Ravitch vs. reform

Once an education reformer, Diane Ravitch has become the leader of the resistance movement, writes David Denby in the New Yorker.

Ravitch argues that the reform movement is driven by an exaggerated negative critique of the schools, and that it is mistakenly imposing a free-market ethos of competition on an institution that, if it is to function well, requires coöperation, sharing, and mentoring.

“I think the crisis in American education is that there is a concerted effort to destroy it,” Ravitch told The American Prospect. Here’s part two of the interview.

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Comments

  1. George Mitchell says:

    I am trying to think of what organization, for-profit or non-profit, that does not require a level of “coöperation, sharing, and mentoring” for success. As for the “concerted effort to destroy” education, such an observation highlights the level that Diane Ravitch has reached.

    • nailsagainsttheboard says:

      Diane Ravitch is spot-on. Of course, private and charter schools self-select for the best students, both academically and behaviorally, and dump out low-performing, poorly behaved and special needs students. That’s not just the elephant in the room–it’s the raison d’etre for those kinds of schools, and I don’t blame parents for wanting their children to go to a school with better performing and behaving students. But don’t pretend Ravitch isn’t a truth teller, because she is, and always has been. The traditional public school is quickly becoming a dumping ground for the worst of the worst. Until we have parents who send their kids to school ready to learn, ready to be respectful and cooperative, no matter what their socioeconomic level, we will get a stratified system. Or, perhaps traditional public schools should be able to get rid of the undesirable students, just like private and charters, and even the playing field. ‘Nuff said.

      • I guess it’s time to require one obtain a license before becoming a parent, then. That should fix everything.

  2. It’s interesting to see that Ravitch has decided to climb onto one of the busses. Not only that, she has become the driver and head cheerleader. Gone is any nuance or caveat. She is just another example of the politicization and polarization of what should be an analysis of many different problems with many potential solutions. It’s now all or nothing. Even charter schools threaten her all or nothing vision. Of course, her vision is the correct one, and if you don’t agree, you will be painted with the big, bad, Republican brush. (Republicans are good at this too.) This is not a path towards “cooperation, sharing, and mentoring.” She has bought into the “everything’s political” concept and is now chief propagandist for what she sees as the greater good. She cashed in her independence and credibility and demands that everyone pick a bus. It’s not about education. It’s politics.

    Black and white. All or nothing. Win or lose. Turf. Ownership of solutions. At least choice breaks the stranglehold of those who claim to know what’s best for everyone.

  3. “I don’t blame parents for wanting their children to go to a school with better performing and behaving students.”

    So what’s the problem? If regular public schools can’t or won’t separate kids by willingness or ability, what do you expect parents to do; sacrifice them for some greater good? What is this greater good if people like Ravitch are waiting for some other institution to fix poverty before schools can do a good job? You can’t have it both ways. Urban parents in our area are desperate to get their kids into charter schools, but the educational establishment is fighting them tooth and nail. How does this greater good work?

    “The traditional public school is quickly becoming a dumping ground for the worst of the worst.”

    These kids were there before. You just didn’t want to see them. If they are isolated, then it’s harder to ignore their needs. And why do you refer to these kids as “worst”? Are these kids all troublemakers who don’t care?

    “Until we have parents who send their kids to school ready to learn, ready to be respectful and cooperative, no matter what their socioeconomic level, we will get a stratified system.”

    What is the ideal of the American Public Education System if it waits for poverty or parents to be fixed first? What is the ideal if individual initiative is squashed for some greater good that can’t really be defined.

    Ravitch is reduced to claiming that everything is really not so bad. Tell that to the urban parents who are desperate to get their kids out. This is no longer about Republicans clammoring for vouchers to send their kids to private schools. It’s come to the point where educators are fighting directly against those they claim to want to help. Apparently, the “ideal” is that nobody gets out unless everybody gets out. And everybody won’t get out until parents and poverty are fixed first.

