Friday, December 03, 2010

A Tea Party-Teachers Union Alliance?

Here's Jonathan Chiat's rebuttal to Ravitch's op ed:

A Tea Party-Teachers Union Alliance?

Jonathan Chait

November 30, 2010 | 10:30 am

Diane Ravitch has mainly been preaching her anti-education reform message to teachers unions, which, in turn, she has presented as heroic and selfless. The other day, though, she took her anti-reform message to the pages of the Wall Street Journal, which called for a slight change in tone:

Now that Republicans have regained control of the House of Representatives, they must take a stand in the battle for control of American education. The issue today is between those who want to federalize education policy and those who want to maintain state and local control of the public schools.

Historically, the GOP has always been the party of local control, and for most of the 20th century Republicans opposed almost every effort by Democrats to expand the power of the federal government over the nation's public classrooms. ...

The question today for Republicans is whether they are a party that endorses top-down reform from Washington, D.C., or a party that respects the common sense of the people back home and their commitment to their local public schools.

Ah, local control, that historic panacea! Not quite the same tune she's been preaching to her union audiences -- indeed, the paeans to unionism that characterize Ravitch's argument are curiously absent here -- but surely a more effective talking point for a Republican audience.

Meanwhile, in the middle of her wildly misleading praise of local control, Ravitch writes this:

The present course is virtually the opposite of what high-performing nations do. Countries like Finland, Japan and South Korea have improved their schools by offering a rich and broad curriculum in the arts and sciences, not by focusing only on testing basic skills, as we do. These nations have succeeded by recruiting, training and supporting good teachers, and giving continuing help to those that need it. The Obama administration, by contrast, has disregarded the importance of retention and improvement of teachers, while encouraging an influx of non-professionals into the field.

What else do these high-performing countries have? National curricula. Not local control. Oh, and the part about Obama's reforms disregarding retention and improvement of teachers is nonsense.

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