Chalk Talk Video Blog: #stewart #rhee

Here it is.  The first Face to Face Chalk Talk.  In this talk I explain why I criticized  Jon Stewart (in a blog post) for interviewing Michelle Rhee.

I don’t know.  What do you think?

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  1. Thanks! You Rock!

  2. I read another education blogger’s analysis but didn’t buy it. He said, more or less, that JS subtly pointed out the contradictions in what Rhee was saying. Which is true, but it was so subtle, & Rhee so skilled at diversion, that it probably went right over the heads of most of the viewing public. What I would have seen if I didn’t have any knowledge of the issue was JS making nice with this woman who was reforming schools.

    So as far as getting information out to the public, let alone challenging Rhee, it was pretty lame. In fact, if that kind of thing was all the public had in the way of challenge to the ed deformers, we’d probably have more charters, closed schools and fired teachers than we already do.

    Fact is, it’s independent bloggers, a very few people in the mainstream media, and certain local union people doing the heavy lifting on getting the word out to the general public. Not people like Stewart, not the union leadership, and not even the majority of teachers.

    Some bloggers and various others, mostly unhonored.

    No doubt people who know how to sweet-talk powerful potential allies are useful, but if that’s the best JS can do, it’s not really very useful. What people like yourself are doing is way more useful, imo.

    I respect what you’re doing, and the cost.

  3. [...] “He is not the hardest of hitters, and she is a slippery character, so it is not surprising that he was not able to pin her down.” [...] Quote from Anthony Cody. I agree. Stewart was not able to pin her down and he has failed with others to do likewise. The media is all about lobbing softballs at scoundrels. I feel Cody is a good man to have on our side. All the same, we need to keep up this momentum Chalk Face has going as it will produce notice. Colbert twists and turns so much that the average viewer hasn’t a clue as to what the messaging is. Personally, I think he’s an idiot. Stewart comes off as, and is, the more intellectual of the two. He kisses too much ass. Loves the paychecks too. Hey, we’re talking about Comedy Central. Major network programming is all shill for corporate profits and consumerism. Can you feature NBC Nightly News telling it to the people? The truth? What you are doing is what most will not do. Education Week is seemingly dead. So many more blogs and info sites are moving toward accepting their captor’s rule. Others regurgitate the same information. Just with new stats or names or latest ploys. Boring. It’s time to ramp up the messaging. How the hell can anyone follow, say, EdWeek as they sell out to the corporate overclass and push CCSS? It’s all Moloch. Time to push…… with extreme prejudice. I get the “I’m nobody” thing. But…. stop. I’m with you, and others. We’re somebody. And growing. Don’t matter where we’re from, but where we’re coming from, and where we’re going. What’s happened over the years is that the strength of objection to those actions which degrade the value of people has been dislocated by the fait ‘d acompli of corporate rule: docility.. I’m done for now. Got Charlie Parker playin’ and I’m plotting a new line.

  4. I saw a Jon Stewart who got flustered. He lost control a metaphor and probably realized he should have had a better plan going in to the show/interview. Just one fact about her reign of terror, her money gobbling, her stealth legislative work or even her lack of ed creds. I hope he reviews the show and plans better for the next ed reformer. But I hope he continues on and improves. Us educators — we can’t blame a guy for trying to do the right thing — but we can help him improve by giving constructive criticism.

  5. Barbara Madeloni says:

    This is the passion we need to bring to this battle. Thank you for bringing it.

  6. Hello and bravo for your fighting spirit! I didn’t watch Stewart interview Rhee, sick of Rhee’s face and evasions all over the place, her posing as a radical, and I have low expectations from Rhee(Colbert too)b/c they will not risk offending the big money that keeps them on the air and makes them famous. Only one on TV able to speak truth to money power is Bill Moyers, and he is one of a kind, an icon at the end of his marvelous career of public service. The revolution will not be televised said Gil Scott-Heron 40+yrs ago b/c tv-major media are in the hands of corp. money, which keeps opposition silent and invisible to the millions tuning in. Yes, we are silenced and invisible on the mass stage owned by corp. money, and perhaps that makes us “nobodies.” But the club of us nobodies is enormous and growing, though not yet consolidated to fight for public ed and the common good. When the nobodies finally come together in the immense numbers we are, as we began to do in 2011 with Occupy, the corp. somebodies will seek out nobodies hoping to negotiate. Keep on trucking…hang in there….Ira Shor, Interim-President, League of American Nobodies.

