Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, September 14, 2013

NY Post Launches Attack Against Diane Ravitch In Review Of Her New Book

There have been attacks against Diane Ravitch in the past, but the one by Kyle Smith in the Post is particularly vicious.

Ravitch has a new book out entitled “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to Public Schools.”

Smith, in his review of the book, accuses Ravitch of making stuff up, ignoring scientific evidence, being a hair-shirt-wearing zealot, engaging in nepotism and taking bribes from the teachers unions.

It's a hit piece that uses harangue, invective and personal attacks to try and destroy her arguments that the education reform movement is actually a privatization movement.

Smith never really engages with her arguments, however.

In the book, which I just finished reading, Ravitch very carefully lays out the history of the education reform movement going back to "A Nation At Risk" and shows how the underlying linchpin to so much of the rhetoric, so many of the reforms, has been to undercut the public schools in people's minds and promote choice, vouchers, merit pay, online schools. Teach for America, and charters.

Ravitch then presents the problems with the reforms promoted by the corporate education reform movement, shows how they never have worked and presents real reforms that while costly and not 100% guaranteed (because nothing in life is 100% guaranteed), work in the places they are applied - early childhood education, schools with full and rich curricula, experienced teachers and school staff, rich full programs in the arts, fully-funded libraries, well-maintained school campuses, wrap around services for physical and emotional health, and small class sizes.

Smith says Ravitch ignores all the successes the reform movement is having.  He trots out all the old reform cliche favorites in his review - charters outperform traditional public schools in NYC (apparently he missed the new Common Core test score results - they didn't outperform traditional public schools), teacher tenure means a lifetime job (he says very few teachers are fired because of teacher tenure protections but fails to note the overall attrition rates in the profession that often means schools have almost whole new staffs every few years), charter schools are just like public schools - just freed from "union red tape"( actually they're also freed from the same rules and regulations that public schools are forced to operate under, like taking every student who applies, evaluating teachers using test scores, etc.), and if we just fire the bottom 5%-8% of teachers, we can improve student performance (this stack ranking system hasn't worked at G.E. or Microsoft or any other place it's tried, but reformers sure are going to try and use it in school systems anyway!)

Smith then goes with a whole section of personal attacks on Ravitch, quoting from or referencing Arne Duncan, Jonathan Alter, Steven Brill and a New Republic hit piece.

These attacks serve only to try and marginalize Ravitch as a crazy person, a zealot, and in the case of the New Republic attack, corrupt and vengeful.

They have no place in the Post review, but since the whole Smith review is just vitriol masking as a rebuttal of Ravitch's book, I see why the writer has so many there.

That the Post published an attack on Ravitch that is this personal and this fraudulent just goes to show how much she and her arguments are getting under the skin of the corporate reformers.

A few years ago, every time you saw an education story in the news, it almost always contained a corporate reform agenda frame to it.

But that is no longer the case these days, as the reform agenda narrative about charters, choice, merit pay and the like gets challenged.

Diane Ravitch is not the sole reason why the reform agenda gets challenged these days in the media and the culture, but she is certainly a large part of the reason why because she has been the most prominent and outspoken in her challenges to the reform movement and those promoting it.

It is clear from the viciousness of the personal attacks against her that the corporate education reformers and their allies in the corporate media are not taking her critiques lightly.

In a strange way, the more vicious they get, the clearer it becomes that the arguments against the corporate reform agenda made by Ravitch and other critics are starting to take hold.

Ravitch wrote on her blog that she knew she was going to be in for some harsh attacks against her when her book was published.

She was right.

I am part of a group of education bloggers given advanced copies of the book for review.

I am supposed to hold my review of the Ravitch book until Tuesday when the book will be published.

This post isn't really a review of Ravitch's book so much as a rebuttal of Kyle Smith's vicious review in the Post of the Ravitch book.

I didn't think the Smith piece should stand out there until Tuesday without some pushback.

Diane Ravitch's book is well-written, well-researched (apparently Kyle Smith missed all the endnotes and charts at the back that document the points Ravitch makes in the book), and, in the end, leaves you convinced that we must improve both schools and social conditions for children, that schools cannot and should not be expected to solve all of society's ills, that schools are simply reflections of the larger society and community around them.

It leaves you convinced that every child, regardless of class or circumstance, should go to a school with a full curriculum that includes history, civics, literature, foreign languages, physical education, math and science.

Every child should have a chance to sing and dance, write and act, sculpt, design and build, learn an instrument and enjoy cultural activities.

Every child deserves to learn more than the basic skills schools often teach them (a consequence of the accountability "sticks" in NCLB and RttT), every child deserves the opportunity to develop their individual talents. 

Every child needs a motivation to come to school, not out of fear, not as a duty, but because she/he wants to come, because there is something enriching, valuable and worthwhile in school for that child.

Every child deserves to have a well-qualified, well-prepared teacher who is not forced to teach from a script but is given autonomy to teach the curriculum as she/he sees fit.

Every child deserves to go to a school with small class sizes so that she/he is not just another piece of data.

Gee, those seem like reasonable, sensible and indeed, worthwhile reforms to pursue in the school system.

I guess Kyle Smith, employed by edu-entrepreneur Rupert Murdoch, doesn't see it that way, however.

