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A Spoiler for Frontline’s Michelle Rhee Documentary

by Jose Vilson on January 7, 2013

in Jose

Michelle Rhee

Michelle Rhee

A bunch of my friends have already started posting up the trailer for Frontline‘s documentary on Michelle Rhee entitled The Education of Michelle Rhee (PBS, starting January 8th, check your local listings). Honestly, I’m not watching it. Most people get a benefit of a doubt, but Rhee’s earned nothing but doubt from me. Her videotaped firing of a principal when she was the Chancellor of Washington, DC schools was only the first of many things I started to find out about her that would / should offend anyone interested in true education reform, not the corporatist thinking we currently have at work.

Besides, I can’t possibly see Frontline going after Democrats for Education Reform’s darling.

If you don’t believe me, here’s a spoiler for the documentary that I got from an exclusive source:

Frontline: “Thanks for coming, Michelle.”
Rhee: “Thanks for having me.”
FL: “Now, you were the head of DC schools for a number of years. How was that?”
Rhee: “Good. Successful.”
FL: “Great. Glad to hear. You’ve left since then, and are now on the road as the founder for StudentsFirst. Let me ask you a question: Is your organization really StudentsFirst.”
Rhee: “Of course! It says it right there in the name!”
FL: “Sounds excellent. Now, three of the people who helped create the Common Core State Standards, including David Coleman. Is there a relationship between what your organization does and Student Achievement Partners, Coleman’s organization?”
Rhee: “Well, I don’t see anything wrong with it. Plenty of people sit on boards. We all sit on boards.”
FL: “True. True.”

[Segment here profiling the current state of DC schools. Some flashes of the issues. John Merrow sitting in a classroom, glancing around wistfully. Michelle walks around a hallway with a new platinum-encrusted broom and ushers little Black and Asian kids into their classes. One kid says "Ouch." She smiles, then points forcefully. Merrow smiles along.]

FL: “So now, the question the whole world is watching for: please tell us about the cheating scandal.”
Rhee: “Umm.”
FL: “That’s good. Thank you!”

End scene.

All the people who didn’t like her still didn’t. All the people who did still feel something in their stomach about her approach, but feel it works for Black and Latino kids in DC. As long as Rhee doesn’t work directly with the kids over in the nicer sections of the city, or the world. Frontline won’t press too hard lest they never get to interview her again.

That’s alright. You’ll watch anyways. For too many of us, watching feels like all they can do.

Jose, who feels so good to be back …

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Short Notes: Romney Flips The Big Bird

by Jose Vilson on October 7, 2012

in Short Notes

Mitt Romney Flips The Big Bird

A few notes:

  • Here are a few reasons why we should save PBS. Like you need any more. [Explore]
  • Do we still expect our favorite writers to be nice people? Or as complex as their writing? Case in point: David Foster Wallace. [New York Times]
  • Harlem schools are seeing a high turnover rate. Beth Fertig explores. [Schoolbook]
  • Christina Lewis Halpern notices the shift between Jay-Z the entertainer and Jay-Z the Brooklyn realtor. [Dominion of New York]
  • I agree that we don’t have to be so caustic when it comes to speaking to each other, but let’s be real: if all sides aren’t equal, then the terms of engagement get a little skewed. In education or otherwise. [Living in Dialogue]
  • At first, you’re thinking: “They’re not talking about Karen Lewis like that!” By the end, you’re like, “This was fair.” [Chicago Magazine]

Quotable:

“U can unfollow if u want but #YallGoneGetThisWork”

- Lupe Fiasco, in response to Roland Martin and DL Hughley’s contention that Lupe will inevitably coerce people into not voting

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Living Quisqueya

by Jose Vilson on April 19, 2011

in Jose


This past weekend, I spent some time with my Dominican parents. To be specific, my Dominican mother and stepfather, both of whom enjoy the Dominican satellite channels offered on Time Warner Cable. They’ll watch shows rooted in guttural comedy, scantily-clad voluptuous women, and nationalism sprinkled throughout the programming. They laugh, shake, dance, and yell at the television, even when the situation doesn’t call for it. My parents respond to the automatic trigger of the palm trees, the beige dust rising after Passats sweep by the rocks of the highways. I’m shaken by images of lighter complexions featured within the studios and darker hues outside of the studio.

Even from far away, their perceptions about Blackness get reinforced by the TV they want to see.

It was only a few years ago that I got my mom to admit her own Blackness. While I don’t believe all Latinos are Black, I find it disingenuous for one of the first colonies in the Western Hemisphere to deny any parts of their Blackness. Much of this was engrained into them by the founders of the national identity, who wanted no part of anything remotely Haitian. It’s as if the duel between Dominican Republic’s founders and Haiti’s founders lies in who wanted to appease their former oppressors. While Haiti celebrates its independence from a European country, Dominican Republic celebrates its independence from its own neighbor. This belief is so prevalent still that even a literal seismic shift in the form of an earthquake couldn’t mend the fences between these two countries.

But I’ve grown weary of trying to tell others that Haitians and Dominicans practically listen to the same music, eat the same foods, and appreciate the same weather. Our flag colors are the same, and many of our traditions descend right from the continent of Africa. I’ve been stuck in between these arguments where people who refuse to accept the others’ side of things, wondering when a people so similar will actually come together and take advantage of the plentiful resources of their own island.

I’m also tired of the lack of responsibility countries like The United States, France, and Spain have played in perpetuating the frictions and tensions in this relationship. While I admit that I don’t know much Kreyol nor have I been to Haiti, I consider myself every bit as Haitian as the next Haitian.

Thus, I commend Henry Louis Gates for the exposure and care he took to document these experience in the first installment of Black in Latin America on PBS. I just wish I knew what to do with all this information. Besides be myself.

Jose, who is black, no maybe …

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