MEDIA WATCH: Not all reactionary media are in Chicago. Fresno Bee newspaper touts Rhee's attack on public schools, teachers and unions

There may be a sucker born every minute, as an American entrepreneur once wrote, but the number in editorial board rooms of America's corporate media in 2011 is more dense: maybe a sucker born every ten seconds given the speedup of bad ideas since the Internet took over. Sometimes, those of us facing the corporate media brainwash in the big cities (especially Chicago) miss the fact that it can be even more pernicious in smaller places, like, say, Fresno California (not exactly small, but...). So for our readers, we share the following editorial "School reform plan has potential...Former D.C. school chancellor may be the right person to move it forward". It was posted at 12:00 AM on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 by the Fresno Bee.

America's corporate media helped Michelle Rhee spin her departure from Washington, D.C. and the mess she left behind into a problem of "communications," when in fact it was the grotesque racism of Rhee's activities in D.C. that brought down not only the Rhee regime but her mentor, the ostensibly African American mayor Adrian Fenty. Now Rhee is peddling the same stuff nationally with the help of America's monopoly corporate media, as a recent editorial in the Fresno Bee (California) shows.One of the most interesting things about Rhee's venture business plan for "StudentsFirst" is how it struck us as a combination of hypocrisy, mendacity, and historically inept wishful thinking. By the last we could mean that what Rhee is touting today, with the help of America's corporate media, big and small, is basically a "Dot Com" style business plan. Raise a Billion bucks. Create an "organization" of a Million members (paying dues? Answering an e-mail survey at the end of a showing of "Waiting for Superman?"). The whole thing reminds some of us of the scams that soaked up dollars back in the days of the "Dot Com" cons, where a Business Model without one product, service, or penny of revenue was able to get "venture capital" because someone could fast talk their way into dollars from gullible rich guys (some of whom went broke next time around, searching for the NEXT BIG THING back when "Desktop Publishing" and EPets were running Super Bowl ads. These guys (and most of them are guys) have more money than they know what to do with, and something like Rhee's latest con is just the perfect thing for them. They hate public education, were besotted in their teens reading "Atlas Shrugged", and are now charmed when Rhee leans forward, as she did on that Newsweek cover, and vamps them.

"School reform plan has potential...Former D.C. school chancellor may be the right person to move it forward" (Editorial. Fresno Bee. January 15, 2011).

The argument over improving public education always seems to come down to a battle between those wanting reform and those protecting the status quo. Serving the diverse needs of our children is much more complicated than that, and we need to acknowledge there are no easy answers to declining student achievement.

Education bureaucracies often limit classroom success by getting in the way of what should be happening in the classroom: talented teachers connecting with motivated students. Everything we do in education should be aimed at improving the classroom experience.

Now former District of Columbia school chancellor Michelle Rhee offers her StudentsFirst initiative to improve public education. She wants to create a 1 million-strong membership organization, and raise $1 billion within five years.

Some of that money would be used to influence local school board and state legislative elections, starting in 2012.

Rhee says the StudentsFirst organization comes out of a couple of things — her experience as D.C. chancellor, with courageous teachers and others telling her that they felt alone in battling the bureaucracy; and from the film, "Waiting for Superman," which has inspired people to ask her what they can do.

Rhee's four goals are the right ones to draw a broad audience: great teachers, giving parents choices, sending money to programs that work and getting parents more involved.

She's right to reject slow, incremental change. She's right to see talk of "changing demographics" or "disengaged parents" as mere excuses for low expectations.

But while Rhee acknowledges that "communication" was a failure of her 31/2 year tenure in D.C., her tone still is not one to reach beyond people who already agree with her agenda.

She, like many others, throws around the phrase that "public school reform is the civil rights issue of our generation." Yes, it is. But how can that be put into practice to improve the classroom experience?

Rhee draws only one lesson from her D.C. tenure -- conflict. She is missing an important component. Change comes not just from dramatizing an issue so that it no longer can be ignored. That's a piece of it. Change comes not just from fostering such a climate of tension, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. put it, so that those who have refused to negotiate finally open the door. That, too, may be essential.

Change, as King understood, also is fundamentally about persuasion. Rhee, consciously or not, seems to believe that throwing harsh facts at people is all that's needed; that persuasion itself is somehow giving in.

Education reform may be the most political of all issues because so many people have a direct stake in the outcome — teachers, administrators, parents and students.

StudentsFirst has the potential to be a significant player, given Rhee's organizational skills and high public profile. She has a compelling agenda, but to reach the large audience she seeks, she must also find the right way to express it.


July 9, 2011 at 4:30 PM

By: Linda Minier

Rhee is a fraud

Michelle Rhee is all about herself and self promotion. She went from being a school administrator to CEO of her own company, is she really about kids and learning - I think not. I hope no one ever considers using her or her company for anything. School district leaders can be problematic, they think one program is the solution to their problems. They don't want to thoughtfully think through a problem and they never include teachers. Teachers should be INVOLVED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! every step of the way.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

2 + 3 =