Phillips, Like Bush, Can’t Say Those Two Little Words

by Steve, July 4th, 2007

I don’t know what took so long, but somebody in the local media finally pulled back the curtain surrounding the Vicki Phillips corporate foundation funding agenda—just a smidge—and asked her a couple tough questions about her insult-to-injury snark about her critics and her predilection for corporate bucks.

Willamette Week reporter Beth Slovic, denied an “exit interview” with Phillips, went all Michael Moore and stalked Phillips on her victory lap.

Local broadcast and print media have generally fawned over Phillips for wooing the business community, raising test scores and balancing the budget, convincing many citizens that she’s just a good, caring administrator. The real work of journalism has fallen to activists at the Neighborhood Schools Alliance and bloggers like Terry Olson, who have consistently worked to expose the fraud of corporate reform that lurks behind the caring face of Phillips and the Gates and Broad foundations.

So now comes Slovic, asking Phillips to clarify her snarky remarks about the critics of her screw-up at Jefferson. “I’m not going to name names,” says Phillips. “Shouldn’t you clarify what you meant?” asks Slovic.

That’s a nice opening to say something like “You know, it’s been really frustrating all around. I made some mistakes in the process; we should have listened more to the community members who were already engaged at Jefferson.” And those two little words wouldn’t hurt: “I’m sorry.” As in “I’m sorry we didn’t welcome them into the process, and I’m sorry I made that remark in the Tribune.” Hell, she couldn’t even manage a George W. Bush-style passive-voice non-apology. “Mistakes were made. I’m sorry people felt excluded.” Nope, not even that.

Instead, she throws some more gasoline on the fire:

I always prefer to put my energy in those people who are willing to come to the table and be appropriately critical but also supportive and problem-solving…. I think it’s pretty public who’s been critical or not supportive, and I think there’s always people who are on both sides of an issue and my point is that Jefferson has a lot of really positive things going on and it’s time to get in there and problem-solve and help. And I think that’s an appropriate point to make.

Right. I don’t even know where to begin with this. She seems to be saying, “I welcome criticism, but only on my terms.” Appropriately critical but also supportive? In other words, we’re going to cram this process down your throat, and if you don’t like the terms, your not being appropriate. The point of departure for dialectic in Vicki’s world is acceptance of all her preconditions, else you are not being appropriate.

Listen, that’s what I say to my 5-year-old when he’s— oh never mind… That’s something you say to kids, not grown-ups. Certainly not grown-ups who were already engaged at Jefferson when you came in a bulldozed them with your top-down, Eli Broad-sponsored redesign scheme that was broadly rejected by the community. Talk about inappropriate!

Anyway, I’m glad The Willy Week sent someone out to toss a few hardballs at Vicki. I can only hope the national media are a little more curious about the Gates agenda than the local media have been. (So far, they haven’t been; witness Robert Siegel’s April 25, 2007 softball interview with Melinda Gates on NPR.)