The opinion piece in Sunday’s Washington Post by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and 13 other school leaders was titled “manifesto,” a word I find a little unnerving. It suggests certain arrogance, a we-know-what-you-need-even-if-you-don’t kind of attitude. Plus, it’s inevitably colored by the work of two 19th century German theorists, who got some things right about capitalism but a lot more wrong.
So it didn’t’ strike me as a particularly stellar PR move. However, it turns out the name “manifesto,” might have been attached by some Post editors because other papers that picked up the piece called it something different. Still, judging by it’s tone, you couldn’t quite title it “All Together Now: Let’s Improve our Schools.”
No, the piece is an argument against the status quo and the power of teacher unions. And I must say I agree with much of it; personally, I believe principals should be able to hire and fire pretty much whomever they please, without having their hands tied with cumbersome seniority rules. What if a principal has a bias against a certain teacher and treats him unfairly? you ask. My answer: The same thing that happens in the private sector: if he’s good, he’ll go somewhere else, with a better boss.
The problem with the “manifesto” is it suggests that personnel rules are the only problem, that little else is holding students back in poor urban schools, and this is simply not the case.