Rhee ‘Olympics’ Ad Sports a Questionable Message

By Liana Loewus — July 23, 2012 1 min read
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In a new ad attempting to illustrate the decline of U.S. schools, the nonprofit advocacy group StudentsFirst, founded by former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, plays off both the wave of excitement about the upcoming summer Olympics and the arguably overdone “fat man dances” slapstick routine. Take a look:

Twitter is abuzz with both praise and disparagement of the ad, which Rhee proudly previewed yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Funny and yet sad,” said one proponent by tweet.

Meanwhile, blogger Gary Rubenstein, dependably critical of anything Teach For America-related (Rhee was once a TFAer), deconstructs the ad’s claim that the United States has lost its “competitive edge” due to declining student achievement. And he further scorns the ad itself: “I did not find this video amusing, except for the irony that they know about as much about comedy as they do about practical education reform.”

The ad is definitely an attention-getter, which could help to spread awareness about systemic education problems to those who are otherwise uninformed. But it seems questionable for an education organization to be playing up obesity for laughs, especially as more people acknowledge bullying as a rampant school problem (remember that bullied bus monitor?). Perhaps Rhee’s group intended the ad for mature adults, not students (another bit of irony from a group named StudentsFirst?).

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.