Wednesday, July 6, 2011

weighing in on the brooks/alter/ravitch debate

A 150 word version of the following was submitted to the New York Times in response to "Invitation to a Dialogue: Fixing the Schools" where Diane Ravitch responds to David Brooks's article "Smells Like School Spirit" where he lies about misrepresents her views.

Pundits such as David Brooks and Jonathan Alter are long on hyperbole and criminally short on facts (the real kind, not the pretend or purchased kind). Does Dr. Ravtich cherry pick her facts? Absolutely! She draws her facts from high quality, peer-reviewed research. It is this proclivity that caused her to reverse her initial beliefs on the school reform strategies that she helped develop as one of the architects of NCLB.

It is this relentless pursuit of the truth, and a deep commitment to public education for all of our nation’s children, that inspires such a dedicated following.  As a parent, educator and researcher, I have lived under NCLB mandates from its inception and now suffer the latest not-so-great-thing, Race to the Top.  I have followed the research; that research has supported my findings in the classroom. These reforms have and continue to negatively impact our students, teachers and schools.

The blatant disregard of the professional voices from the trenches has been baffling. Our concerns have been ignored. We’ve been forced to watch our children burn out at young ages from being tested to death. We have seen our curricula narrow due to high-stakes testing. We have seen our most struggling students receive inadequate support, then be labeled as failures.  We have been seriously demoralized.

Billionaires have funded the assault on public education, fueling it with misinformation and lies, and have effectively co-opted the media. Teacher voices have been silenced. The lone voice speaking on our behalf, speaking truth to power, has been that of Dr. Diane Ravitch. She’s our Little Engine That Could; she’s our David to the corporate education reformers, Goliath. That this mild mannered, 73 year old grandmother and much honored education historian has been under attack, both professionally and personally, by pundits whose education qualifications are sorely lacking, is abhorrent.

That these rich, white men, decades younger than Dr. Ravitch, find her such a threat is amusing. She has been able to do things her critics will never be able to do: admit when they’re wrong. THAT is what has earned her my undying respect and support.

In the 1950s, it was Clark Kent, a mild mannered reporter. In 2011, it’s Diane Ravitch, a mild mannered education historian. And she doesn’t need no stinkin’ phone booth!

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