Michelle Rhee briefly appeared on The Oprah Show today to launch her aggressive school reform movement, Students First. Rhee, who stepped down from her position as the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools system in Washington, D.C. last October, hopes to raise $1 billion to distribute among the nation’s public schools.
The Korean American educator was known for her novel and often controversial approach to education reform — including eliminating teacher tenure — while she was chancellor. However, her views are not universally lauded. While her movement claims to focus on students’ needs, according to many teachers, she is de-legitimizing education because she focuses more on the business aspects such as decreasing the already low supply of teachers.
During the show, Oprah Winfrey reiterated that the U.S. ranks numbers 23 and 25 in reading and math, respectively, out of 30 developed industrialized nations. “I’m not going to cry, but I could,” said Winfrey. Winfrey pleaded for a revolutionist to step up and save our nation’s prosperity. Winfrey, who considers herself an educator, called for just 1 million of her 10 million viewers to pledge on the Students First website, which would fulfill Rhee’s goal.
Rhee’s Oprah appearance coincided with a story on Rhee’s transition in Newsweek. While I understand the agenda-setting theory, in which media syncs events to greater advantage, listening to Rhee and Winfrey discuss America’s failing public education system got me worried. If education is getting worse with each generation, then it makes me wonder if future scholars will even have the opportunity to understand the meaning behind the agenda-setting theory.
Save education. Join Michelle Rhee’s movement to transform public education at Studentsfirst.org.