You’re just another brick in the wall

2 10 2013

I first read Diane Ravitch as an undergraduate—my policy professor, Cathy Johnson, had assigned The Troubled Crusade for her class—and while I was suspicious of what I sniffed out as her conservatism, even I had to admit her history was good.

As she moved in and out of government (she worked for Bush I; I knew it!), I paid some attention to her doings, thinking of her as a kind of reasonable conservative.


She has certainly moved on from her years as a critic of public education, shifting from that of mod-con to the flag-bearer for a democratic education.

“A Nation at Risk” didn’t say much about accountability. It was really just saying woe is us, woe is us, our schools are failing, we need to have higher standards, we need to have a better curriculum. It didn’t say much about testing. I think there were one or two lines about it. But a lot of people jumped on this and said, “Oh, yeah. We need to test more. We need to have higher graduation standards.” Which is fine. But what they really had in mind by accountability was, “Who is going to be held accountable?” Meaning: “Who should be punished?” Uh, they don’t operate their businesses that way. The really great companies in America don’t operate by punishing their employees. They try to get the best people they can and then they take good care of them. I’m thinking of companies like Google. They talk about all the perks for the employees. Well, schools don’t have any perks for employees. All we’re doing now is talking about who should get fired next. So accountability has become this idea of, “Somebody’s head has to be chopped off. Some school has to be humiliated.” And that’s not educational. That’s penitentiary talk. (emph added)

Sing it, sister!

And there are districts like the one I wrote about in Minneapolis where there are schools that are virtually all white, schools that are completely black, schools that are all Hmong, schools that are all something else. And, you know, nobody stops and says, “Wait a minute. Aren’t we supposed to be trying to have an integrated society?” So in some ways what schools are dealing with today, public schools and also charter schools, is a social failure. It’s really a question of, What kind of a society do we want to be? (emph added)

Ed policy is not my area at all, but my response to this is: Right on! RIGHT ON!


h/t Charlie Pierce