Diane Ravitch, the Anti-Rhee
The Washington City Paper did a long profile of Ravitch plus a couple of articles about Rhee. Here's a friend's brief overview of the Ravitch piece:
I think it contains a lot of interesting tidbits about her: from her teenage years as an ardent drag racer, to the death of her son in 1966 from leukemia, to her early journalism career at The New Leader, a democratic socialist magazine. Also includes some fun more recent stuff such as the fact that she was, indeed, the person who asked Twitter to shut down the OldDianeRavitch account.
Here are some excerpts (this summary really captures her perfectly: "[Ravitch] simply trades one pre-defined agenda for another: the collected talking points of the reactionary education establishment. It is a philosophy of resentment and futility, grounded in the conviction that public schools—and the adults within them—can't really be expected to do better than they currently are."):
The best way to improve American education, the post-epiphany Ravitch argues, is to fight child poverty with health care, jobs, child care, and affordable housing.
…"The problem with 'I was wrong about everything' as the prelude to an argument is that it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the repudiator's judgment," Kevin Carey of the think tank Education Sector complained in The New Republic. "[Ravitch] simply trades one pre-defined agenda for another: the collected talking points of the reactionary education establishment. It is a philosophy of resentment and futility, grounded in the conviction that public schools—and the adults within them—can't really be expected to do better than they currently are."
…Several of Ravitch's former allies declined to be interviewed for this story. Off the record, some questioned whether there's something strange or even disturbing about the way she seems to go out looking for a fight, then responds in a hurt way when she herself is attacked. That view is most bluntly articulated by Jay Greene, a conservative University of Arkansas professor who blogs on school reform. "She is behaving like a classic bully," Greene wrote about Ravitch's behavior toward Gist. "She hurls insults and allegations against others on a continual basis, but as soon as she is challenged she tries to shut-down the opposition, punish her critics, and deplores the meanness of public discourse."
…Facing off against her in the debate was Chester Finn of the Fordham Institute, which advocates for school choice and where Ravitch once sat on the board. Finn argued that school closings are a rational response to tightened budgets and shrinking enrollment. Ravitch listened with her hands clasped under her chin, staring out into the distance.
It was a poignant moment. The pair were once close: They co-founded an education-reform research clearinghouse in 1981; they profess to adore each other's families. In an anguished review of Death and Life, Finn cited their 30-year friendship before declaring that Ravitch's "prescription for the future is guided by wishful thinking, nostalgia and unwarranted faith in an antiquated institutional arrangement." He took particular issue with Ravitch's defense of teachers' unions, which he, like many reformers, sees as a primary obstacle.
Disagreeing so stridently has made the relationship "difficult," Ravitch said quietly during the coffee break before she and Finn spoke. Are they still friends? "Not the way we used to be."
Diane Ravitch, the Anti-Rhee
Michelle Rhee went from DCPS to national crusader. Along the way, a 72-year old historian became her top critic
Byon June 24, 2011