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Thompson: The Creators of "Michelle Rhee"

MerrowJohn Merrow’s recent blog post, Who Created “Michelle Rhee?", distinguishes between the flesh and blood person named Michelle Rhee and the "Michelle Rhee" phenomenon. 

Merrow says that the force that Rhee symbolizes was created by herself, the mass media, some corporate reformers and, above all, “U,” or union militancy.

After citing “Michelle Rhee” as a reaction to union intransigence, Merrow describes the union as a reaction to administrative policies that infantilized teaching.  

Merrow then concludes, “‘They,’ we and U created the social phenomenon that is ‘Michelle Rhee.’” It would have ruined his alliteration, but Merrow should replace the U, for unions, with T, for teachers. We Ts are the U.

Merrow criticized a 17-year-old statement by a Philaldelphia union leader who said that teachers should not be evaluated on student performance because there are too many variables that can't be parsed. I agree. I suspect that most teachers and most Americans agree.

Merrow says that those words are burned into his memory, and he repeated them in his The Influence of Teachers.  A few pages later, however, he acknowledged the dangers of allowing administrators to conduct evaluations using test score growth and he copped to the charge of being inconsistent. 

In this case, context is crucial.  At the time, Philadelphia schools were run by David Hornbeck who was as much of an ideologue as "Michelle Rhee."  This non-educator also came to the job with flavor of the month theories, as well as the belief, "You are either against the children or for them."

Merrow should rewatch his previous documentary and, with the benefit of hindsight, see if he can deny that the union leader was right.-JT (@drjohnthmpson) Image via.    


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A lot of people are furious that Merrow assigns any blame to teachers' unions. But I think there's a lot of power in the fact that he has now insulated himself against the usual "teachers' union lackey" charges, which otherwise would be used aggressively to discredit all his findings about Rhee.

Caroline, I don't find this kind of distortion from Merrow
"valuable, because it insulates him against the routine "you're just a teachers' union lackey" sneers (which always seem to stick)", as you posted on Jersey Jazzman's column, as well as here.

He has "insulated" himself by attacking this union leader unjustly and dishonestly, with an entirely fictitious direct quote. Sneers "stick" because compliant hacks spread them.

Merrow has been accorded unearned respect and credibility, because we teachers can't even believe journalists would sell out their professional integrity so cheaply. What he needs to "insulate himself" from, at this point, is his subservience to funders like Gates, Broad, and the Walton Family Foundation.

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