WARNING: Do not attempt to underline the important parts of Diane Ravitch’s new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.
Why? All that she has written in this book is important.
(Note again: My wife highlighted her copy with the same intention. She was forced to stop on page 235 where, as you can see, her full set of highlighter markers ran dry. You do not want to be near my wife when her highlighter is depleted.)
Now, seriously, reviewing a book that is so superbly organized and intelligently presented is daunting. The book has plentiful scientific and academically supported research and data yet is introduced and illuminated in the straightforward manner of a great storyteller whose gift allows her to be easily understood by many people of various backgrounds. A wizened academic education researcher as well as an inexperienced young mom who is just now trying to figure out what is causing the stress and depression of her much-tested son will learn a great deal from Reign of Error. Yes, it is a page-turner that proves hard to put down. Yes, it is also a wake-up call.
Here are a few selected examples and my personal commentary.
“‘Reform’ is really a misnomer, because the advocates for this cause seek not to reform public education but to transform it into an entrepreneurial sector of the economy.“
The entire purpose of starting and naming my blog, Reclaim Reform, is based on this. The appropriation of the word “reform” was done intentionally by a well planned, well funded branch of the corporate education reform propaganda machine (think tanks). We must become aware of this, and we must reclaim reform.
We all know that the chemical poisons used as food preservatives and flavor enhancers are destructive to children but profitable to prepared food manufacturers, yet Americans are coerced into feeding their children this corporate education reform junk food if they expect to have their children take part in today’s American childhood pop-culture diet. High stakes testing has become the much advertised not-so-secret ingredient in the educational junk food that poisons our children. Parents and children sense this is not good for them.
Who is it good for? The billionaire vulture philanthropists and tax free villainthropist foundations who give hundreds of millions of dollars to their self proclaimed crusade to change the education of our children – as they continue to profit by billions of dollars. No matter how it is worded or spun, they have monetized children and depersonalized education – for profit.
“But there is nothing conservative about replacing a beloved and traditional community institution – the public school – with a marketplace of privately run schools and for-profit vendors. This is a radical project, not conservative at all.”
As much as most people wish to believe that corporate educational reform is solely an extremist right-wing Republican ideology driven movement, this is simply not entirely true. Elected and appointed Democratic officials have supported giving public education tax dollars to whichever campaign donors pay up. Greed and the masks of ideology are bipartisan corruptors. “In order to save the schools we have to destroy the schools” has become the oxymoron mantra of political cant. Even the conservative Forbes magazine delivers a damning article regarding the rewarding of political cronies with juicy government contracts via charters and other corporate education reform tax schemes. Read the Forbes article HERE.
The vast amounts of money and the names of the players are listed and displayed in Reign of Error. The immensity of money, power and influence of the individuals and euphemistically titled private organizations costumed as governmental entities or philanthropies will arouse the ire of the meekest among us.
“Early childhood education programs have abundant research to support them, unlike the currently fashionable ‘reforms’ which have little or no research or experience to back them up.”
Personally, having served my career teaching at the high school level, I have spent countless hours, days and years working with students who needed much help (remediation?) which would never have been required had they received the types of early childhood education programs described in Reign of Error. Even affluent families miss a great deal of what is necessary for their children as they enthusiastically provide the media hyped “solution of the year” as sold by whoever was pushing whatever at the time. Diet fads are apt comparisons. Make a mental list of all the sure-fire weight loss programs you believed would be beneficial to your life, well being and happiness. Pathetic, isn’t it? Well then, don’t allow the corporate education reform fads to fool you and your child. Those folks are in it for the money. Experience has shown me that years of remediation work are needed to even partially make up for what could have been provided with quality (not expensive) early childhood education programs.
“The Mystery of Michelle Rhee.”
After you read this chapter which is aptly focused on Rhee’s celebrity as “the face of the corporate reform movement,” the mystery will be exposed for what it is. By the way, this is not some nasty personal attack; quite the contrary, it is a close examination of what happened and why it had the national impact it has had.
I still cannot fully understand why other people were fired, convicted and fined for following Rhee’s orders while she herself remains free from accountability to justice. Ravitch herself leaves us with many more questions which deepen our suspicions surrounding the scope of the Rhee phenomenon and its corrosive influences.
There is much, much more, but that is for you to discover. Reign of Error is not meant to be read once; as a reference book for actual school reform it is invaluable.
To return to the original premise, all that Diane Ravitch has to say in this book is important. Read the book and share it. Become involved.
You may purchase the Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools online by following THIS LINK.
You may follow Diane Ravitch’s tour dates and locations HERE.