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.)

6 Responses to “Phillips, Like Bush, Can’t Say Those Two Little Words”

  1. Comment from Terry:

    Way to go, Beth. You’ve picked up where the Trib’s Jennifer Anderson left off before she started writing fluff pieces about Vicki Phillips.

    What does Phillips mean “appropriately critical?” She wants us to be polite? Nobody’s called her names, have they? The criticism I’ve read has been direct, factual, and blunt, but hardly inappropriate. What’s inappropriate is her refusal to respond substantively to charges that she has negotiated back room deals with corporate bigwigs –and Tony Hopson– while completely ignoring the concerns of the real Jefferson community. Her tactic, like Bush’s, is to essentially stonewall her critics.

    Corporate largesse is all well and good, but not if it supplants adequate public funding from citizen taxpayers. Corporations are accountable only to their stockholders, not to the public. Unlike Doug Morgan, I can’t vote Phil Knight (or Mark Parker) out of office.

    One definition of fascism is the merging of corporate and governmental interests. That seems to be the educational road we’ve taken under the leadership of Vicki Phillips.

  2. Comment from Terry:

    I posted the above comment on WWeek’s site as well. Thanks again for another great post.

  3. Comment from Zarwen:

    “Appropriately critical” is Phillipspeak for “fawning all over me.” “Supportive and problem-solving” means “doing it my way.” “Positive things going on” means “corporate money is in control.” There are many other examples of Phillipspeak in all of her published interviews; I am sure you get the idea.

  4. Comment from Zarwen:

    I forgot to add that the words “I’m sorry” cannot be translated into Phillipspeak.

  5. Comment from julia:

    Hi – just found your blog from the Thursday Thirteen site, and “More hockey Less war” was too intriguing to pass up. And here I get a post about snotty politicians. Wonderful surprise! Ms. Phillps ( I hate to snark on her, since I was once a Ms. Phillips, myself) is only doing what business rewards people for doing. Crushing the competition. Success in business and having a soul generally don’t go together. The only way to counter someone like that is to crush her into the boards with a sneaky body check. You may spend a short time in the penalty box, but it’s the only way to take her out of the game.

  6. Comment from Himself:

    Thanks, Julia, but she’s already taken herself out of the game. Lucky for you Canadians, you won’t be subjected to her coprate schools nonsense dictated from her new job as director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.