John J. Viall, A Teacher on Teaching - Perhaps we need to look at schools like automobiles to grasp why it is we’re not speeding down the intellectual Interstate like the reformers say we must. Imagine that there are three autos, all broken down alongside I-10, in the Arizona desert. The drivers are three real teachers. Each has been carrying five passengers, five students. One car is a new Lexus LX 570. The second is a 2006 Honda Civic. The third is a battered 1972 Chevrolet Impala.
None of them will run.
A bus load of school reformers heading for a convention in Las Vegas sees them stranded by the side of the road and screeches to a halt. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan climbs out to survey the dire situation. Other famous passengers include Michael R. Bloomberg, mayor of New York, and Joel I. Klein, his one-time school chancellor...Michelle Rhee is a passenger, too, and there are all kinds of politicians and lobbyists and sales persons for big testing companies filling the seats. Sadly, none of them knows a pile of shit from a spark plug when it comes to car repairs.
Duncan is first to suggest a solution to the problem of the three stalled-out cars. “We are going to paint the Impala red to make it run.”
“We will call this plan ‘Race to the Garage.’ We will offer states $4.35 billion in federal aid if they agree to paint all their cars red.” A call is made, and at great expense, apparatus is brought out to the desert, and the car is painted red. It still won’t run.
Michelle Rhee pipes up next. Even the other reformers roll their eyes. After hours spent together on the bus they realize this lady’s favorite topic is herself and her second favorite is Michelle Rhee.
“I say we make these drivers apply for new licenses.” she sneers. “If you had better drivers the cars would surely run. I once taught for three years. So I know everything there could possibly be to know about saving children. These drivers must be terrible. Every child deserves an excellent driver. I am thinking... someone pretty much like me.” ....
Joel I. Klein, who never taught a single solitary minute in his life, offers up another plan. Of course he does. “I have a plan! And my plan is sure to fix the problem. We grade the cars. Then parents can choose the best cars for their children and all mechanical problems will go away. He gives the Impala an ‘F’ and the Honda gets a ‘D+.’ The Lexus gets a ‘B’ because it went a hundred yards farther down the highway before its engine coughed and died. Klein slaps bumper stickers with grades on all three cars.