Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Evening With Diane Ravitch and a Couple Thousand of Her Closest Friends

A blogger attended a Ravitch event (organized and paid for by the unions of course) and describes it in hilarious, scathing detail:


Darling-Hammond came across as a "true believer", but tempered her words enough so as not to across as batcrap insane.

No, that was left to Ravitch.

"You have the only governor in the nation who gives a damn about education." Really, Diane? See, I expected a sober discussion from her, and she goes straight for the red meat. She followed that comment up with a dig at Michelle Rhee--not a discussion, not a "here's where I disagree" comment, but just a dig. She did the same thing with Governor Scott Walker, saying "Let's all hope that he is soon recalled." Ravitch, who admits in the SN&R link above that there definitely are problems in American public schools, didn't "go there" in her talk; no, she said that the only crisis in American education is that it's under attack! And it's under attack by "right wingers", a phrase she used over and over again, whose hidden purpose is to privatize public schools. One of her repeated phrases was about the "corporate reform movement".

At one point I leaned over to Mr. Chandler and said, "She's an angry old biddy, isn't she?" We weren't getting reason from her, we were getting vituperation.

I was very disappointed in the logical fallacies, and the boogeymen, that she kept bringing up. "We must improve them (schools), not lose them." She seems absolutely convinced that there is a movement afoot to destroy public schools and to privatize them. If you believe that's so, then her statements make sense. If you don't, and she offered no evidence that it's so, then she's insane. She piled on: There are two goals of the "corporate reform movement", privatization and deprofessionalism.

Does this sound sane, or like a conspiracy theory?

Her bad statistics and bad logic could have been picked out by my first-year statistics students. At one point, when talking about how charter schools in Milwaukee haven't improved education, she said that African-American charter students in Milwaukee score no better than African-American students in Mississippi. Uh, to determine if the schools are an improvement over Milwaukee's public schools, shouldn't those kids be compared to African-American students in Milwaukee public schools? She makes several of these types of errors. In another attack on Michelle Rhee she mentioned something, I didn't write down what, that good teachers do, and then said that "Michelle Rhee certainly didn't do that in DC." Great applause line, but Michelle Rhee never taught in DC, she was the chancellor (superintendent) of the public schools there.

These types of logical errors detract from Ravitch's credibility.

I had hoped to hear why she changed from being an NCLB supporter and school reformer to whatever it is she is today; I got that information from the SN&R article linked above, not from Ravitch's talk. Every attack was against "right wing" something-or-others. Bottom line, she's just another liberal hack. "Public schools are a public good." But as I always say, "Universal public education is sacred, but public schools are not." A convert is always the most zealous. She didn't explain why she changed her mind, but she's certainly a zealot now. She attacked US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan a lot, but dared not mention his boss.

Near the end of her speech she was railing against some measures of school performance, and said, "I am not an economist, I am a historian. I don't think these (measures) should ever be used!" I leaned over to Mr. Chandler and said, "That's why she's not an economist."

She confused "bonus pay" with "merit pay", and concluded that merit pay doesn't work. But Mike Miles in Colorado Springs shows that true merit pay does work, and the students in his district, not affluent by any measure, are better off because of it.

"Organize, agitate, demonstrate!" "Act up, silence equals complicity!" Do these sound like cries from a particular side of the political spectrum? Do they sound like the clarion call of a reasoned person, or of a zealot? To ask the questions is to answer them, and that's how Ravitch closed her talk--to thunderous applause.

I didn't expect a red meat feeding frenzy. From someone of Ravitch's stature I expected much more intelligence, decency, and evidence. It's not that I disagreed with her--I knew going in that that was the case--it's just that I expected better. I was truly disappointed at the intellectual shallowness of her talk. This was the great Diane Ravitch? Really?



My Evening With Diane Ravitch and a Couple Thousand of Her Closest Friends


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