Ravitch’s Reign of Error: My Review
In considering my review of education historian Diane Ravitch’s latest book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, I decided to write with traditional public school teachers in mind as my audience.
For one, I am a genuine public school teacher, the kind that makes a career of classroom teaching for love of the students and the profession.
Second, I began to directly experience the results of corporate reform when in November 2011 our state board of education (BESE) was officially bought and privatization officially reigned there and, in spring 2012, in the state legislature, so I am keenly aware of the pain privatization brings to my profession.
Third, I find that traditional public school teachers in general know that something is happening “to” them, some war has been declared upon them, but they are unaware of the details.
Fourth, once traditional public school teachers become aware of the details of this war, they will need some concrete advice on the courses of action to follow in order to take back their profession from those who have grabbed it and are systematically handing it over to corporations.
These are the reasons I advise all traditional public school teachers to read Ravitch’s book.
And now, I write expressly to my traditional public school teaching colleagues nationwide:
As an author, Ravitch brings to the table her forty-year career as an education historian. Thus, her experience makes her writing rich.
Not only that, but in 2006, she experienced a time of reckoning in which she had to decide whether to continue to support privatizing reforms despite no substantive evidence that these reforms were working. Ravitch chose to follow her conscience despite her risking being branded as indecisive and a traitor. I believe that this epiphany has made her writing even richer.
Ravitch is sometimes criticized for never having been a classroom teacher; however, she certainly understands what it is like to be maliciously pursued for her tireless advocating on behalf of the traditional classroom teacher.
Reformers do not like her because she exposes them.
Please regard her as one of us.
Reading about her exposure of the illusion of reform can only fortify us against the destruction of the traditional community school.
Reign of Error is not difficult to read, yet Ravitch’s arguments are sharp and well-grounded. She begins with the declaration that our schools are at risk, for the attacks on the teaching profession.
Next, in setting the context for the corporate reform movement, Ravitch follows with a brief history of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. She includes a chapter on the language of corporate reform– very useful for us to know so that we might recognize the unfriendly programs entering our districts and schools.
The next several chapters are those that I believe incite the vicious attacks against Ravitch in the media. In these chapters, she presents “the facts” that reformers twist in order to take our jobs away from us.
Ravitch’s clear presentation is a powerful weapon for fighting reformers, whose signature moves include withholding and shaping data results to suit their fiscal ends regardless of the collateral damage caused to students, teachers, schools, and districts.
Here is the power center in Ravitch’s book:
Chapter Five: The Facts About Test Scores
Chapter Six: The Facts About the Achievement Gap
Chapter Seven: The Facts About the International Test Scores
Chapter Eight: The Facts About High School Graduation Rates
Chapter Nine: The Facts About College Graduation Rates
Chapter Ten: How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement
Chapter Eleven: The Facts About Teachers and Test Scores
Privatizers do not want the public to read these facts. Privatizers want to control this flow of information. Ravitch won’t allow it.
In our efforts to fight for our profession, we need to be well-versed in these facts.
Ravitch’s next several chapters are an exposure of the reformer toolbox, including temp teachers, charters, vouchers, online schools, parent trigger, and school closures. Each of these chapters is well-grounded in research and written with the skill of a seasoned writer and established historian.
From the outset of Reign, Ravitch acknowledges the reformer accusation that she offers no solutions. Not in this book; each of her next eleven chapters outline a single solution apiece, including providing good prenatal care to all women, making available early childhood education to all children, reducing class sizes to improve student achievement and behavior, protecting democratic control of public schools, and eliminating high-stakes standardized testing.
We can go to our school boards, departments of education, and legislators with Ravitch’s detailed solutions. She wrote them to help us.
Finally comes my favorite chapter, Ravitch’s finale in Reign entitled, “The Pattern on the Rug.” Its ending is one of hope. I will write nothing more so as not to ruin it for you.
Her critics attack her personally because they cannot dent the substance that is Ravitch’s Reign of Error. She has pulled their reformer pants down in public. There they stand, red-faced and embarrassed.
Ravitch is fighting for us.