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Bruno: Politicizing Rhee's Parenting

8248892096_62845f504f_nMichelle Rhee is famous - or infamous - for her efforts to reform public schools.  

So, should we care if her own children attend private schools? 

The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss and NYU's Diane Ravitch think so, but I doubt it's relevant.

Strauss' logic is that if one of her kids attends a private school that employs educational "approaches that are counter to the test-centric public-school reform agenda" that Rhee supports then she is a hypocrite.

The problem with this thinking is two-fold.

First, Rhee's position is that American public schools are awful. Her evidence for this is pretty weak, but given that she believes it it wouldn't be surprising if she decided against enrolling one of her kids in a system she thinks is in such desperate need of improvement.

Second, it's not even clear what, precisely, is offered by the private school in question that Rhee wouldn't also wish for every other child in the country.

Does Rhee oppose students reaching their "highest intellectual ability in the sciences, the humanities, and the arts"? Or teaching students "to think critically, to lead confidently, and to live honorably"?

I see no evidence that Rhee has any objections to these things in public schools. 

Nor should we be scandalized if Rhee doesn't believe that the best methods for achieving these lofty educational goals for her children are the best methods for all children. Rhee's children are young people of considerable privilege; Rhee's reform efforts focus primarily (although not exclusively) on schools serving the seriously under-privileged.

The fact is that different students have different educational needs. Trying to meet those diverse needs within a heterogeneous classroom - that is, "differentiation" - is widely considered an important part of the job for skillful teachers.

So we shouldn't be horrified at the possibility that different schools serving very different populations of students look very different educationally. Frankly, I'd be concerned if they didn't.

None of which is to say that Rhee's preferred methods for urban public schools - or those used at elite private schools - are good or even well-suited to their respective target students.

Whether those methods are effective or appropriate, however, is really the fundamental issue in education reform. And that issue is illuminated not at all by poorly-informed efforts to politicize Michelle Rhee's parenting. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)


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I believe the child's educational level are based on the teachers. It's not "Public Schools" that's the issue, its about the skills of the teacher. If a person cant afford to place their child in private school then don't but dont be a hypocrite. You can get a good education from a public school as well.

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