Blog: The Educated Reporter

Disruptive reform and the politics of nice.

Read this piece by Nikita Stewart and Paul Schwartzman about how the arrogance of Washington, D.C., Mayor-for-Now Adrian Fenty pretty much cost him yesterday’s election. Ouch. Michelle Rhee’s fate is pretty clearly entwined with Fenty’s, and her own situation is analogous: It doesn’t matter how much you accomplish if you don’t play the politics.It is an important question: Do you have to be conciliatory/gradual/nice in order to make huge, uncomfortable reforms without getting booted out on your butt?

No matter how successful big reforms are, change is hard and chafing—particularly in the education world, who are used to niceness as a prime directive. Things didn’t work out so great for Alan Bersin, or Paul Vallas, or suburban supes in districts I covered whose school boards pushed them out after they made the changes they were hired to make, because they were “brash” or “arrogant.” Yet Joel Klein has made enemies and he is still in charge in New York.

Does it matter how much you get done, if you don’t get to finish the job?