Patrick Walsh Reviews A Chronicle of Echoes
On September 19, 2014, New York teacher and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) chapter leader Patrick Walsh published the following review of my book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education, on the online news site, Truthdig.
Patrick Walsh, 2012
My heartfelt thanks to Patrick for his interest in my work. Below is an excerpt of his review, which is cross-posted on his blog, raginghorse.wordpress.com.
Image from themillions.com
By Patrick Walsh
“A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education”
A book by Mercedes K. Schneider
Like every American teacher working in the public school system over the past 10 years or so, I have both witnessed and experienced the relentless and reckless experiments performed upon my students, my profession and, indeed, the entire American public school system itself in the name of “education reform,” a phrase that has become synonymous with privatization. Ten years of massive upheaval and dislocations later, nothing has improved—much has worsened—and still the privatizing reforms go on. The reforms, we are told endlessly by the mass media, are desperately needed. American public schools are “broken.” American children are ill-equipped to compete with their international counterparts in the savage new global economy. Indeed, in March 2012, former New York City Chancellor of Education Joel Klein and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice released a report that stated that our schools are so wretched they now pose nothing less than a threat to national security.
The privatizers’ experiments share common characteristics. All strip classroom teachers of autonomy and some, like the deceitfully named and privately owned Common Core State Standards Initiative, move the power of the federal government straight into the classroom. All are punitive and have resulted in the firing of teachers and the closing of schools, which, in turn, have led to the proliferation of publicly funded charter schools, beloved by Wall Street. All reduce education and educators to data points (which in turn are linked to data mining), the better to hold the latter accountable for their “performance.” All are linked to high-stakes standardized tests which, in the one-dimensional thinking of the reformers, are the hallmark of teacher accountability, even as the reformers wouldn’t dream of subjecting their own children to such tests. Finally, almost all the reforms are the work of non-educators—and not only non-educators, but non-educators who look upon traditional educators with undisguised contempt. Those few reformers who did teach, like Michelle Rhee, Frederick Hess or the founders of the much ballyhooed KIPP charter schools, did so for only two or three years before, like the God of Genesis, they set out to remake American education in their own image and that of their billionaire backers.
As I write, they are succeeding. Consequently, the U.S. public school system, the backbone of American public life, could well be but a memory in another 10 years. The noble art of teaching, which has sustained civilization since the days of Socrates, could well be reduced to a temp job or, at best, a micromanaged performance both scripted and judged by an international corporation like Pearson—which has, over the past decade, evolved from publishing textbooks to producing curriculum, making and grading tests, and in some states is involved in teacher certification—or worse.
Who are these people? How did they amass such power over a “public” institution of such magnitude?
In “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education,” Mercedes K. Schneider sets out to answer those questions. She does so with fierce intelligence, wit, an ocean of unearthed facts, and a vengeance. Schneider, who in very short order has established herself as one of the nation’s most profound and prolific education bloggers, has taught for 19 years in many grades in four states and is currently teaching high school English in St. Tammany Parish, La.
You can sense her pride in her profession in every word she writes, as well as her righteous rage toward those who would defile it. Schneider is also a Ph.D. in applied statistics and research methods, which, for people who like to bury information and obscure reality with numbers, makes her a force to be reckoned with.
Considering merely the breadth and depth with which Schneider covers the privatization campaign, “A Chronicle of Echoes” is, by any measure, an extraordinary achievement. That she does so in such detail and with so much illuminating evidence makes it that much more so. By telling the tales of its major players, Schneider reveals a kind of secret history of education reform. Along with Diane Ravitch’s “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” and Lois Weiner’s “The Future of Our Schools: Teacher Unions and Social Justice,” “A Chronicle of Echoes” is one of the three most important books yet written about the privatization campaign. It is essential reading for anyone wanting to know what is really happening in and to our school system and, indeed, in and to our political system, as the two are intrinsically linked.
To continue reading the rest of Walsh’s review, go to
Image from reclaimreform.com