heard about the education in India.

Posted by: educationlover54 | January 23, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

i can see rhee being a tiger mom,she hardly speaks about her children you can tell the way she talks about teachers always bashing them for everything

Posted by: annettecovington35 | January 23, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

"Fear not -- Strauss doesn't have nearly the reach or influence that Rhee has -- yet."

Yup...just Like Sarah Palin who has huge influence but all she knows is run her mouth.

Posted by: washingtonian2011 | January 23, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse

eddy harris -- name names? was referring to the assumed effective teachers who post here and the other usual blogues regularly.

The gap between expectations like mine and theirs is small, however. All I -- and the vast majority of parents and other stakeholders in DCPS--want is for teachers--all teachers--to perform with energy, commitment, skill, and defined responsibility for what takes place in the classroom. If some teachers continue to want a big out--i.e., "oh, achieving education results is not my job"--they need to go elsewhere.

We're not looking for miracles or being blind to the kids' challenges. Talk to parents if you have not--any ward--if you do not have some current understanding of the school environment.

Rather than evaluating for pedagogical and classroom management skills, our teacher eval system should evaluate first for commitment and taking responsibility for some measure of educational achievement. You don't need master educators to confirm that; an interview by a skilled interviewer with no axe to grind would tell us that. Yeah, fat chance the unionistas would stand for that. But who's standing, first of all, for the children?

Posted by: axolotl | January 23, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse

The people who are standing for the children are standing up in classrooms each day.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 23, 2011 7:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm a DCPS parent and I was thrilled with the teachers and administrators in my child's Title I school.

I came to loathe Michelle Rhee over time though, because she was too foolish and self important to stop and look at the systems and people that were working effectively in DCPS.

She swung her broom and we lost great educators and student were hurt in the process. My kids were deeply hurt in her "great leap forward."

BTW, Rhee's continued use of the word that starts with S and ends with K is highly, highly offensive and the fact that she uses it to describe her daughter's soccer skills speaks volumes about her as a person, an educator and a mother.

As much as I resent Michelle Rhee for the pain she caused my family, I feel even more sorry for her girls who are growing up with a "mother" like her.

Valerie, thanks for continuing to follow the train wreck that is Rhee. The damage that she has inflicted on DCPS is still here and will continue to hurt the children of Washington DC for years to come.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | January 23, 2011 7:50 PM | Report abuse

The Old Battle Axephibian,

You said, "But who's standing, first of all, for the children?"

I'm standing for children all of the time. I volunteer my time. And I disagree with you most of the time. I guess there are many things in heaven and earth, my good slimy secreter, then are fantasized about in your microcosmic brain this time.

Posted by: DHume1 | January 23, 2011 9:24 PM | Report abuse

But who's standing, first of all, for the children?

Posted by: axolotl | January 23, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse
______________________________________

Many of us are. Most certainly parent.

I, too, volunteer my time and assist classrooms but agree you most of the time.

PGCPS and DCPS are two of the highest funded educational systems yet yield lowest overall student results.

Unlike DCPS, the majority population of students do not come from low income communities. Unlike DCPS, most single parents have true interest in their offspring perfomances. Unlike DCPS, majority population of PGC are middle class families. But ranked last in the state of Maryland.

There is something truly wrong with OUR system and its not due to lack of parental involvment. It is systemically flawed and politically corrupt and has been for multiple decades.

Teachers and Principals that do not perform are simply transferred to other schools within the system. Teachers and Principals that go beyond the call of duty must work twice as hard because of this.

Strauss...instead of whatever discussions or comments Rhee makes to her kids, how about more focus on what will actually help the thousands of kids in urban or surburbans schools that are caught in the middle of political nonsense due to racial inadequacies and classroom resources.

More importantly, would YOU send your kids to DCPS or PGCPS if not a choice to do so? of course YOU would not...and why things will not change within majority predominently African American school systems.

Your writing is part of the problem because you give excuses and excuse all professional educators but do not support valid solutions to what ails predominately
African American public schools.

One hopes your education blog begins to put children first and not those that happen to be your relatives within the educational system.

Posted by: PGCResident1 | January 23, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

There should be some type of Rhee moratorium. Or, at least try to go a month without using her name.

Posted by: ericpollock | January 24, 2011 3:00 AM | Report abuse

"There should be some type of Rhee moratorium. Or, at least try to go a month without using her name."

Good idea, as long as everyone does it -Oprah, Duncan, all the foundation people, the mainstream news media, etc.

Or do you just want to silence Rhee's detractors?


Posted by: efavorite | January 24, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

As a teacher that has worked in both the South Korean and American school system and has many friends and colleagues that have experienced both, I would be appalled that Rhee would attempt to convert our education to one like theirs. What she fails to mention is the number of kids that have nose bleeds on a daily basis (personally experienced a student that had this issue) because they are so stressed by demands at the age of 9 or that some students are not allowed to eat dinner as a punishment for not getting an 80 or higher on a vocabulary test (at an after school program no less).

I've also known colleagues that have witnessed countless acts of corporal punishment including a child's head being split open with a ruler.

Is this the way we would like to receive results?

I do not deny that our students could use a sense of discipline, but that has to come from home. We teachers need cooperation at home to achieve more results. How are we supposed to increase our students learning when you have a mother that will tell their child during a parent teacher conference that they do not need to attend your class because you are conflicting with what you ask for them to do or how to act?

Do I think that there are some teachers that do not do the best job they can? Certainly. Do I think that all of the good teachers that struggle to make improvements because of lack of support should be penalized? No.

As for charter schools, I believe that in some instances they could be good. However, I think it leaves a lot of schools lacking. There is only so much funding to go around and they only take from schools struggling to start with. I work in a district where there is a charter school that is determined by if your parent works in a certain area. This school has taken a lot of the top performing students in our school. As a result, our lowest quartile is that much lower. We do so much for our students and try to help as much as we can. Students do not go hungry or without proper clothes because of the kindness of our teachers. Many of the parents of our students struggle to make ends meet and many do not care if they children eat or what they do. We are constantly battling kids going down the wrong track and I don't consider our school terrible by contrast of a lot of larger cities.

We have managed to become a bronze US News America's Best High School, but we are still in correct 2. If we do not raise our lowest quartile this year, the state will come in and take over. This is regardless of the fact that vocational teachers teach English and Math in their classrooms and that we are constantly striving to make that improvement. Legislature makes it sound so easy, but what real solutions do they have?

You can only have so many charter schools because there is only so much money to go around. If they are the answer how do you pay for it? Someone will always be lacking and I know about schools that are lacking.

Posted by: wonder318 | January 24, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

wonder318:

I presently teach AP English in Korea. Let me know what you did there at ericpollock@yahoo.com

Posted by: ericpollock | January 24, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Prof. DHume1 -- upsetting you was not planned. Calm down and prep fo your next volunteer gig. And pls try to work on clear, simple ruminations.

Posted by: axolotl | January 24, 2011 10:02 PM | Report abuse

No reason to get so excited with my epistrophes, Myth-Maker . I, unlike yourself, do not have an over-inflated sense of self. I'm okay with making mistakes and trying something new. You should try it instead of relying on the same talking points (by the way, I've noticed that you haven't used the status quo argument in almost a week now; did you delete it from your playbook?).

Posted by: DHume1 | January 25, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

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