Sunday, January 16, 2011

Education 'Inception' and Michelle Rhee's wrong idea

Michelle Rhee sweeping out the dirt...

Valerie Strauss's "Answer Sheet" blog posts a commentary by Sam Chaltain suggesting that Michelle Rhee is using the language of conquest and conflict to build support for her version of slash-and-burn education reform.

Chaltain suggests that building positive emotions around issues works better, and we can certainly point to the success of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton as evidence that this is sometimes true.

It seems to me, though, that in the education debate the drivers of the conversation have had great success with a negative emotional approach. From Bill Bennett's 1988 assertion that the Chicago Public Schools were the worst in the nation to Bill Gates' recent attacks on teachers unions through Performance Counts legislation in Illinois, the language has been about creating conflict between parents and teachers as if they have very separate agendas.

What works best? Language of conflict and conquest or language of cooperation and shared goals? So far in the education reform debate (arena), conflict and conquest seem to be more effective (dominating.)

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