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Michelle Rhee Really Has Animated the School Reform Debate

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, March 8 2011

Or, rather, someone else has done it for her. "I'm firing my way to better schools," proclaims Michelle Rhee with a victorious thrust of her tiny little animated arm.

Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington DC public school system, is the subject of a new animated videos, highlighted by Forbes' E.D. Kain. The full slate of criticisms of Rhee -- that she was dictatorial, opaque, captured by educational theory, and prone to relying upon bad data -- are on display in the five minute clip, made using Xtranormal, the impossibly easy to use animation creation platform we last discussed when the subject was Ben Bernanke, the financial crisis, and animated bears.

Here, animated bears have been replaced by well-crafted human forms, but as far as animation goes, the clip, called "Rheeform: Fibs and Firings," is no "Avatar." Still, at a few hundred million dollars less cost, the creators manage to pack a punch, including some drolly humorous moments like when the tiny cartoon teacher hauled in for firing objects to 'Rhee' relying upon the word of her principal, hired last week. "My principal has never been a teacher," objects the teacher. "He ran his father's used car business. He keeps saying the school needs a tuneup. He tells teachers they need new," tiny animated air quotes, "spark plugs." At its basic settings, the videos are free to make.

While these Xtranormal videos might not set a new bar for civic creativity, they put the making of captivating political propoganda well within the reach of anyone who can type. That said, "Rheeform" hasn't yet caught fire; posted six days ago, it has pulled in only just over two thousand views. The video is posted on a new YouTube account under the name "Rheefirst," which is also now featuring a pair of video clips of DC city council testimony on Rhee's record. And it seems part of a broader war; there's also a @RheeFirst anonymous Twitter account, dedicated to "exposing Michelle Rhee's lies and deceptions, 140 characters at a time."

Related: from Ari Melber, When Animated Bears Explain: Can Viral Video Save the Economy?

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