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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reign of Error: why you must read this book and share it with family and friends!

First a disclaimer:  Diane Ravitch sits on the board of my organization, Class Size Matters, and I serve on the board of her new national organization, Network for Public Education.  Even more importantly, she is my friend and colleague, and her encouragement, support and example have kept me focused and working hard in difficult times. 
That said, I want you to know that her new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools, is a must-read; brilliant, concise and eloquent in dissecting and countering the corporate reform myths.  These myths include that our schools and students are failing, and that the way forward should be based upon continuing and expanding the damaging status quo policies of privatizing and closing schools, and putting even more emphasis on high-stakes testing and collecting and sharing private student data. 
Her book shows that within the historical context, student performance across the country has never been better if measured by test scores and graduation rates, and that even as the achievement gap stubbornly persists, the problem should be addressed by narrowing the opportunity gap.  This can be done by directly addressing poverty and by providing more equitable school conditions, with resources invested in reforms that have actually been proven to work, including preK, smaller classes, a well-rounded education and wrap-around services. These are the programs and conditions that the wealthy demand for their own kids.  Poor and disadvantaged children need the same things – only more so.  She also explains how schools, especially those with high-needs students, will only be further undermined by the corporate reform agenda of test-driven accountability, weakening of teacher tenure, merit pay, and online learning.  
Because Diane is the intellectual leader of the movement for genuine, evidence-based reform, she has become a special target of the privatizers and the billionaire oligarchs who want to continue unabated in their hostile takeover of our public schools.  The attacks have intensified in recent weeks with the publication of her book.  A particularly vicious and incoherent screed was written by Kyle Smith, the movie reviewer of the NY Post. 
Could the Post find no book reviewer or education expert who could be pressed into service to pan Diane’s book?  No, Kyle Smith was merely the most reliable hatchet man.  He had proved his stripes and his lack of credibility when he was one of very few film reviewers to write positively about the uniquely awful movie “Won’t Back Down”.  This primitive piece of anti-union, pro-charter propaganda, distributed by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Pictures, was a complete critical and financial flop.  One must recall that the Post is also owned by Murdoch, who has launched a new educational division called Amplify run by Joel Klein, and is intent on expanding his media empire and making money off our kids by replacing teachers with tablets and software, and stealing their private data.  Murdoch sees the public schools as a $500 billion market, just ripe for plunder and pillage.
To defeat the likes of Murdoch, as well as the other pirates and privateers circling our schools like sharks,  we need to become better organized and enlarge our allies.  You will never find a more succinct and compelling book than Reign of Error, with a crystal clear analysis of the way in which our schools are being driven into the ground by the Billionaire Boys club of Gates, Broad, Walton, Murdoch and Bloomberg, and other ideologues and opportunists eager to join in.  
So go buy a copy for yourself, but more importantly, give extra copies to family members, your neighbors or even your school board. Send the book to your local legislator or Congressman, especially if he or she tends to support whatever nonsense the Obama administration is pushing in the name of education reform.  
Give a copy to your brother, who works in finance and thinks that charters are the magic bullet that will help students in struggling urban districts.  Send it to your cousin, a recent college grad who wrongly believes that Teach for America is the best thing since sliced bread.  Order the book for your mother, who knows better but isn’t secure enough in her facts to be able to argue these issues with her friends.  Buy a bunch and give them to all your relatives – and then discuss the book at Thanksgiving dinner.
We need to engage and woo potential allies, to show them how corporate greed and delusional deference to the free market is destroying public education, just as it crashed the economy --and that there is a better way to support, strengthen and improve our public schools.  We must win this battle for the soul of our education system before it’s too late.  I can think of no better way to achieve this necessary goal than making sure that as many people as possible read this book.


Douglas Green said...

I agree that we should try to do what we can to help poor kids who don't have parents reading to them or engaging them in conversation much at home. Closing gaps between faster and slower learners is another matter. The only way you really close this gap is to slow down the faster learners, something that many schools are good at. The real problem in education is the one-size-fits-all approach found in most schools. What we need are ways for every student to learn at their own pace and spend at least sometime on content of their own choosing. Most of the back and forth I see in the media misses these points

Anonymous said...

If the key problem is poverty, than, in this society with the greatest social inequality of any industrial country, what is needed is a government that would turn the banks into public utilities to use the resources created by the working class for the needs of people and to tax away the bank accounts of the super-rich. There is no section of the Democrats, let alone the Republicans that would do that. Neither will the unions, which are the prop of the Democratic Party. The working class needs to be united on its own agenda, that is a socialist program with its own party. I offer this perspective posted today: The “lost generation” and the failure of capitalism --

Anonymous said...

Douglas Green, Decreasing class sizes, which certainly has been advocated by Ravith, Haimson and other community reformers, including many parents, is one of the most effective ways to enable teachers to provide differentiated instruction. Corporate "reformers" deny the research supporting smaller class sizes and want to increase class sizes to save money.