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America’s Education Whistleblower: Diane Ravitch and the Reign of Error September 25, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Poverty, Race.
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Roger’s note: If you have not been following the attempts to privatize and, in effect, destroy public education in the United States, Diane Ravitch is a prominent and respected educator who has taken a 180 degree turn from a supporter to its major critic.  Backed by mega corporations such as Microsoft and spearheaded by Obama’s basketball playmate and Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, the initiative involves making a fetish of standardized testing, the increased funding of elite charter schools, the marginalization of children from non-white and lower economic families, and a drastic reduction of dependence upon the skills, talents, and experience of teachers.  The comments posted after the article fill in some of the details of how this works in practice.  If genuine public education is to survive in the U.S., then serious resistance to this typical capitalistic attempt to make money at the expense of children, is essential.

 

Author’s note: On September 18, Joe Bowers listed 33 reviews of Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.  Since then, many other reviews have appeared, including a very substantial one by George Schmidt at Substance News.  Please see Bowers’ list for some very good play-by-play reviews.  That is not what I am offering here.

In 2007 when Diane Ravitch descended from her 20,000-foot view of the education reform landscape to examine what was going on at ground level, she did not like what she saw: children suffering nose-bleeds and vomiting from test anxiety, school personnel and parents humiliated by test results designed to satisfy the failure quotas imposed by cynical and self-serving corporate privateers and political ideologues; educators being blamed for the effects of poverty that no amount of good teaching could fix alone; untrained beginners replacing education professionals in schools that needed the most caring and experienced teachers; schools that had functioned as community centers of identity and activity being closed; a pathological fixation of quantifiable data that had displaced attention to the human needs of growing children; an educational governance structure increasingly controlled by autocratic and arrogant billionaires; and an incredibly shrinking and brittle collection of desiccated facts having replaced the curriculum for the lower caste of segregated untouchable children incarcerated in more and more urban corporate reform schools.

Seeing all this, Ravitch did what was unthinkable among the delusional and arrogant group of efficiency-worshipping zealots with whom she had spent much time during the prior twenty years: she admitted the entire antiquated system of back to basics on steroids 1) was not improving teaching and learning, 2) was not closing the achievement gaps, 3) was not making public schools stronger, and 4) was not being held accountable for the previous decades of more of the same failed policies built upon the same racist and classist standardized testing foundation, made harder still with each subsequent repackaged iteration.

What makes Diane Ravitch even more unique is that she did not sit behind a screen to offer her insider testimony on these issues to the court of public opinion and then go into an educational witness protection program but, rather, she made the continuing public condemnation of the Billionaire Boys Club her raison d’être, even as the plutocrats’ high-testosterone testocrats have challenged her unassailable facts and as the academic mercenaries from the corporate think tanks have resorted to pretzel logic in attempts to refute her wisdom.  Since 2010 when she published The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Ravitch has been on a non-stop one-woman road show, crisscrossing the country, speaking to the growing and rumbling army of educators of the nation’s PS Hope.

In her new book, Ravitch has brought a megaphone to the long-ignored message that resistance, indeed, is not futile but, rather, resistance is demanded and that resistance will prevail.

Somehow she has found time between her face-to-face engagements and her online presence as both tweeter and blogger, to write a new book with a cover title in two inch orange Day-Glo letters: Reign of Error.  Unlike with Death and Life, which Ravitch shopped to numerous publishers before landing with Basic Books, this time New York’s premier publishing house, Knopf, was eager to snap up Reign or Error, along with generous provisions for promotion, advertising, and touring.

The new book picks up where the last one left off, this time mixing sharp punctures of the ‘Corporate Education’ gas bags with lists of positive strategies that are sure to rankle the proto-fascist sensibilities of the corporate Borg’s swarm of propagandists, e.g., the Wall Street Journal.  In this new volume, in fact, Ravitch has brought a megaphone to the long-ignored message that resistance, indeed, is not futile but, rather, resistance is demanded and that resistance will prevail.  Her logic to reaching that conclusion is as simple and clear as her deliberate prose, and the directness of her indignant optimism bespeaks an historian who is enjoying her moment and looking forward to a future that she is determined to make livable and learnable for her grandchildren, and ours.

The first half of Reign of Error takes up for discussion a series of reformist claims that are repeated so often by the post-partisan CorpEd think tanks that they would have to be accurate if repetition were sole criterion for establishing truth.  Reformist bromides are refuted with clear statements from evidence-based reality that are accompanied with enough documented examples to send any self-serving edupreneur scrambling back to his corporate teaching manual in hopes of salvaging some semblance of pedagogical respectability.

The second half of the book is comprised of Ravitch’s Top Ten educational policy interventions that may, once taken seriously by Washington, again restore sanity to an education policy world gone wild with what Harold Rugg called an “orgy of tabulation,” whose corrupting and abusive practices have spread into kindergarten and pre-K.  Each point is discussed with clarity, determination, and evidence that Ravitch has been listening to the most important professionals not included in policy discussions—teachers.

