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Slaying Goliath: We Are Not for Sale

January 26, 2020

I have been blogging regularly about the impact of market-based education reform upon American education for seven years. I began this blog on January 25, 2013, following numerous months of responding in the comments sections of news articles often promoting the glories of test-based grading of schools and teachers and of fashioning the traditional, community school as enemy and publicly-funded private school vouchers and privately-operated charter schools as savior.

In early 2012, I learned that the governor I helped re-elect, Bobby Jindal, had decided that Louisiana teachers were the enemy; that he had both the 2012 Louisiana legislature and the 2012 state ed board in his pocket to push test-centric ed reform onto Louisiana’s K12 classrooms, and that local news outlets refused to publish articles challenging Jindal’s war on Louisiana public education.

And so, in addition to teaching full time, I began researching and writing about the corporate-ed-reform assault on public education as a means to understand what was happening in Louisiana and beyond and to educate the public.

It has been an uphill battle, and I know that my words, though informative, are also often overwhelming and disheartening for those who care about the community school and who seek an encouraging word.

I have had fellow supporters of American public education tell me they appreciate my work but wish I had some good news to share.

Well, then. Today is that day.

Education historian, Diane Ravitch, has published a book, Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools.

It is a book about parents, teachers, students, administrators, and other public school advocates across the nation whose grass roots efforts to engage in the fight save America’s schools have created a movement, a book that allows public school advocates the opportunity to step back and see a more complete picture of their combined efforts across cities, states, situations, and years.

It is a book about us.

As I turned the pages and read of so many advocates contributing individual moments of advocacy– writing, speaking, organizing, protesting, striking, lobbying, voting, running for office– I felt wonderfully encouraged to realize on a deeper level that I am not one of few but one of many contributing to a remarkable, undeniable, and powerful effort to combat an ed-reform effort chiefly fueled by a handful of billionaires.

In Slaying Goliath, Ravitch weaves several critical threads:

  • A concise history of Disruption by way of testing and defunding public education via “choice;
  • Story after story regarding the Resistance of ordinary (not in it for the money) supporters of public education to the profoundly-funded Disruption that would destroy it;
  • The current state of reforms that are apparently beyind their heyday (charters) or never really had one (vouchers), and
  • Distilled conclusions about why the privatization of public education has failed as well as suggestions for the few ueber-wealthy providing most of the money behind traditional-public-ed-destroying reform.

I was captivated and encouraged by much in the book, including Ravitch’s appeal to market-based ed reform’s billionaire supporters in closing. Some excerpts:

The billionaire supporters of privatization insist on pouring good money after bad by continuing to fund disruption. How long will they continue to fund a hobby injurious to the common good? Do they really want to help the nation’s poorest children? If they did, what might they do instead of privatizing public schools and undermining the teachung professn?

I have a few suggestions.

…They could pay their share of taxes to support well-resourced public schools. They could open health clinics to serve needy communities and make sure that all families and children have regular medical checkups. They could underwrite programs to ensure that all pregnant women have medical care and that all children have nutritious meals each day. They could subsidize after-school programs where children get exercise, play, dramatics, and tutoring. They could rebuild the dramatics programs and performance spaces in every school. They could provide art supplies and the resources needed for teachers, marchng bands, jazz bands, orchestras, and choral groups in schools. They could lobby their state legislatures to fund schools fairly, to reduce class sizes, and to enable every school to have the teachers, teaching assistants, social services, librarians, nurses, counselors, books, and supplies it needs. …

Those are just a few thoughts. It would be easy to fill another book with realistic proposals that could be funded by philanthropists who wanted to do good.

But here is the crux of the matter:

Philanthropies should respect the sound principle of giving to meet needs instead of giving to impose their ideas and take control of others. …

No genuine social movement is created and sustained by elites.

What supporters of American public education have going for us is that we genuinely love our community schools.

As Ravitch shows in Slaying Goliath, we are not for sale.

That is our strength, and it is priceless.

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

 

9 Comments
  1. Mary Ellen Redmond permalink

    Yeah! Fabulous news. Can’t wait to read!

