Precise definitions are not always easy to produce. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, when trying to express what exactly constituted pornography, said "I know it when I see it."
And - so it is with education. We may not quite be able to define what good education is - but - we know it when we see it.
Michelle Rhee, a lifelong Democrat and passionate defender of good education, knows good education when she sees it. She also believes that every child is deserving of receiving a good education. The combination of those beliefs marked Rhee's break with the Democrat party.
Who am I, I thought, to deny this mom and her child an opportunity for a better school, even if that meant help with a seventy-five-hundred-dollar voucher? If they got a voucher, and her child could attend a really good Catholic school, perhaps, why would I stand in the way—especially since I don’t have a high-quality DCPS alternative?
I just couldn’t look mother after mother in the eye and deny their children the opportunity I wanted for my own children. It would have required me to say, “Gee, I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to suck it up. I know your elementary school is a failing school, and your child will probably not learn how to read, but I really need five more years to fix the system. And while I’m fixing the system, I need you and your neighbors to be really patient. Hang in there with me. Things will get better. I promise.”
If someone said that to me, I’d have said, “You may need more time to fix the system but my kid doesn’t have time. She has only one chance to attend first grade, and if she can’t learn to read by the end of first grade, her chances for success in life will be compromised. So with all due respect—heck no!”
By the way, if you want to know what a fine school looks like in Minneapolis, then check out KIPP schools. It has been my pleasure and my honor to be able to photograph students and teachers at this charter school for several different events. The photos in this post were taken last Friday. If you want to see passion and energy for learning and fine values - you'll know it when you see it at KIPP.