  7. Jon Stewart is not a skewerer.

    You are a skewerer.

    You get mad when somebody like Jon Stewart does not take advantage of the opportunity he has to grill and expose self-serving hypocrites like Rhee.

    There is no question that Jon Stewart is sympathetic to our point of view. And he attempted to get some points across in the interview. He is not the hardest of hitters, and she is a slippery character, so it is not surprising that he was not able to pin her down.

    You end up in this piece saying you are a nobody and not on Stewart’s radar. Then why accuse him of betrayal in the first place? I assume your purpose is to attempt to influence him and others. You are working hard to get a message across through multiple communication platforms. You have a blog, you tweet, you have a radio program, and now you are posting video as well. If you could communicate through smoke signals, Pennsylvania would be on fire!

    Betrayal is a very strong term. It says that someone has worked against the interest of his friends. I think Jon Stewart was not as effective as we might have liked, but I do not think he is a traitor to teachers and students, and I do not think it serves our cause to call him one.

    • Anthony,

      I did use the word betrayal. And my word choice was not to be edgy. It came from my soul. You can disagree with me I guess but my personal feelings aren’t really up for debate. I felt betrayed.

      And let’s be honest. Jon skewers people all the time. I have watched him take people apart piece by piece. He is extremely intelligent with amazing wit with the ability to poke holes in nonsense rhetoric and dissect “slippery characters.”

      As you tweeted earlier in the day you too asked that he not even interview her. Again I think we are coming at this from different perspectives. My kids and profession are on the coming train wreck. My friends have lost their jobs. Michelle Rhee is the poster child for ed reform and she gets pass after pass. If Jon wasn’t capable of delivering at least a hard left hook then I’m afraid we don’t have much hope for anybody else to deliver.

  8. Well said Tim Slekar. So proud to fight this fight with you. I expected more from Jon Stewart and I know that right now there are people out there saying, “Well…..she may play hard ball…but she’s not all that bad…she had some good things to say. Ultimately she wants what is best for kids.” Jon allowed the majority of her comments to stand “as is” and this further solidifies the mantra spouted by mainstream media – further alienating the public from the truth. This is the deal – I don’t shake hands with people that harm children, demoralize teachers and destroy school districts – and I sure as hell don’t promote their books that promote policies that will destroy our public schools. See you in DC this April Tim.

  9. Okay, I will weigh in. I like seeing your face as I hear your emphatic chant against the deformers, so keep up this format.

    I was hoping that Jon had an informed audience, but when I heard their cheering welcome at Rhee’s entrance, I was quickly reminded about just how “nobody” all of us are who really care about the future of public education.

    • I stayed up to watch the show with more trepidation than hope, and, oh well… Stewart does seem to have been on our side, just woefully ill informed and ill prepared. He tried to make the broad fundamental argument that teachers are neither the cause nor the cure for the gross inequities in our society, but that was too complex a topic for analysis in
      the Daily Show format, and his toolbox metaphor fell apart on him. “Why are teachers the only ones who (brain stall) get yelled at?”

      “Hammered?” supplies Michelle, chuckling along amiably.

      She was charming and relaxed and almost down-homey and he just didn’t have anything with which to shake her composure and make her put on her sour face. He might have asked if the charming account of how she put tape on her students’ mouths and made them bleed was in the book and directed the audience to the U Tube video of her telling the amusing little anecdote. Or he might have asked her why enrollment in DC Public Schools has continued to drop in favor of charters, and why the k-8 model imposed by her closing and consolidation efforts has failed so miserably. Or why a 90% turn over in principals and a 50% turn over in teachers has resulted in embarrassingly puny test score gains. He might have questioned the premise of a superintendent closing so called “low performing” schools and undermining communities rather than meeting her responsibility to make those schools successful.

      Surely the Daily Show has researchers who could have come up with a few barbs that would have put her on the defensive. I had the impression that Stewat’s gut gets it in general terms, but he just didn’t have the depth of information to wing it on this one. Too bad. An opportunity lost to expose a charlatan before an important audience.


  1. [...] this point you’re probably aware of my dissatisfaction with Jon Stewart and his tepid interview with the “radical” Michelle Rhee.  OK I’m moving on–from Jon–not [...]

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