Michelle Fine’s Extreme Rhetoric and Attacks: Divisive and Bad For Our Kids and Schools

Recently, a national anti-testing organization calling itself “FairTest” honored Montclair’s very own Michelle Fine.

As we’ve mentioned before, we think that Fine’s national activist focus, and particularly the way she’s using our local schools in that crusade, is not in the best interests of our students.

We generally think the hyperbolic, conspiracy-theory-laden rhetoric, and slash and burn approach of Fine and her allies’ attacks on the district leadership, school board, and others doesn’t serve kids well, and makes it harder for us to come together and improve our schools – no matter what policy choices you support.

These choice words, for instance, are from her comments this weekend in accepting her award:

“We are in the midst of a massively well funded national human rights violation – bleeding from New Orleans, Detroit, Philadelphia, Newark – elites with too much money playing with education, a new frontier for innovation.”

So apparently folks that might be considered “pro-reform” – or at least who disagree with Fine’s politics – are guilty of human rights violations. That’s some pretty ridiculous and inflammatory rhetoric, especially given the subject. Certainly, it’s not the face we as Montclair want to be putting forward nationally, I don’t think.

Whether you agree or disagree with their policies, accusing people who are engaging in an effort to improve education of human rights violations is not part of acceptable discourse, and we don’t think it’s helpful for our community here. Let’s be realistic: Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and other folks donating to these efforts are not trying to make a quick buck off our schools. They don’t need it, and the corporate-profits-privatizer accusations that drive her rhetoric are pretty absurd. So too is the constant effort by her and her allies to apply it to folks here.

This kind of rhetoric seems to be par-for-the-course with her. Take for instance this video that was passed along to us recently of an over-the-top rant from her at an earlier conference:

“There is a radical, grotesque occupation and takeover of public education by private forces that are driven by greed, profit, racism, and commitments to gentrified public education…”

Obviously, when you think the people you disagree with are driven by racism and greed, it’s hard to work with them constructively – or to even want to try. And certainly from the other side, how can you trust and build rapport with someone who engages in that sort of irresponsible, reckless rhetoric? That’s the sort of political slash and burn activism that she’s seemingly been engaged in nationally for awhile, and that she’s unfortunately lending to our debate here in Montclair.

Rather than working constructively, she and her allies are part of an effort to constantly attack the district’s efforts – and it’s certainly not focused on improving education for students here.

3 thoughts on “Michelle Fine’s Extreme Rhetoric and Attacks: Divisive and Bad For Our Kids and Schools

  1. Dr. Francine Moccio

    This false and vitriolic reply, obfuscates the facts publicly stated by parents and community members; and exposes –quite sharply an uneducated mind –and reveals what ‘special interests’ may be behind the current “reforms” in our MPS. Attempts like this to paint progressive educators — such as Professor Fine; as well as others, smack of educational McCarthyism – plain and simple. If I wasn’t convinced, prior to reading this reply, this revealing piece of literary history has now cast grave doubt on the districts intended benefactors of super-sized assessments our children have endured all year. Heretofore, I was not aware of Mr. Zuckerberg’s nor Bill Gates strong profit interests (two high-tech billionaires) and their sponsorship of the district’s educational ‘reforms.’ I understand that the all-volunteer and grass-roots educational organization- Montclair Cares About Schools (MCAS)–that Dr. Fine helped co-found with colleagues are Montclair township parents and residents. They have presented us – the “befuddled” parents of Montclair who are asking “where did my child’s books go?” and “why are our tax dollars going to an increasingly swollen number of administration at the central office; instead of efforts to reduce class sizes, hire and recruit more para-professionals, and provide professional development for teachers? Where did my child’s teachers books go? Are billionaires like Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Gates trying to stoke the flames of online learning to the district leaders for a o “down the line” increased consumer demand of their techie products, and an increase in their supplies? Is this why our children have had to endure “super-sized assessments” [pre-, post- and post-, post–] while parents, teachers, community residents complain all year to the BOE and Montclair Township? What exactly is going on here? And what does “IT” have to do with profit-making technology moguls and billionaires? Thank you for unveiling what will enduringly be an informative piece of literary history here. Currently, as a parent of two Montclair Public School (MPS) children and formerly two older children, who attended MPS from Nishuane to Hillside to Glenfield to MHS, I did not realize the incredible scope and prestigious breadth of Dr. Fine’s accomplishments, including her current award. In light of this, the answer to your “rhetorical” question is glaringly obvious:: are Dr. Michelle Fine’s publicly aired criticisms of the current educational “reform,” implemented by MPS district leaders in the best interests of our children? The answer is most definitely “yes.”

  2. Barbara Reisman

    Michelle Fine is Distinguished Professor of Social Psychology at CUNY Graduate School. She has trained generations of dedicated teachers and social scientists, many of whom turned out to pay tribute to her research, her commitment to social justice and equity, and to her skills as a professor, at the Fair Test event in her honor. (BTW, the event was on Wednesday, May 28, but why let facts get in the way of this personal attack.) Michelle Fine is a resident of Montclair, the parent of a senior graduating from Montclair High School, and a taxpayer here. She is also the co-founder of the Renaissance Middle School, an example of effective and creative school reform and an exemplar of the commitment to equity that she has consistently advocated for throughout her career. I, for one, am grateful for her vision and leadership. And, having attended the tribute to Montclair’s paraprofessionals that she helped to organize last week, I also have witnessed her respect for the educators who are devoted to our children.

    Perhaps your readers would be interested in this analysis of the “expanding role of philanthropy (read: Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and the Walton family) in education politics: http://edr.sagepub.com/content/43/4/186


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