Monday, October 07, 2013

A New Article On An Old Diane Ravitch

If you type "Ravitch" into the search engine at the top or bottom of this blog page you'll find maybe 8 posts in which noted "education historian" Diane Ravitch is mentioned--and not always in the most positive light.  There's a new article about her in City Journal, which I'll quote here:
Education writer and activist Diane Ravitch is very angry these days. She’s convinced herself and her followers that elements of the American corporate elite are working to destroy the nation’s public schools, the indispensable institution that has held our republic together for more than two centuries. According to Ravitch, these fake reformers—the “billionaire boys’ club,” as she calls them—are driven by greed: after destroying the schools and stigmatizing hardworking teachers, she says, they want to privatize education and reap the profits from the new market.

Heading Ravitch’s corporate enemies list are superrich philanthropists such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, and Michael Bloomberg, who’ve promoted the hated ideas. Equally despised are the education officials and politicians carrying out their dirty work—reformers such as ex-Washington, D.C., public schools’ chief Michelle Rhee, former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and education secretary Arne Duncan (and, by implication, his boss, the president, too).

A few years ago, Ravitch grew so troubled about the purported threat to the public schools that she went through an amazing life change for a 73-year-old historian, whose previous career had been spent writing scholarly books. She reinvented herself as a vehement political activist. Once one of the conservative school-reform movement’s most visible faces, Ravitch became the inspirational leader of a radical countermovement that is rising from the grass roots to oppose the corporate villains. Evoking the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, Ravitch proclaims that the only answer to the corporate school-reform agenda is to “build a political movement so united and clear in its purpose that it would be heard in every state Capitol and even in Washington, D.C.” The problem is that Ravitch’s civil rights analogy is misplaced; her new ideological allies have proved themselves utterly incapable of raising the educational achievement of poor minority kids...

Sometime around 2007, Ravitch began having second thoughts about the free-market components of education reform. In a public debate at Hoover, she teamed with Hirsch to argue in favor of a resolution affirming that “true school reform demands more attention to curriculum and instruction than to markets and choice"...

Then, Ravitch abruptly took yet another dramatic spin and wound up surrendering abjectly to Meier, champion of social-justice teaching and other progressive fads. For the progressives, it was similar to the defection of a top general from the enemy side. Ravitch later said that Meier had convinced her that she was wrong about everything. Not only had Ravitch changed her mind about school choice and testing; she had closed her mind to the possibility of any successful reforms, including national standards, curriculum, and classroom instruction. And anyone who persisted in supporting such “de-forms,” she maintained, must either be a reactionary or (like Duncan, presumably) a dupe of the reactionary corporate-reform movement. In Ravitch’s new lexicon, the word “reformer” became pejorative.

In April 2012, Ravitch launched a blog that today serves as a propaganda hub for the national anti–corporate reform coalition...The blog has all the subtlety of an Occupy Wall Street poster...

The latest incarnation of Diane Ravitch, then, depicts a Manichaean struggle for the future of America’s children. On one side are the forces of darkness, the malefactors of wealth, scheming to kill the public schools. On the other side are the forces of light, including all the courageous parents, teachers, and ordinary Americans struggling to preserve their precious schools. Any middle ground from which someone might offer an independent, case-by-case evaluation of the policies most likely to improve the schools is lost. As in the words of the union song, all Ravitch wants to know is “Which Side Are You On?”

This crude, politicized approach isn’t going to produce smart school policies.
There's much more, go read the whole thing.

If you read this post I wrote after listening to Ravitch speak you'll note that Diane doesn't deviate much from her latest script when she talks.  And I'm clearly not the only one who thinks she's angry.

Hat tip to reader Mr. Chandler.

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