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.