    • Steve,
      Ravitch is fully capable of nuance, but circumstances demand forceful counter-propaganda. She is one woman fighting a billionaire-funded “reform” juggernaut. Until she started squawking, journalists ate up the Gates/Broad false diagnoses and false cures uncritically. Ravitch simplifies her message because only a blunt projectile has a chance of cracking the thick layer of “reformer” (not Republican) propaganda.

    • nailsagainsttheboard says:

      Hence my point about empowering public schools to remove uncooperative students and their families–but you need changes to the ed. codes to do that. I’m certainly not in the camp equality uber alles, whilst sacrificing quality. Also, there needs to be a place to put the incorrigibles, ie. reform schools or boot camp style institutions. Not pretty, but necessary.

  4. Florida resident says:

    Dear participants of the discussion !
    Our beloved Joanne Jacobs !

    You should express your opinion about this must-read book
    by Robert Weissberg
    “Bad Students, _not_ Bad Schools”,
    $ 9.21 +$ 3.99 S&H on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Students-Not-Schools/dp/141281345X/

    As always in social sciences,
    the statement in the title of the book
    should not be understood as absolute one, without exceptions.
    It is a statistical statement, covering the majority of cases.
    See also review of that book:
    http://johnderbyshire.com/Reviews/HumanSciences/badstudents.html

  5. “Ravitch is fully capable of nuance, but circumstances demand forceful counter-propaganda.”

    I said it was gone, not that she was incapable of it.

    “She is one woman fighting a billionaire-funded “reform” juggernaut. Until she started squawking, journalists ate up the Gates/Broad false diagnoses and false cures uncritically.”

    One woman? There is a big world out there beyond billionaires/Gates/Broad versus Ravitch, etal. Where is the place for those of us who want “none of the above”? We are being marginalized by those who want to concentrate control and simplify the debate.

    “Ravitch simplifies her message because only a blunt projectile has a chance of cracking the thick layer of “reformer” (not Republican) propaganda.”

    Ravitch says:

    “The agenda of reform today is actually the traditional Republican agenda. The Republicans have been saying now since probably the 1960s that what’s needed is testing, accountability, choice, and competition. That is the conventional, traditional GOP agenda.”

    Don’t tell me that she is independent. It’s black and white. Turf. Ownership of solutions. Politics. As I said, at least school choice allows parents to decide for themselves. Whether it’s unschooling or Core Knowledge, parents need choice.

    • Yes, she’s a liberal; my point is that prominent Democrats have adopted the Republican position, so she’s railing against Democrats as well as Republicans.

      She IS largely alone. Until she started speaking up, coverage was one-sided. I (and many other teachers) are grateful that we finally have a loud and articulate spokesperson. I understand your frustration with inner city schools, but spinning a false narrative about why they’re bad helps no one and hurts many.

      • “but spinning a false narrative about why they’re bad helps no one and hurts many”

        What, specifically, is my false narrative?

        • I mean the reformers’ false narrative that feckless teachers, inflexible unions and rigid bureaucracies cause poor outcomes in urban schools. The truth is that most of these teachers are working valiantly to stave off chaos –beating up on them is the height of injustice.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            You’re absolutely right that lots of urban teachers are striving valiantly to stave off chaos. They should be helped by their principals and central office people. Students who are thrown out of class need to stay out for that period, and alternative placements have to be available for chronic disruptors. Principals and vice principals have to back their teachers when it comes to discipline and grades. Teachers and students have to know with clarity that there are rules to be followed, and that there will be consequences for breaking them.

            Maybe Republicans could back this. After all, they once called themselves the party of “law and order.” It would also be nice if my union would push for it.

  6. Roger, I might accord the union a bit of respect if it was willing to put its muscle behind the safety and discipline issues. Related to this issue is the sometimes-recommended “reform” of moving the best teachers into the worst schools. It’s a current topic on the WaPo education site and there are a number of comments from people identifying themselves as teaching in the affluent, highest-performing DC schools (Northwest, west of Rock Creek Park); if required to transfer to high-need schools, they would quit. I’m shocked, shocked!