Asian American Educators: Michelle Rhee and 'Whatever it Takes'

December 3, 2008

Rhee is framed as the one who can possibly set a new model and standard for urban school reform; if she succeeds, then it means other f(l)ailing urban school districts could improve. In other words, all eyes are on this young Korean American school leader. I hope there's continuous coverage of her work there. Someone should make a documentary about her and the school district. Rhee seems like one of those people you either love or hate. (Oh, and in the accompanying piece, it said she was going to vote for McCain until a friend convinced her to vote for Obama).

Speaking of documentaries, I also can't wait to see Whatever It Takes, about an Asian American principal at a school in the Bronx. We generally don't hear about Asian American principals and how effective and strong they can be. In general, you don't hear about Asian American educators. I don't think the film's completed yet, but you can watch the movie trailer here.

It's interesting to hear these stories and see what role race plays. Race, and other factors. Michelle Rhee being a young, extremely well-educated Korean American woman in a huge leadership role, working in a predominantly African American district.

I know many young adults going into the education field -- including many young Asian Americans -- who want to use their education to improve the educational system, to make it more equal where it's obviously so unequal and unjust. I taught high school in a very underresourced district probably not unlike the D.C. schools where Rhee is. There's also the stereotype that Asians value education and do well in school -- though the model minority myth is verrrry slowly unraveling, I think.


Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.



Great article, Michelle Rhee is Chancellor of our nations capital school system?If she reforms the DC schools, she will be a true champion in my book.Its a shame that the DC government doesnt invest in these schools and she is going to need all the help she can get. Pissing off the Teachers Union is a must, in order for future progress.