  2. Betty Peters permalink

    Thanks for letting us know today about this new book on education. You have done so much to keep us informed over the years and you’ve also told us what needs to be done. Thank you. Even though I was an elected member of a state school board, I didn’t get the real news from the state; I did get a lot of it from your writings, like the importance of the 2009 MOU’s that we were kept in the dark about. Keep on writing–we’ll keep on reading.
    Betty Peters

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Thanks for this review and for all of your own work in deconstructing the meanings and import of so-called reform efforts. I do not know how you can do that while teaching full time. Take care and keep up the great investigative reports.
    As a worker in arts education, and not yet a reader of this book, I will respectfully disagree with the idea that programming and facilities in the arts should depend on funding from the super rich. Suppose that also became a condition for having safe and proper lab equipment for science instruction, or for support of field trips or, or, or, or. Any school program dependent on grants-seeking from the wealthy will come with uncertainty about its continuation from year to year and will be influenced by the preferences of the donors. I speak from experience dating back to the 1960s. The arts thrive in school environments when they are not relegated to after school programs and are funded by the school community as forms of accomplishment worthy of study and engagement in every grade from well-qualified teachers.

    • Laura, I think Diane’s purpose is not in having ed and community services dependent upon the rich but in redirecting their efforts to those of support rather than destructive agenda.

      • Laura H. Chapman permalink

        “Philanthropies should respect the sound principle of giving to meet needs instead of giving to impose their ideas and take control of others. …
        No genuine social movement is created and sustained by elites.”

        I do not disagree with these statements from Diane. I also think that the superrich should pay their taxes, including state and local taxes because these are the primary sources of public school funding.

        I also appreciate that Diane is one of the very few advocates for public education who has consistently placed the arts into her discussions. That is all too rare. She has also shown her support for teachers in the arts and humanities in many ways, recently contributing her customary speaking fee to the National Art Education Association.

  4. Diane Ravitch has written a brilliant new book on the attempt, on the part of a few billionaires, to privatize and disrupt U.S. education. It’s called Slaying Goliath. Read it.

    It’s very interesting to read the reviews of Slaying Goliath. They are falling into two categories. On the one hand, there are reviews by brilliant, ethical folk like Mercedes Schneider or David Berliner and Gene Glass, which are glowing. On the other hand, there are reviews by those in the employ of Deformer/Distrupter organizations. The latter don’t mention any facts or arguments presented in Diane’s book. Rather, they describe the book vaguely as “vituperative” or “imperious.” In other words, they object to her tone.

    Evidently, when billions of taxpayer dollars are siphoned off from public schools into private profits for the owners and golfing buddies and mistresses and ne’er-do-well cousins of charter school managers;

    when other billions of taxpayer dollars are diverted, via vouchers, to private schools that teach children to hate LGBTQX persons, to be intolerant toward immigrants and foreigners, and to believe that Adam and Eve rode around on dinosaurs;

    when an entire generation of students has humane education in the arts, literature, history, and science stolen from it in the name of test prep;

    when millions of teachers’ lives have become quotidian hells of micromanagement by clueless, officious numerologist data mongers, even as those teachers have to take second and third jobs to earn a living wage;

    when a computer mogul can foist puerile, backward “standards” on the entire country, with no vetting by teachers or scholars or researchers and no mechanism for revision of them, so that he can have a single bullet list to key depersonalized education software and Orwellian stack-ranking databases to;

    when curricula and pedagogy in ELA and math are dramatically trivialized and distorted and devolved by sham testing and puerile “standards” and essential parts of the curriculum are simply eliminated;

    when companies divert billions of taxpayer dollars into profits on shoddy, invalid, tests that don’t measure what they purport to measure;

    when a few oligarchs pour billions into systematically undermining democratic institutions, privatizing American education, and killing off teachers’ unions and due process for teachers; and

    when millions of teachers and parents and children are profoundly harmed,

    the proper response is supposed to be, “But, gee, while the motives and policies of Reformers are admirable, there are a few ways in which those policies be tweaked to make them EVEN BETTER!”

    It’s these negative reviews, Diane, that show that the book is working, that you’ve landed your shot square on the nose of the giant. Look at the work of any great muckraker from our country’s past, and such reactions were also to be found from the toadying, sycophantic, paid minions of those whom the muckraker exposed. Those reviews are Goliath bellowing.

    Dear Disrupters:

    If you don’t like Diane’s tone in Slaying Goliath or Ms. Schneider’s on her blog, try this on instead:

    Thou art to a person, artless, craven, dissembling, miscreant rougish, venomed, villainous, beef-witted, fallow-fallen, earth-vexing, puttocks and louts. Methink’st thou art a general offense and every person should beat thee, you starveling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s tongue, you bull’s pizzle, you stock-fish—O for breath to utter what is like thee!—you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!

  5. Reblogged this on Crazy Normal – the Classroom Exposé and commented:
    No genuine social movement is created and sustained by the few that buy their power and influence. That is why the for-profit privatization of public education will fail even if the elite 0.1 percent succeed in their goal to destroy the people’s democratic public schools.

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  1. Mercedes Schneider: SLAYING GOLIATH is “A Book About Us” | Diane Ravitch's blog

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