Friday, February 8, 2013
The Sacramento Speakers Series presented education reform advocate and StudentsFirst founder and CEO, Michelle Rhee at the Community Center Theater on Tuesday, January 29th as part of this year’s lineup. The six-part lecture series showcases contemporary insights from some of today’s most influential figures. Interestingly on January 8th, speaker Thomas Friedman commented on the fact that America has lost its competitive disposition. Michelle Rhee seems to agree as she stated “we have gone completely soft” in her visit to Sacramento.
Michelle Rhee began her lecture with some light dialogue about husband and mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, but then went right into her thoughts on America’s public school systems. Rhee makes known that the current generation of children will be the first in history not to be better educated than their parents. She continues to emphasize that “there is no greater issue than what to do with our public school system.” Rhee also spoke of her time as Chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools as recalling the dilemma, “How do you go about fixing a system where almost everything needs fixing?”
Rhee provided some of her strategy to transform our education system into being more effective. First and foremost, she stated that “we have to begin to honor and respect the teachers for the incredible jobs that they do.” Children are taught in schools from a variety of areas, whether it be inner city or rural, but the teachers need to be able to engage the minds of their students and effectively educate them regardless of geographic location. Children can receive “wildly different” teaching experiences, but Rhee insists that is why we have to make absolutely sure that our children are in the presence of good teachers every day.
Michelle Rhee notes that "we need to regain the competitive American spirit.” Rhee does not let the children off of the hook either, pointing out that if children want to compete for jobs when they grow up, they need to be willing to put in the time and work hard. The children will no longer be competing for jobs in their local area, but rather with people in China, India and the rest of the world. Parents can support the reform of our public schools by “being the change” in their communities and backing decisions, not based on their political agenda, but that put students first. Rhee who has two daughters of her own supports parental involvement in school systems and says “more moms should run school districts.”
The audience was given plenty of food for thought and was encouraged by Michelle Rhee and Mayor Kevin Johnson to be engaged in the community in an effort to better the Sacramento public school system.
By: Ken Tronnes