On Wednesday's Hardball, Chris Matthews brought on former Washington D.C. chancellor of public schools Michelle Rhee to discuss the state of public education in this country and praised her for work on the part of students but also warned her to "stay away from the right wing" because she was "too good to be grabbed by some ideological fool."
After Rhee explained to Matthews why public school students needed an organization like the one she founded, Students First, to counterbalance the influence of the teachers unions, Matthews congratulated her for not becoming a tool of conservatives.
(video after the jump)
The following exchange was aired on the December 15 edition of Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: So my daughter went to a very good Catholic school in Washington, Georgetown Visitation. She goes to the University of Pennsylvania, and realized she's ahead of the kids there at a great Ivy League school. So how come the Catholic schools can do better than the public schools?
MICHELLE RHEE, FOUNDER, STUDENTS FIRST: Well, I mean I wouldn't just say it's the Catholic schools. We have a lot of public schools that do a great job too, charter schools that do a great job so I don't think that it's about the sector that a school is in. I think that it's the ability to have a great principal to have that principal have a great staff of teachers and if you talk to some of the best schools whether their public schools or charter schools or private schools what they'll tell you is it's all about teacher quality.
MATTHEWS: Is [sic] the teachers unions of America, are they for education or for the teachers?
RHEE: Well, look, you know people want to give teacher's unions a hard time right now and then people are saying, "Well why aren't the unions coming along? Why don't, why don't we get them to change? Why can't they embrace for reform?" But the bottom line is the purpose of the teachers union is to protect their members. It's to maximize the pay and the privileges of the teachers. So the teachers unions aren't really the problem. They're just doing their job and they're doing an excellent job of that, but the problem is that when you, when all you have as a special interest group is the teachers union and you don't have an organized interest group that's advocating on behalf of children, then you create an imbalance where the policies and laws that are put in place are put in place, you know, for adults instead of for children. And that's the purpose of my new organization, Students First, is we're gonna advocate and put pressure on decision makers and politicians to put kids first.
MATTHEWS: Well, I wish you well and stay away from the right wing! Don't let them grab too control of you! You're too good to be grabbed by some ideological fool!
RHEE: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: Because you are important, you are certainly important to this country. Thank you, Michelle Rhee.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here