It’s been an interesting couple of days. Finally, “reformer” and “educator,” Michelle Rhee (from my vantage point in the public education system, she is neither reformer nor educator) takes the media stage for the cheating scandal she tried so hard to ignore—an omission that kept politicians, their charter profiteers, and millions of dollars from public coffers rolling towards her. I am trying very hard not to lose my humanity in an outright giddiness for her suffering; it’s just that as she’s profited SO MUCH, she’s attempted NOT to reform public education, but to destroy it, as well as the reputations of teachers nation-wide. How? By offering the public a view of teachers that are lazy and incompetent, selecting a few anecdotes of incompetence as representative of the whole of our nation’s teachers, and promoting a glossy well-funded though unsubstantiated “documentary”—more fiction than fact—Waiting for Superman (see instead the grassroots, well-substantiated The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman). I am especially bitter because in just a couple days, I will be offering my “resignation” from my teaching position in a secondary urban school (not, in fact, a resignation because I have no contract, thanks, in part, to the propaganda of Michelle Rhee, et al).
By all accounts, education is a career I was born to. I’ve passed even the absurd evaluations created by people vested in “flunking” the nation’s teachers in order to rationalize their greed. But born also an idealist, and believing myself to be an effective educator, I took my skills to low-income schools, where I am finally beaten joyless and exhausted. I’ve decided it’s just not worth my health or the meaningful relationships in my life—both sacrificed under the pressures created by Rhee and others similarly motivated.
I’m sure some of you are wondering what this education news has to do with a blog presumably devoted to the views and experiences of a woman coming out late in life. I’m not sure myself, except that there seems to be an intersection between the efforts of the Religious Right and politicians prostituting themselves for power, both finding financial wings on the backs of the most marginalized in our society. There’s the work of people like James Dobson, who for years has profited off the religious propaganda of fear and hatred directed at the LGBT population of this country, and those like Michelle Rhee and her base of charter/voucher constituents who have done an amazing job of capitalizing on impoverished students and their families. Her profiteers have run roughshod over parents’ voices in the running of their children’s schools and communities, closing one building after the next and refusing them the resources they need to grow their students and communities. Read Diane Ravitch’s post on Karen Lewis and the closing of 50 Chicago schools.
That such greed finds its most fertile ground in the gardens of those historically marginalized is profoundly disturbing to me. Though, of course, it is nothing new. From time immemorial the poor have been exploited for profit, and in ways, no doubt, more inhumane than this. But that worse inhumanity exists can no longer be an excuse for my inaction, the very invitation to uglier forms. Inevitably, there will come a tipping point, as there most often does in cases of oppression. Maybe this is it, though the question remains… Is there something more reasonable and just on the other side?