BOOK REVIEW: "Reign of Error": The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools
Continued from previous page
- Endorsing the importance of low class sizes.
- Rejecting the misguided corporate charter movement but endorsing the original purposes of charter schools envisioned by Albert Shanker as collaborative and experimental and not competition for public schools.
- Stressing the need for wraparound services to support in-school reform—medical care, summer programs, after-school enrichment, parent education.
- Eliminating high-stakes testing and embracing authentic assessment that guides instruction: “Accountability should be turned into responsibility” (p. 273).
- Rejecting demonizing teachers and the teaching profession and embracing instead teacher autonomy and professionalism.
- Protecting democratic control of public schools.
- Addressing directly racial segregation and poverty: “We should set national goals to reduce segregation and poverty” (p. 298).
- Honoring the “public” in education and rejecting the privatization of schools: “We must pause and reflect on the wisdom of sundering the ties between communities and schools” (p. 312).
Toward the end of her plan for alternative policies to reform education, while discussing the problem with privatizing schools, Ravitch sounds what I think is the most dire point confronting the U.S. and our commitment to democracy:
The issue for the future is whether a small number of very wealthy entrepreneurs, corporations, and individuals will be able to purchase educational policy in this nation, either by funding candidates for local and state school boards, for state legislatures, for governor, and for Congress or by using foundation “gifts” to advance privatization of public education. (p. 310)
And the problem is not “whether” this can occur, but that it is happening now.
Legislation across the U.S. is driven by Bill Gates and his billions as well as the celebrity of Michelle Rhee, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Jeb Bush while the careful messages crafted by Ravitch in Reign have been readily available through the Internet over the last several years.
The publication of Reign represents a watershed moment. Will money driving ideology continue to ruin our public education system, or will evidence win out?
Ravitch’s voice and scholarship were a needed boost to the field of education. Ravitch speaks with us now.
But until political leadership and the media have similar conversions to Ravitch’s—until evidence trumps money—we are likely to watch the self-fulfilling end to public education happen right before our eyes.
Just to offer some balance and context.
Since Ravitch’s concerns about Common Core came fairly recently, Reign feels a bit incomplete on that topic. Ravitch is clear about her view that the broader accountability movement has done a great deal of harm, and CC appears clearly more of that bad policy, but many of us who strongly oppose CC would likely have preferred more here on that topic.
I also have real problems with Paul Tough and David Kirp (see HERE and HERE), both of whom I feel do work that helps perpetuate “miracle” school narratives and “no excuses” ideologies that I completely reject. Ravitch is far more gracious with Tough and Kirp than I can embrace.