It may not have the ring of "The Hammer" but Michelle Rhee's latest appellation is perhaps better suited. As today's rockstar of education reformers and the bane of change-resistant teachers' unions, she certainly has become the country's "Lightning Rod" for all things education. By Clay Risen's reckoning, she's "the most controversial figure in American public education and the standard-bearer for a new type of schools leader nationwide." Risen's take may smack of hyperbole, but Rhee has taken the praise and criticism in stride. Her relentless Teach For America-style pursuit of results (and Mayor Fenty's still-firm backing) has mixed with the District's accustomed horse-trading, deal-making, and cronyism of Marion Barry and co. like a hairdryer over the bathtub. But not everyone is gaga for Michelle. One DC mother and member of activist group Save Our Schools wonders if Rhee and her Blackberry-wielding cadres know what they are doing--or are just "evilly brilliant." Only time will tell. Her reforms may have run "roughshod over the community" but everyone agrees that change is needed, argues Risen. And change is always stormy.
"The Lightning Rod," by Clay Risen, The Atlantic, November, 2008