It took a long time for Dr. Ravitch to break clear of the corporatist influence that has controlled the increasingly antiquarian version of education reform since the coming of Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Whether her conversion in 2007 resulted from the gentle persuasion of researchers like Richard Rothstein or from the fierce prodding of researcher-advocates like Gerald Bracey and Susan Ohanian, Diane has made up for lost time since regaining her sight after being struck blind on the road out of DC.  Whatever happens over the next ten or twenty years in education policy, her place is secure, just after six years of battle, as the single individual who most influenced the eventual outcome if parents and teachers and students continue to heed the call for the restoration and renewal of public schools free of high stakes tests for all children who choose a high quality and free education.  Ravitch has brought the word—now it is time to act.

Jim Horn

Jim Horn is Professor of Educational Leadership at Cambridge College, Cambridge, MA. He is also an education blogger at Schools Matter @ the Chalkface and has published widely on issues related to education reform and social justice in education. With co-author, Denise Wilburn, his new book, The Mismeasure of Education, was published in July 2013.

 

 

 

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    Pandeon

    And beware of Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and one of the biggest backers of charter schools and privatization of schools

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    adiantum

    The most serious blow to education delivered by corporate reformers is the discouragement of intelligent, sensitive young people, a hopelessness that keeps them from choosing teaching as a career. Intelligent people do not want the likes of Bill Gates and Arne Duncan telling them what they should be doing in their classrooms. They want the freedom to structure time and space as they see fit–so their students not only learn the stuff but are entranced by it.

    How odd that capitalist reformers will not apply the rules of capitalism to education: successful ventures require the expenditure of resources, the recruitment of good people, and the creation of a non-threatening, nurturing atmosphere in which work can be conducted. The damage inflicted on education by corporate reformers will last a generation or more–until the confidence of the young is restored and teaching is regarded as an honorable profession once more.

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    chryso Joe

    Indeed. They’re not interested in setting up schools of any kind; they want to destroy the system of public education and replace it with something that will make money for them. They want to create another extractive industry – your kids as ore.
    They also make money already of the suppliers of food, where the kids get garbage to eat and the profits go to food merchants. Interesting parallel – garbage food and garbage education.
    You may not know this, but when this “create-a-crisis” version of education was imposed on school boards, one of the new improvements was the assignment of an ID number to every child so that his/her (spending) habits could be tracked in order to target marketing strategies. Not quite yet implanting a chip, but getting there.

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    Jim Horn adiantum

    Your points are spot on, I think. It would seem that the Gates Foundation, which owns Duncan’s ED, has the same destructive system in mind for teaching as the geniuses at Microsoft have used to kill creativity there. This article from Forbes you might find interesting:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/fr…

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    dmadrone adiantum

    If we want young people to be able to teach we need to do away with part-time, low pay, no benefit adjunct positions. It is getting so that no one dare go into an education debt that no future salary in teaching will compensate for.

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    Siouxrose adiantum

    I would point out that the term “corporate reformers” is too kind and really blurs the issue. These people are disaster capitalists who now lick their cops for public schools the way vultures seek out road kill.

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    parrysixte adiantum

    Capitalism runs on RIO…not what we want n education…wiht ts endless quantitative measuring

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    Tom Carberry

    Schools do need reform, but no one will talk about the giant elephant in the room — perpetual war. The US spends most of its tax dollars killing poor children overseas, so it has little left to educate children at home.

    And it needs uneducated children to fill the ranks of professional killers.

    I listen to my school board members all the time, all of them somewhere on the spectrum of people who identify as “liberals.” But not one of them will speak out against war. Not one of them will call Obama a war criminal (but I would bet most of them called W a war criminal only a few years ago).

    Good schools need lots of different avenues for children. What about music and art? Most schools don’t teach them because they want to prepare people for jobs, prepare them to become doctors and lawyers.

    But 300 hundred years from now, will people go to museums to look at legal briefs or to concert halls to hear doctors lecture?

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    greghilbert

    Applause for Diane Ravitch, first for the truth of her research and thesis, and second for her courage in electing open defiance of the corporatist predators despite consequence to herself. Applause also for Jim Horn, for his leadership and amplification of voices of both genders making a critical difference. JIM, it happens that at the time Bush was elected and orchestrated this “accountability and corporate testing hoax”, I was Vice Pres Strat Dev for the USA’s leading (by far) free source of information and resources for teachers and other educators, and “masterminded” an awarded contract to build NEA’s new portal. I’ll find a way to get my contact info to you for purpose of telling a first-person story of fraud perpetrated by the Bush transition team for Education, for which Houston’s “reformer” was the trojan horse.

