8 Asians

The Daily Show: Michelle Rhee

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The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Last month, Tina had blogged about Michelle Rhee and her distaste for Rhee’s maniacal focus focus on standardized testing. I think I had first heard of Rhee when she graced the cover of Time Magazine back in 2008 and learned in that article that Rhee was selected by Washington, D.C. Mayor’s at that time, Adrian Fenty, named her chancellor of the school system – even though she had no experience running a school, let alone a district with 46,000 students. Rhee had been running a nonprofit called the New Teacher Project, which helps schools recruit good teachers prior to being recruited to D.C.

Beyond that article, I don’t actually know too much about her except that she was considered a controversial figure in the education world. While I am not opposed to standardized testing, and have blogged about college entrance exams in Asia, testing does have a role in learning and trying to measure (though of course, inexactly) how much one has learned.

I’m surprised at her notoriety. Partly, I think it’s how Rhee sometimes comes across as unapologetic about any shortcomings to her approach to improving education and her focus on the quality of teaching and standardized testing – like she does a little bit in her extended interview on The Daily Show. I guess I do like the fact that Rhee is an outspoken Asian American woman – breaking the stereotype of a quiet wall flower, and I wonder if that is one of the reasons why people are taken aback and react so vehemently towards her and her policies

In urban poor neighborhoods, there are a lot of personal problems and issues that students have to face and I think it is expecting a bit much to ask a teacher alone to be responsible for trying to overcome those issues. Personally, I think the educational background of your parents and the economic environment and opportunities a child grows up in is the biggest determining factor as to how well a child will do in school. And the way that K-12 schools are funded in the United States primarily through local property taxes is a self-fulfilling prophecy of having poorer communities having poorer quality schools and thus poorer performing students.

Having gone on a weekend trip to Mount Shasta over the summer, and one of my passengers was a high school math teacher in Silicon Valley, and the stuff she had to deal with kind of shocked me. The stories I heard, including a high school girl who was trying to figure out which guy was the father of her baby…kind of shocked me – considering Silicon Valley is one of the wealthiest areas of the United States. I can’t imagine what it’s like to teach in a really poor urban environment.

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