The Splendor of Cities
Brooks on Rahm Emanuel's embrace of education reform:
The people who run the federal government spend almost no time outdoors. They get driven from home to work and move through corridors from meeting to meeting. So it was a little odd after all those times interviewing Rahm Emanuel when he was the White House chief of staff to be chasing him, outside, down an icy Chicago street.
He was underdressed for the weather, as all politicians feel compelled to be, in a leather jacket and jeans, and he was knocking on doors as part of a campaign for mayor. Emanuel was a colorful figure in Washington, but back home he's off the leash.
He's clearly a much happier person — glowing, bouncing, reminiscing and hugging. Gone are all the death-grip battles with Republicans and the Washington interest groups. Now startled people in sweatpants greet him when he shows up at their doorway, sometimes wrapping him in an embrace and sometimes bringing their kids out to pose for pictures. Nearly every single person he meets gets an ebullient high-five, though the cause for each celebration is not always clear.
I was struck by how many voters wanted to talk to him about education. Chicagoans have clearly internalized the fact that their city can't prosper so long as so many public school students are dropping out. So Emanuel rips through his school reform agenda, which is like Obama's national agenda, except on steroids.
He's got a Chicago version of the Race to the Top in which schools that reform the fastest get a pot of money. He's for school performance contracts in which school leaders vow to meet certain goals or risk losing control of their schools. He's for sending school report cards out to parents so they can measure how well their own schools are performing.
February 7, 2011