21 comments:

  1. Sounds like the reviewer was a paid hack.

    The fact is teachers do NOT have "tenure" and never have had. They only have civil service protections identical to other public sector employees. They can be very, very easily fired, but typically teachers will quit rather than go through sham hearings.

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    1. Tenure truly is a misunderstand concept. Or perhaps, better to say, it's easily manipulated in the public discourse by the people in power to fool people into thinking it is a guaranteed job for life. It is due process, due process due process - that's all. The district has to document reasons why you should be terminated, as opposed to, you know, just firing people at-will, like they do at Eva's place.

      Alas, the unions do not do a great job of educating the public about tenure. This makes things worse.

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  2. "Smith then goes with a whole section of personal attacks on Ravitch, quoting from or referencing Arne Duncan, Jonathan Alter, Steven Brill and a New Republic hit piece."

    This attack merely marks the beginning. You thought that the hysterical Common Core defense was something? Just watch out for the fiery media backlash against Ravitch. Totally like the Gandhi quote, . . . then they attack you ...

    The fact that Smith doesn't engage Ravitch shows Smith can't beat her on facts.

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    1. I agree, Go. Just vitriol and personal attack. By far the most vicious I've seen against Ravitch. That they sent Kyle Smith, famed for his viciousness according to his Wiki, out against her shows where they think the stakes are for this book and her arguments.

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  3. I too an reviewing the book for the release date. I'm still reading it but so far I haven't seen her taking on the capitulation of the unions to ed deform. Thus this opens her up to attack with a defense of teacher unions - necessary but also critical when she had an opportunity to expose the game Randi has been playing.
    We faced much the same issue in doing our movie The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. Lots of discussion over whether to do a segment on how the UFT/AFT has sold out and I was convinced not to go too deeply into it since the movie was a direct response to Waiting for Superman. But we did include a very brief critique from Sam Coleman who spoke about how the union wasn't organizing people to fight back at a rally. Insiders in the UFT will say the movie was great but due to those 30 seconds of criticism in a 65 minute movie, the UFT boycotted the movie which many consider was the most effective response to ed deform.

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    1. It's a fine line, but I think she made the right decision. The unions are the ones always on the defense in the ed deform pieces, whether the Brill articles, the New Republic pieces, the TIME pieces, the documentaries.

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  4. I wonder if they burgled her house and tapped her phone.

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    1. If I read The Guardian stories on the NSA programs correctly, they're burgling all of our houses and tapping all of our communications.

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  5. I'm really surprised that such a juvenile rant is considered a review. I suppose I shouldn't be. It's a lot easier to stick your tongue out at someone than to create reasoned arguments.

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    1. This was by far the worse attack against Ravitch I've seen. Makes the Peter Cunningham thing at Huffington Post look like it was written by the Dalai Lama.

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  6. Having Kyle Smith review a book--of any kind--is like Steve Serby going back and forth between horse racing articles and being UN correspondent The Post just throws this stuff out to see what sticks. No one asks for credentials.

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    1. I was thinking like Cindy Adams covering the U.N., but Serby is another good example.

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  7. Absolutely brilliant rebuttal. I could feel my blood pressure rise whilst reading that NYP piece.

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    1. It really set me off last night too. Just an ad hominem attack cloaked as a book review. Smith apparently has a reputation for that, so they must have given him this "review" task specifically to stick as many knives in as he could. And boy did he come armed. But in the end, it really just points to the desperation of the corporate reformers. The shriller they get, the more it indicates their propaganda is no longer working like it once did.

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  8. Should we have expected anything less from the Post. The DN and NYT will follow.

    Within the past 6 months, Ravitch has written posts praising Randi which met with many unfavorable comments. The comment section went ballistic pointed out every deed Randi has done to strengthen the "Gates" agenda. However her last post on Randi was something of an enigma.

    Every post she has written regarding VAM, Gates, Core Curriculum has in it's own way repudiated Randi's agenda, yet the praise for Randi went on and on. She obviously has close ties to Randi, but sometimes you have to stick with convictions and call out someone when they are wrong.

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    1. You make good points. I wonder if she doesn't worry that by calling Randi and Dennis out, she gives ammo to the deformers. I dunno, I have no compunction calling Randi and Dennis and Michael and Dick out. But I can see where Ravtich might want to be more circumspect.

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    2. And I wonder if there is a method to the madness because any post on Randi brings the comment section to over 100!! And have yet to read one praising Randi.

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    3. Randi elicits very strong feelings. For me, it's her phoniness that does it. She's always talking out of both sides of her mouth, playing the angles, etc. To people who like her I always says "Don't you see how full of crap she is? How self-serving she is?"

      Alas, many of them do not and take her at face value instead.

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  9. The Daily News, the NY Times, the Washington Post and most other online news media allow for comment and discourse. The Post doesn't seem to have a place on their page to post comments. Any chance of honest and open debate is suppressed. Is this a matter of policy for all their web based articles?

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    1. Funny because the NYTimes has been doing the same thing--especially on many education articles and editorials. The days of Michael Winerip and dead and gone.

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    2. They seem to open some articles to comments, some they don't. They probably made an editorial decision here for no commenting. This way, the review cannot be rebutted on the Post website.

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