Washington, D.C., council member Marion Barry just doesn't get it. The District, under the capable stewardship of young leaders such as Mayor Adrian Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, is rejecting the wasted potential of its past for the promise of the future. But Barry remains clueless, which is why he led protests--that nobody attended--against Rhee's plan to shutter 23 under-enrolled public schools. Of course once Barry finally figured out that lots of D.C. parents may want to close half-full buildings to make the system more efficient, he changed his tune. Less than 24 hours after calling Rhee "bullheaded," Barry switched sides and said, at a news conference announcing the final decision on the closures, "this is a historic day." Rhee was less platitudinous. She had set up 23 public meetings around the city, at which she and her associates planned to answer questions about which schools would be shut down and why--and almost nobody showed up to them either. "I would much rather come to a meeting where people are passionate and yelling at me than those rooms I walked into and no one was there to speak for any of the kids," Rhee says. "That was really alarming to me." Perhaps both Barry and Rhee, different as they are, are victims of the same villain: parental apathy. Fixing that will be tougher than downsizing District schools.
"An All-to-Quiet Reaction Over D.C. Schools' Future," by Marc Fisher, Washington Post, February 3, 2008