Last week the education historian Diane Ravitch was featured in a five-part “Book Club” at Talking Points Memo. In the series of very short articles—here, here, here, here, and here—Ravitch shares a taste of her recent book, Reign of Error. If you haven’t had an opportunity to begin reading Ravitch’s now book, here is a good opportunity to take a look at some of the content.
The first piece, taken from the book’s first chapter, summarizes Ravitch’s critique of where our current, bipartisan conventional wisdom on school reform has gone badly wrong.
In the fourth piece Ravitch traces the impact of test-and-punish school reform from George Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act to Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program: “The upshot of these two programs, which both rely heavily on standardized testing, is the massive demoralization of educators; an exodus of experienced educators, who are replaced in many districts by young, inexperienced, low-wage teachers; the closure of scores or hundreds of public schools; the opening of thousands of privately managed charters; the growth of for-profit charter schools and online charter schools; a widespread attack on teachers’ due process rights and collective bargaining rights; the near-collapse of public education in urban districts like Detroit and Philadelphia, as public schools are replaced by privately managed charter schools; a burgeoning educational-industrial complex of testing corporations and technology companies that view public education as an emerging market.”
In the final piece, Ravitch reflects on the role of public schooling in a democracy. “If we mean to educate them, we must recognize that all children deserve a full liberal arts curriculum. All children need the chance to develop their individual talents. And all need the opportunity to learn the skills of working and playing and singing with others. Whatever the careers of the twenty-first century may be, they are likely to require creativity, thoughtfulness, and the capacity for social interaction and personal initiative, not simply routine skills. All children need to be prepared as citizens to participate in a democratic society. A democratic society cannot afford to limit the skills and knowledge of a liberal education only to children of privilege and good fortune.”