Friday, February 27, 2009

That AFT President Annoys Me

An article in the Washington Post yesterday cited American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten saying that Michelle Rhee's recent Op-ed piece was an "apology" to teachers.

In case you missed Rhee's piece, it essentially said that she does not blame teachers for the poor quality of education in DCPS. She writes that though teachers are not the cause of the achievement gap, she thinks they are the only solution. This is seen by some as a contradiction to her claims that a "significant share" of the DCPS teaching corps should be transitioned out. Personally, I think she's right on both counts -- teachers are not the biggest cause of the achievement gap, but there is a loud and obnoxious minority of teachers in DCPS who are contributing to that gap and damaging children.

So then Randi Weingarten says that Rhee's letter was an "apology, basically." And Rhee's spokesperson says it wasn't an "apology, but a clarification." You can read the entire story, I won't bore you with the details.

What I will bore you with is my take on this situation. Randi Weingarten is being a terrible leader. When she calls Rhee's letter an apology, she is doing so to make people believe that Rhee was wrong, and that she is apologizing for it. This, of course, means that Weingarten is right. It's politics, plain and simple. Weingarten -- who was a contender to fill Hillary Clinton's senate seat -- is using her public position as AFT president to promote her own career. This woman has the opportunity to play a substantive role in the reform of one of America's most troubled public school districts. So what does she do? She engages in childish junior high drama. These actions lead me to conclude that Weingarten doesn't consider the AFT presidency to be anything more than a stepping stone in her career. She has her eyes set on bigger and better things, like national political office. By saying that Rhee apologized, she is claiming a personal political victory for herself.

This wouldn't be so terrible if she were promoting herself while still helping the WTU and its members. However, Weingarten's actions are harming the tenuous situation in DCPS. Weingarten knows that Rhee won't simply roll over. The chancellor's spokesperson was quoted as saying, "The chancellor took the chance to communicate her thoughts on teachers in full, which had previously only been reported partially. Her position has not changed." In declaring the letter an apology, Weingarten is making relations between the union and chancellor more strained. Not exactly a great thing to do if you are actually committed to facilitating negotiations.

Whether you like Rhee or don't, I think we can all agree that the Chancellor's office and the WTU need to work together. Weingarten's comments bug me because it indicates very clearly that she isn't committed to facilitating anything but her own career advancement.

9 comments:

lodesterre said...

I agree with you completely on this one: both the WTU and Rhee need to work together and compromise to come up with what is best for all of us - teachers/students/parents - in DCPS.

I thought Weingarten's comments to be foolish, especially considering Rhee's reputation for being tough. I thought her words were either not well thought out or deliberately provoking - regardless of which, not a wise choice.

These two have a history with each other that, by all accounts, is not in the least bit friendly. It seems they are playing it out in front of us now. Shame on Weingarten for engaging in this foolishness.

Glenn Watson said...

You and Rhee might not like what Weingarten said but its the truth. Rhee WAS apologizing and she should have. Denying her statement was an apology is the immature part of this.

Glenn Watson said...

By I caught Rhee's interview on NPR the other day I. I have rarely heard anyone so arrogant.

lodesterre said...

I don't feel her statement was an apology. It was dissembling and disingenuous but not an apology.

Anonymous said...

I'm a DCPS parent. It's year 6 for me and I think Rhee has managed to take a bad situation and make it worse. My kids are not benefiting from her tenure. Though I admit, she talks a great story.

After that Time magazine cover, Rhee owes many, many people an apology.

My first grader wanted to know if she was a witch...

fed up DCPS parent

Ms. Smith said...

Your first grader is right. She is a witch. And no, the editorial was not an apoloy. It was a sorry excuse to take blame off her shoulders and put it on the media. If Michelle thinks DCPS teachers are that stupid, that they would believe for one second that she is NOT trying to get rid of them and that she doesn't think that we are a bunch of incompetent fools, then she is a fool herself. It was too little too late. Ms. Rhee has absolutely no credibility in my book, she is not transparent in her process and I believe that she just like Weingarten is using this as a stepping stone in her own public career.

Anonymous said...

There's much more to be fed up with than a chancellor who dressed up like a witch on a cover of a national magazine, though I'd admit that was pretty awful.

Macy said...

This was not an apology. It was a poor attempt at trickery. Rhee thinks everyone is stupid including the press and fails to recognize that there are many video's and podcasts of her own words which are graphic evidence that her comments weren't twisted by the media.

Rhee has the characteristics of a witch: she is evil, could care less about others including students and is self-serving- looking to prosper on the backs of our children. The first grader was onto something. They say the children will lead us.

Glenn Watson said...

I would not say she is evil but I would say she is hypocritical. She demands results from other that she herself cannot accomplish.