    In the meantime let me also say that what anti-privatization people seem to be inadequately aware of is this: For-profit corporatists like Gates see public ed as a market as lucrative as MIC and healthcare. Their core strategy is to deliver “master teacher” cookie-cutter instruction via internet and proprietary hosted networks employing the internet. Dramatic reduction in spending on teachers, etc. They already have a big and growing share of post-secondary and continuing adult ed. Secondary share is growing but limited to internet connection services, PCs, laptops, handhelds and peripherals. They plan to privatize K-12 in stages. PreK last.

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    Grandma Moon

    I greatly admire Diane Ravitch for having the honesty to publicly revise her opinions. Even when she was ensconced with conservatives, she was pushing for enriched curricula. She was never a buffoon. Now she sees that her genuine concern for children and education cannot be fulfilled under the “first starve, then condemn, then privatize” model.

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    nineteen50

    These so called educational reformers think all kids are a jar you poor information into and when asked they can hand it
    back, they do not consider all jars are not the same some are even damaged or broken just like kids.

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    rosemariejackowski

    In Burlington there has been a recent controversy. The teachers Union objected to 3 minutes of teacher/student time. The school day had to be shortened by 3 minutes.

    As a former teacher and union member I understand this, but the teachers lost a lot of respect during the fight for the new ’3 minute rule’.

    http://www.wcax.com/story/2351…

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    cfromke

    Best Rant of 2013!

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    Siouxrose

    Great article, Mr. Horn. You hit the nail on the head and your command of language is compelling.

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    itoldyouso

    democratizing education is the key.

    give all parties with a stake a fair say in all decision making.

    with this procedural democracy in which students, teachers, parents, taxpayers, and administrators participate, transparency, empowerment, responsibility and accountability will come.

    the process itself will educate and train everyone involved as the members of a broader democratic society.

    without radical change in the way the members of the society think about what kind of society they want to live in, there will be no real change in the way education is conceived of, school is organized and run, students are taught, teachers are respected, parents are involved, and society is sustained.

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    Why We’re Striking in Chicago September 10, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Chicago, Education, Labor.
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    Published on Monday, September 10, 2012 by Common Dreams

    ‘Join Our Fight for Education Justice,’ says CTU President Karen Lewis

      by  Karen Lewis

    Teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians in Chicago have been without a labor agreement since June of this year. Following the inability of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to reach an agreement over benefits, the role of standardized tests in teacher evaluations, and physical improvements to schools that teachers say are harming both teacher and student performance, the CTU has announced that a city-wide stirke will begin today — the first teachers strike in 25 years. Pickets are expected at 675 schools and the Board of Education. The following are remarks from CTU

    Negotiations have been intense but productive, however we have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike. This is a difficult decision and one we hoped we could avoid. Throughout these negotiations have I remained hopeful but determined. We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve.

    Talks have been productive in many areas. We have successfully won concessions for nursing mothers and have put more than 500 of our members back to work. We have restored some of the art, music, world language, technology and physical education classes to many of our students. The Board also agreed that we will now have textbooks on the first day of school rather than have our students and teachers wait up to six weeks before receiving instructional materials.

    Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation. However, we are apart on benefits. We want to maintain the existing health benefits.

    Another concern is evaluation procedures. After the initial phase-in of the new evaluation system it could result in 6,000 teachers (or nearly 30 percent of our members) being discharged within one or two years. This is unacceptable. We are also concerned that too much of the new evaluations will be based on students’ standardized test scores. This is no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator. Further there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control.

    We want job security. Despite a new curriculum and new, stringent evaluation system, CPS proposes no increase (or even decreases) in teacher training. This is notable because our Union through our Quest Center is at the forefront teacher professional development in Illinois. We have been lauded by the District and our colleagues across the country for our extensive teacher training programs that helped emerging teachers strengthen their craft and increased the number of nationally board certified educators.

    We are demanding a reasonable timetable for the installation of air-conditioning in student classrooms–a sweltering, 98-degree classroom is not a productive learning environment for children. This type of environment is unacceptable for our members and all school personnel. A lack of climate control is unacceptable to our parents.

    As we continue to bargain in good faith, we stand in solidarity with parents, clergy and community-based organizations who are advocating for smaller class sizes, a better school day and an elected school board. Class size matters. It matters to parents. In the third largest school district in Illinois there are only 350 social workers—putting their caseloads at nearly 1,000 students each. We join them in their call for more social workers, counselors, audio/visual and hearing technicians and school nurses. Our children are exposed to unprecedented levels of neighborhood violence and other social issues, so the fight for wraparound services is critically important to all of us. Our members will continue to support this ground swell of parent activism and grassroots engagement on these issues. And we hope the Board will not shut these voices out.

    While new Illinois law prohibits us from striking over the recall of laid-off teachers and compensation for a longer school year, we do not intend to sign an agreement until these matters are addressed.

