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Thompson: Another View Of John White's Remarks

CartmanJohn White was an English major who taught for three years and spent three years training other newbies in a profession that he never studied.  Non-educators Joel Klein and Bobby Jindal, who were not shy about their resentment of traditional public schools, then tasked him with dismantling the educational “status quo.”

But White complained last week in the American Enterprise Institute's Taking School Reformers to Task: Louisiana chief John White on Fixing K-12 Reform that New York City is about “to put a man with no management experience in charge of a $25 billion education system in spite of an outward resentment of the nation’s most successful charter schools.”

White does not describe the mayor's race in NYC as democracy, but as “populism.” Eleven times he used that word in a derogatory manner. According to White, populism is something to be endured, it is a recyclable story of caricature and allegory, and of resentment of authority.   White is clearly proud of being in charge.  He used the word “authority” eleven times and the word “accountable” another eight times when proclaiming reformers' power. 

White (like many of his AEI audience) obviously senses that reformers have overreached, and are "in danger of becoming the enemy." At first, he sounded like he was grooming himself to be another Michelle Rhee attacking all the constituencies that that defeated their righteous crusade.  But, White mostly resembled Southpark’s Eric Cartman in proclaiming “respect my authoritah!”

White bragged about the power of reform elites, with the backing of charitable foundations and the federal government, who oversee the schools of entire states. He ridiculed his populist opponents in Lake Charles and Monroe (who don’t see the reformers’ relevance to their lives), and even took a few swipes at poor people. White criticized his fellow reformers for being self-righteous.  He then called on them to become humble like he intends to become.

Being a former oilfield roughneck, I got a kick out of the way White said reformers should reach out to working stiffs because to "every kid looking for work on an oil rig," it "feel(s) like we’ve got nothing in it for them when it comes to ed reform.”

During the question and answer, White agreed that teachers resent the way his reforms have micromanaged them. He announced the intention to untie teachers' hands as soon as his entire agenda is implemented. White used that word eleven times, contrasting the “clunky” implementation of other peoples’ policies with his “viable” and “thoughtful” implementation.

White criticized "a tone that is skeptical of reformers in the same populist way our country today is skeptical of authority generally" as greatly damaging. But, he concluded with a call to hold people accountable, as "we reformers ... create conditions of trust."

White made some timely criticism of the "short-term cleverness," the "haste," and the "hubris of past reformers." Rather than personally admitting to any of his allies' shortcomings, White closed with the claim that history is made by "great people" and "great organizations." 

If White and his allies had spent more time working with other people, perhaps they would see that we're not so awful.  They might have developed some respect for democracy and not become so mistrustful of their presumably not-so-great fellow citizens.-JT (@drjohnthompson) Image via.



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"White closed with the claim that history is made by "great people" and "great organizations."

Is that the more humble version?

Thompson with the win. John White knocked out cold.

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