Diane Ravitch on public school “national threat”
If you take the time to read Diane Ravitch’s latest book review, “Do Our Public Schools Threaten National Security?” you will be rewarded with one of her best critical summaries of corporate reform propaganda.
She recaps several generations of alarm-raising about public education, concluding,
Somehow, despite the widely broadcast perception that educational achievement was declining, the United States continued to grow and thrive as an economic, military, and technological power….How is it possible that this nation became so successful if its public schools, which enroll 90 percent of its children, have been consistently failing for the past generation or more?
The current red-flag-waving book is a report by the Council on Foreign Relations headed by former NYC schools Chancellor Joel Klein and former Bush Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. According to Ravitch,
What marks this report as different from its predecessors, however, is its profound indifference to the role of public education in a democratic society, and its certainty that private organizations will succeed where the public schools have failed. Previous hand-wringing reports sought to improve public schooling; this one suggests that public schools themselves are the problem, and the sooner they are handed over to private operators, the sooner we will see widespread innovation and improved academic achievement. The report is a mishmash of misleading statistics and incoherent arguments, intended to exaggerate the failure of public education.
My favorite part is seeing PURE’s expose of the Noble Street Charter Network’s fine-based discipline policy nicely worked into Diane’s argument that charter schools have not lived up to the hype.
The task force asserts that charters will lead the way to innovative methods of education. But the charters with the highest test scores are typically known not for innovation, but for ‘no excuses’ discipline policies, where students may be fined or suspended or expelled if they fail to follow the rules of the school with unquestioning obedience, such as not making eye contact with the teacher or slouching or bringing candy to school or being too noisy in gym or the lunchroom.
The real threat to national security is squeezing the democracy out of our schools with such “reform school” approaches replacing efforts at real school reform, and with standardized testing narrowing the curriculum so that our schools are simply no longer able to produce informed citizens. And, I guess, that’s what the Joel Kleins of this country are really after.