Teachbad Watches Rhee Frontline Documentary

Which sounds better?

1)    I’m going to dig up your grandfather and rape him; or

2)    I’m going to dig up your grandfather and rape him for the kids.

While they both give me pause, I think #2 sounds way better. Let’s see if we can figure out why.

What the two propositions have in common is the stated intent to perform a controversial act of necrophilia. (“Controversial” is perhaps redundant here.) The key difference between them is the addition of the propositional phrase for the kids at the end of #2.

Let’s put the kids first. What do they need? This isn’t about your grandfather and what he and I might want or consent to even if we were both alive. None of that. This is about the kids. Maybe we should open up our minds for once; stop being so selfish and afraid. Stand up and fight. As Cameron bravely declared in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “I gotta take a stand”. Not everybody is going to think digging up grandpa and raping him is a good idea. But if it would help the kids, maybe we should take a second look. I’d be inclined to support it.

This was the first thing I noticed about the Frontline documentary about Michelle Rhee. As long as she says it’s for the kids, and she says it constantly, it must be ok. It’s amazing how easily that phrase diminishes the opposition because they immediately find themselves on the defensive, having to explain either why they are against kids or would want to stop someone who is trying to help them.

This rhetorical device has been used in nearly every argument ever made. It’s especially useful in political arguments when you need lots of people to think what you want is a good idea and you know they’ll never take the time to understand it themselves.

Every time Republicans want to reduce taxes on billionaires, it’s because it will create middle-class jobs. Good jobs, here in America. So that hard-working moms and dads in the heartland and in our great cities can have their shot at the American dream and pass that dream on to their kids and grand kids. Every time Democrats want to increase Pell grants it’s to help a single mom with four kids and three  jobs who stays up late helping her kids with their homework and hopes someday to be a nurse so that she can give back. (She had a devoted husband who was the father of all four of her kids and he wasn’t killed in a drug deal gone bad but from smoke inhalation rescuing orphans in a fire.)

We make the argument that is most broadly sympathetic and is at least plausible. In the list of best mass-sympathetic causes, helping kids to learn (or achieve or succeed) is a pretty good one. It’s right in between helping our seniors live with dignity so that old people can afford their pills and don’t have eat cat food and saving the family farm so that small-town values aren’t destroyed and we don’t have to import all our food from North Korea.

It’s powerful and Rhee uses it effectively. What’s the name of her new organization again? Oh, yeah…Students First. Okay…we get it. You are inoculated from any bad idea, however poorly executed, because you are doing it for kids.

The second thing I was reminded of watching the documentary was her unique combination of talent and circumstances in this weird city. She had it all.

1)    The mayor gave her a tremendous amount of power and political cover that astounded and outraged the city council who just gave her more. In a stroke of political genius, she is Asian. She cut right through the perpetual black-white pissing match that has come to define most of politics in this city. She steam-rolled all of the old-school, second- and third-generation Civil Rights hangers-on and wannabes on the city council and in the teachers’ union. She blind-sided the white people on the city council by not being a second- or third-generation Civil Rights hanger-on or wannabe;

2)    She has confidence, smarts, ambition and nerves of steel. Never underestimate how far that can go. Study these things in others and cultivate them in yourself.

In a generic sort of raw talent observational way, I truly do admire and respect her. I only wish she was also honest and used her power for good rather than evil.

On a final note, shortly before the documentary came out, I wrote and performed a song about Michelle Rhee. Now, after watching the documentary, I’d say I nailed it.


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