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The Bee Eater: Michelle Rhee Takes on the Nation's Worst School District Hardcover – February 8, 2011
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--The Washington Post
...(those) interested in gaining a comprehensive perspective on Michelle Rhee (the person, not the action figure), or on finding some Waiting for 'Superman'-like inspiration, would be wise to seek out and read The Bee Eater.
--The Education Gadfly
Whitmire's clear and easy-to-read style reveals the often-unreported efforts made by Rhee to reach out to both banks in an attempt to build schools into islands of refuge that would be "good for the students" --Educator Life
... a lively narrative on Rhee's personal history and the political and public policy drama that marked her three and a half years in Washington ...insightful commentary on one of the first pitched battles between the new generation of school reformers and the nation's urban educational and political establishments. -- Washington Monthly.
What isn't as familiar, and sometimes downright perverse, are the many bizarre yet customary conditions under which Rhee operated, which Whitmire portrays in illuminating (and infuriating) detail. -- Education Next.
From the Inside Flap
When Michelle Rhee first arrived in Washington, she found a school district that had been so dysfunctional for so long that many had given up, choosing to blame race and poverty rather than poor instruction. There was no one being held accountable. The district central office had become an adult employment center, a place to deposit job seekers. Rhee was convinced that Washington's inner city students could achieve, but considerable obstacles stood in the way — obstacles that needed removing.
Guided by the principles of outstanding leadership, strict accountability, and the power of effective teaching, Rhee was determined to turn around the Washington, D.C. schools. Her encounters with community politics and long-simmering racial tensions, and her battles with central office bureaucrats and teachers' unions, were so extraordinary that her efforts were featured in Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and a lengthy PBS series.
The Bee Eater holds the promise of educational excellence for today's students and for tomorrow's school reformers.
Top Customer Reviews
The questions I try to answer in my review are:
1. Is this a good book? Definitely 4 stars here. It is judicious in its judgments and clear in its analysis and conclusions. It's well crafted. One of the elements I most like is that while it is strongly supportive of Rhee, as it progresses and he has established her as a real and caring person, he adds layers of criticism and queries about how she operated. He lets Rhee express herself with him as the shrewd observer and doesn't try to build her up or give his own picture. It's very well done.
2. Is it reliable? Yes. I live twenty miles outside DC and, being an ex-elementary school teacher and ex-DC resident, followed the Fenty-Rhee story fairly closely. The book seems very accurate and balanced in its details and does enough justice to all the parties to provide an informed and sound narrative. It holds back a lot on the seamy aide of DC politics. Mayor Gray, who could have been portrayed as the villain of the piece, is perhaps too fairly treated. Within just months of his becoming mayor, there has been a nonstop flood of scandals, police investigations, accusations of bribes and diversion of funds, vote-buying, and all the regular mess of the city.Read more ›
Richard Whitmire's short, starstruck book sets out to explain how and why, but makes the mistake of falling in love with its subject: rationalizing her callous tactics, blaming others for her errors, and admiring the friction she created even though it finished her.
Rhee blew into her job like a slash-and-burn CEO hired to save a failing company, firing hundreds and disdaining help from veterans. She was right about the need to clean house. But she was also a political naïf who thought consensus was for wusses, picked pointless fights compulsively, ran over potential supporters, dismissed people and policies she didn't like as "crazy," never bothered to appreciate the District's delicate racial politics, and got off on shameless self-promotion. (She posed for the cover of Time magazine and numberless other press ops, and "gave good quote" ad nauseam to national reporters.) She professed compassion for "the kids," but showed none for adults; Rhee invited a PBS camera crew to roll tape while she fired a principal, an act of almost incomprehensible cruelty.
In Whitmire's telling the relatively young and inexperienced Rhee is so utterly self-assured, so scornful of opponents, and so inclined to treat everyone in her path as a speed bump, you start to feel you would not care to have much to do with Rhee even if you shared her goals.Read more ›
The book is not one-sided; it examines Rhee's considerable talents as well as her faults.
For me, the imprint left by the book is: is the chief goal of educational administrators to give children the best education possible no matter what, or to protect the jobs of those who work for educational institutions?
I wonder how often administrators say the former but in fact do the latter.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is a brutally honest snapshot of education and why education is changing all over the country. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Art Mom
Ridiculous no content will never buy this kind of publication again wish I knew what I was buying in advance but one never does.Published 13 months ago by Aviv Vida
This friendly but non-authorized biography tells the by turns inspiring then infuriating tale of how Michelle Rhee became the sort of person willing to fight tooth and nail to give... Read morePublished 18 months ago by FredTownWard
I really enjoyed this book and was inspired by Michelle's determination even when it was difficult. Michelle certainly cares about education and about education for those in... Read morePublished on January 21, 2014 by Jonanne Manogue
We know that Michelle Rhee has been a liar from her first days in the education business, and Whitmire claims to be her personal friend, but never calls her to account for her... Read morePublished on December 22, 2013 by Inky Winkings
Have read about Michelle Rhee and the work she did in D.C. It's too bad, more teachers and administrators don't pick up where she left off. Read morePublished on December 20, 2013 by John Tate
Did not just extoll the vision of Michelle Rhee but gave an accurate picture of the political cost of educational reform in this country. Read morePublished on October 11, 2013 by Bradley J Williams
Rhee impulsively ate a bee in front of her 2nd Grade class her first year in Teach for America (TFA). That is something to celebrate? Read morePublished on May 19, 2013 by Anon