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.