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You Can’t Keep The Outside Out

I’ve been writing and rewriting a rant about the Time magazine cover story on DC Chancellor of Schools, Michelle Rhee all weekend without producing enough coherence to punch the publish button.

In the meantime, many others like Chris, Dean and Jim have already said what I wanted to say, only doing a much better job of it. So go read their posts and leave a comment.

However, I’m still going to add one more thought to the mix.

While the quote from Rhee about not giving a crap about creativity in the classroom has many people worked up, it’s her underlying philosophy of education that bothers me.

Rhee, like so many other school reformers, seem to think that we can improve education by sheer force of will.

If teachers worked harder (and had no union), if students spent more time studying, if administrators were more focused, things would magically get better.

If chancellors could fire staff members at will.

All of this would allow schools to overcome any and all influences from outside their doors – poverty, parental neglect, children’s lack of basic foundational skills, community ambivalence, societal distain for intelligence – to create educated adults.

The only problem is that it doesn’t work and won’t work.

No matter how hard you attempt to isolate the school experience, the real world will continue to seep in.


  1. teacherninja

    I’m always bitching that they want school to be a “rality-free zone” and this just adds to that. Thanks.

  2. Chris Lehmann


  3. Dean Shareski

    Well said. If a regimented approach to school reform was that simple, we likely would never have this conversation. If everyone believed schools were just about improved test scores, our job would be much easier.

    But as soon as you “give a crap” about kids, it changes everything. Like parenting, teaching has no perfect formula, it takes caring, nurturing adults who recognize what kids needs and creates environments for them to thrive. That’s hard work and impossible to measure with test scores.

  4. Kimberly Herbert

    I get a little put out by coworkers that gripe they shouldn’t have to put a “dog and pony” show. What they really mean, is that they should be able to go to the front of the room and drone on and on and on.

    I would be bored out of my mind if I taught like that. I have fun finding youtube videos that illustrate a point, cool web sites for the kids to use to learn about space, making a flip book so my 2nd graders can practice counting back change properly.

    I enjoy teaching and the ones who don’t continue to drone on and on.

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