There's something I've been meaning to tell you and the first half of this is now too late -- for all practical purposes, anyway -- but I'm going to pretend this is still timely information....education reform expert Diane Ravitch is speaking in Philadelphia...TONIGHT. If you literally leave your house the minute I hit the button and post this, you could theoretically race over to the Philadephia Free Library and catch her talk (which ironically isn't free -- it costs $15 for adults and $7 for students) that begins at 7:30. You should go, seriously.
Ravitch is one of the nation's top education reformers, a tireless blogger, and a woman with a one-of-a-kind perspective on what's really happening in America's classrooms; as an assistant U.S. education secretary under George H.W. Bush she once championed now-in-vogue reforms like charter schools, then reversed course as data showed charters perform no better than conventional public schools, Now, she's the top critic of corporate education reforms that are using the "shock doctrine" to close neighborhood schools and drive away experienced teachers in Philadelphia and elsewhere.
That's why her new book: -- Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools -- is THE new book of the fall. Salon just ran an excerpt, so here is a short excerpt of the excerpt:
If the American public understood that reformers want to privatize their public schools and divert their taxes to pay profits to investors, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If parents understood that the reformers want to close down their community schools and require them to go shopping for schools, some far from home, that may or may not accept their children, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public understood that the very concept of education was being disfigured into a mechanism to apply standardized testing and sort their children into data points on a normal curve, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform.
If the American public understood that their children’s teachers will be judged by the same test scores that label their children as worthy or unworthy, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public knew how inaccurate and unreliable these methods are, both for children and for teachers, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. And that is why the reform message must be rebranded to make it palatable to the public.
The leaders of the privatization movement call themselves reformers, but their premises are strikingly different from those of reformers in the past. In earlier eras, reformers wanted such things as a better curriculum, better-prepared teachers, better funding, more equitable funding, smaller classes, and desegregation, which they believed would lead to better public schools. By contrast, today’s reformers insist that public education is a failed enterprise and that all these strategies have been tried and failed.
They assert that the best way to save education is to hand it over to private management and let the market sort out the winners and the losers.
Did I mention that every parent, teacher, precocious school kid and everyone else with a stake in the Philadelphia school battle needs to read this book? If you haven't been paying close attention, it will show you how billionaires like Bill and Melinda Gates and other corporate "reformers" have used propaganda techniques to frame privatization as "choice" and created a storyline through movies like "Waiting for Superman" that simply aren't borne out by the reality-based world. And we're never going to fix Philly schools without standing on a bed of facts. This mind-altering book is where to start.