Commonweal has published Reform of the Reform, a stunning critique of today’s dangerous, bipartisan conventional wisdom about public education. It is, specifically, a review of Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error, but it is much more than a simple book review.
The writer, Jackson Lears, the Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University and editor in chief of the Raritan Quarterly Review, explores the danger of the business-school theory of creative destruction when it is applied to the institutions that form children and anchor our communities. He critiques, “the broader cultural attitudes that got us in this mess: the superstitious reverence for high-tech entrepreneurship, the techno-determinism that assumes we must allow technology to shape our future for us, the market-utilitarian indifference to anything that can’t be valued in dollars.”
“At bottom,” writes Lears, “the reformers’ aim is uncreative destruction: the hollowing out of the commons, where public education once occupied an honored place. However intractable the difficulties of the public schools, we would do well to remember that they are the difficulties of the larger society as well. The privatization project—scapegoating public schools, starving them of resources, and depriving their teachers of professional dignity—is a dangerous business. As Otis Redding said, you don’t miss your water till your well runs dry.”
I urge you to make some time this weekend to read Lears’ piece. To be specific, you ought to read Ravitch’s book and Lears’ review of her book. Reading one or the other isn’t enough.