By Dr. Yvonne Fournier, Scripps Howard Columnist
Dear Dr. Fournier:
I’m reading a lot about Washington, D.C. School Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, especially since Obama won the election. What do you think about her and what she is doing (or not doing)? I live in Hagerstown, Maryland, which is close to Washington.
We’re in an economic period that three generations – Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y – have never experienced. Only those left from the Greatest and Silent Generations know the despair and demise that came after a lavish, freewheeling, greedy period in this nation’s history called the Roaring Twenties. It was a time characterized by over-indebtedness and institutional malfeasance among other things. I’m of course referring to the ’29 Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression. Apparently, we have we learned nothing from history.
Here we are again. Over-indebtedness and government, institutional and business malfeasance have caused today’s economic crisis. Companies now must downsize if they are to survive. The repercussions of this new reality? Plenty of Americans are unemployed; more are soon-to-be unemployed. These people have lost or are about to lose their jobs, life savings, homes, plasma TVs, cars and everything else they worked so hard for, as we face this generation’s Great Depression.
What I think about Michelle Rhee is that with a looming Great Depression 2 on our hands, politicians are likely to not listen to the need to take a wrecking ball to the current education model. That means Ms. Rhee faces a near impossible battle to win, that of “fixing” the DC public school system.
WHAT TO DO
What worked at one time in this country’s history is an education model that not only transformed the United States, but it also brought about a completely different world. That model was created for the agricultural and industrial eras, ones we are far removed from yet we continue to educate our children based on the horse-and-buggy and the Model T mentality. This is the system Ms. Rhee is trying to fix and I want to bury it.
There are few of us in the battle for our children’s minds and hearts in hopes of educating them with new paradigms of thought. Instead, our children are growing up to become adults that shortly will end up at parents’ or someone’s doorstep cloaked in a pink slip.
Society is happy educating our children in these bling schools. I am not. Children educated in these schools will live a life of thin pockets carrying deadly plastic aplenty. Bling schools cannot fulfill parents’ and children’s hopes for an education that will make them competitive in the coming synergistic era.
This current economic meltdown has driven home one basic fact: greed and the bling life is a virus sapping at the economic foundation of this country. And our children come out of schools not knowing how to make change for a dollar without a machine’s help or an understanding of the value of that money, which, by the way, doesn’t buy happiness and can’t be earned by old paradigm educated children.
Ms. Rhee will not get far trying to fix bling schools. Instead, she must be bold and demand that we take the wrecking ball to our outdated education model, which is turning us into a nation of people with bankrupt minds, a bleak prospect for our future.
We must build a new education model, not try and resuscitate the dinosaur.
President-Elect Barack Obama has a mandate, if he desires to use it, to reinvent education in America so that we are assured of developing successful adults for 2020 and beyond. Ms. Rhee should demand he do so. Until she does, she will be no more than Sisyphus with her vouchers, charter schools and other band-aids.