Last night, I posted the commentary that I wrote after seeing a preview of the PBS Frontline show on Michelle Rhee.
This morning, I realized that my favorite paragraph was deleted, presumably to save space. It was this:
” She leads by threats and coercion, never by inspiration or example. She personifies the Ice Queen, a woman who is charming but cold, cruel, and heartless, even proud that she lacks even an ounce of compassion for those whose careers she is terminating. She is doing it all ‘for the children.'”
I am sorry this was cut. I think this is important because it goes to the heart of Rhee’s education policies. She believes that a good leader must be cold and hard and that leadership consists of making hard decisions with no regrets. She thinks that those who work for her can be frightened into compliance and, acting in fear, will produce the right results.
When the camera shows her firing a principal, we see a cruel, affectless face, a person utterly lacking in empathy. Yes, sometimes people must be fired, but should there not be some expression of regret? One should feel some regret about terminating another person’s career, cutting off their livelihood, sending them away without a job. Is kindness really such an obsolete character trait?
This is a poor model for leadership. Great leaders inspire, not coerce. It is also a poor model for educators, who can’t fire the children who don’t measure up.