Friday, January 14, 2011

Publish or Perish

(This was cross-posted at Rachel's Rants, Raves, and Recollections.)

I got an essay accepted at truthout. Yay! I wrote about the Obamas' decisions regarding the education of their children and President Obama's statements about that decision in the context of his administration's education policies. (A recent excellent and comprehensive review of Obama's promises on education in contrast to his actual policies can be found here.)

"Mr. President, We Want Your Children's Education, Too" went through many, many drafts and I was very pleased when it was accepted by the first place I sent it. (An aside about the writing/publishing process: Almost all of my publications had been submitted to targeted publications I know well.) I submitted the piece back in November 2010, but the editor I corresponded with warned me it would probably be a while. It happened to come out on January 9, 2010. At first, I was ashamed of its publication date, given it was the day after the shootings in Arizona; it didn't seem to be an appropriate time to be so critical of the Obama administration.

But then I found out that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was butting (yet, again) into D.C. Mayor Gray's DCPS Chancellor selection decision, urging him to permanently appoint Rhee right-hand woman and Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson, of whom he's "huge fan," and in the process by-pass a 2007 DC law which requires a rigorous review process including consulting a panel of teachers, parents, and students. Duncan also dangled the possibility of taking back Race to the Top money the District was awarded if his wish were not granted.

Besides registering my disgust with Duncan's confirmation that Race to the Top is nothing but a bribery scheme, with his interference in local affairs, and with his spitting in the face of transparent and democratic governance, I'll repeat one of the same questions I asked in the essay: If Duncan and his boss are such "big fans" of the reforms and "progress" in D.C.P.S., why do they not send their own children to them?

To those who tell me to mind my own business: Point taken. I'd be happy to. Just as soon as Obama/Duncan change course on the policies that are undermining the quality of my children's education and just as soon as, of course, they mind their own business.

UPDATE 1/20/11: A reader was puzzled about this sentence from the truthout piece:
My DCPS past, warts and all, has made me a different person than I would have been had I gone to a place like Sidwell, different in a way that seems lesser to my current eye. 
Reading it out of the context of the rest of the piece, I can see that the sentence is confusing and needs a re-write. Given the stance that I took, most readers probably knew what I meant, but I hardly want to assume that readers "probably know what I mean." Rather, I want them to know what I mean because my writing is clear. I can't go back and fix it in truthout (and there was never an interaction with an editor about clarity or wording where this might have come up) but just to be clear, what I meant was that:
My DCPS past, warts and all, has made me a different person than I would have been had I gone to a place like Sidwell. Had I gone to a place like Sidwell I think I would have been different in a way that seems lesser to my current eye.
Readers, if you ever see something that gives you pause or puzzles you or that you think may be factually incorrect, even if it's a simple typo, by all means, let me know. I value your feedback and pushback.


  1. Hi Rachel,

    Your column is excellent. I'm so glad it got published. I'm going to share it on my Blog; I do not write much original content myself anymore. I used to write on GT education; submitted columns to our local paper and I have a now dormant blog on GT. (

    I'm still advocating/activisting for better education, epecially since our district eliminated playtime from kindergartens. My kids are grown, but I have an 8 week old grandson to worry about. I sure hope this insanity about the focus on test scores has stopped by the time he is school age! His parents thankfully will not subject him to a kindergarten with 90 minutes of scripted Reading First and no playtime!

    Locally I am supporting a small but phenomenal group of moms whose eyes have been opened to what NCLB has done to their children's education. Their kids now have to do without the 30 minutes a week of enrichment time they previously enjoyed and made school bearable.

    One mom started a blog. read it here:

  2. Conny,

    Thanks so much for reading and for the kind words & encouragement.

    Yes, I too am hoping that the public education pendulum swings in a much more reasonable and meaningful direction soon. Two of my three kids are school age and they love school & learning but can't stand all of the testing & focus on testing (and neither can their poor teachers).

    "Build Better Schools" looks great. It's always encouraging to hear of other folks out there advocating for quality education. Please tell your moms group to keep at it.


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