    Again, we are committed to staying at the table until a contract is place. However, in the morning no CTU member will be inside our schools. We will walk the picket lines. We will talk to parents. We will talk to clergy. We will talk to the community. We will talk to anyone who will listen—we demand a fair contract today, we demand a fair contract now. And, until there is one in place that our members accept, we will on the line.

    We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the state and country who are currently bargaining for their own fair contracts. We stand with those who have already declared they too are prepared to strike, in the best interests of their students.

    This announcement is made now so our parents and community are empowered with this knowledge and will know that schools will not open on tomorrow. Please seek alternative care for your children. And, we ask all of you to join us in our education justice fight—for a fair contract—and call on the mayor and CEO Brizard to settle this matter now. Thank you.

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    Karen Lewis

    Karen Lewis is the president of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).

    Represent Our Resistance March 20, 2009

    Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Race, Racism.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    1 comment so far

    represent-our-resistance1

     

     
    The significance of the hegemonic domain of power lies in its ability to shape consciousness via the manipulation of ideas, images, symbols, and ideologies.
    I would never have imagined that history was connected to art, that philosophy was connected to science, and so on. The usual way that people are taught to think in amerika is that each subject is in a little compartment and has no relation to any other subject. For the most part, we receive fragments of unrelated knowledge, and our education follows no logical format or pattern. It is exactly this kind of education that produces people who don’t have the ability to think for themselves and who are easily manipulated.
    -Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography
    What would the coming dawn bring and what would we build after the storm?

    It is not enough that Black and Brown children are subjected to the school-to-prison “programs” called “education in America. We have Arne Duncan, Education Chief, who specializes in establishing military schools for Black and Brown children.

    From white liberals we hear this question: how do we (the city, the state, the nation) provide schooling for children growing up in urban America? The question should be, how do we (Black, Brown parents, citizens, intellectuals, teachers, activists, and students) provide schooling for our children growing up in capitalist America?

    In “The Duncan Doctrine: The Military-Corporate Legacy of the New Secretary of Education,” independent journalist Andy Kroll looked at Arne Duncan’s performance as Superintendent of Public Schools in Chicago. He turned to the military! According to Kroll, Duncan’s solution for “educating” Black and Brown children in Chicago included the establishment of military academies in low income areas or areas with a dense population of single parents. It was no surprise that Duncan’s military school solution to achieving equitable education for all American children didn’t target suburban children.

    No, the military school solution will teach obedience. But obedience to what end? What is the product if not docile citizens who won’t resist and who will accept their place as commodities and consumers? Who benefits from surrounding Black and Brown children in the walls of a military academy? What will these children learn? To remember and honor their ancestors? Or will they learn to love a country and an economic system that refuses to even engage a dialogue on reparations? Will they learn to love a country and an economic system that has little regard for Black and Brown life? What does Duncan care about our ancestors?

    But, it will provide structure in the lives of these children! All Black and Brown children are without structure in their lives? For even those without familial structure, the question should be what in this nation’s ideology of the “American Dream” destroyed the “structure” in these children’s lives?

    Kroll added that the Chicago military academies, if not explicitly a military recruitment tool, certainly offer deals to graduates, encouraging their entrance into the military.

    Under Duncan’s “education” solution, children come to associate education with monetary reward. Students receive money for high grades. The higher the grade the more money! Education is also associated with “getting the job.” In corporate America that means becoming a content cog in the machinery. Education means money and a job that makes you “worthy!” Being “worthy” in the eyes of others depends on how much money you have in your bank account, if you can trust the banks to keep your account.

    Love capitalism; hate yourself!

    Kroll writes that Duncan’s Chicago legacy emphasized “a business-mined, market-driven model for education. If he is a ‘reformer,’ his style of management is distinctly top-down, corporate, and privatizing.” Teachers are “expendable,” unions are “unnecessary,” and students are “customers.” But since Arne Duncan plays basketball and his managerial style mirrors President Obama, his friend, he finds himself in Washington D.C., rewarded for his “good job” in Chicago.

     

    Encouraging students to be critical thinkers, to question accepted beliefs and norms, remains key to a teacher’s role at any grade level.

    And? Black and Brown critical thinkers would question the status quo of a U.S. corporate-lead government, and such people would certainly come to “question” capitalism itself? Do we remember Malcolm and King?  Thinkers are not welcome now and they certainly won’t be welcome within Duncan’s “educational” scheme! 

    Sheep are easier to control and manipulate.  Sheep look to the leadership of an oligarchy.  Sheep obey orders.  They chew on the dribble from corporate media without understanding the difference between their interests as “sheep” and the interests of the leadership.

     

     

    A student who learns to play the cello, who studies how to read music, will learn discipline too, without a military-themed learning environment. But what use are Black and Brown cello players within a market-driven, corporate-militaristic government?

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