Friday, April 13, 2012

More Condescension of Parents: Ravitch and Wilkins Department

And here are extended comments by RiShawn Biddle:

Ravitch displays more of the latter in her second argument: That Parent Trigger laws are "terrible" because a majority of families, tired of schools failing their children, dare to use democratic means to force overhauls of schools subsidized by their tax dollars. Given Ravitch's longstanding pretensions to supporting "democratic processes" in running schools and districts, one would think Parent Trigger laws would be up her proverbial alley. But the reality is that Ravitch doesn't believe that families should have any meaningful role in school decisionmaking. This is nothing new; Ravitch has made this clear ever since she wrote The Great School Wars: A history of New York City schools, in which she chided families in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville (scene of the infamous Parent Power battle) for rightly demanding the ability to directly hold schools and teachers accountable for student achievement. As with her fellow education traditionalists, Ravitch thinks that families should be rarely seen and never heard except when they admirably parrot her bromides (or when she can blame them for what is really the systemic failures of American public education).

But Ravitch's intellectual dishonesty is to be expected. This month alone, she furthered damaged her bona fides as an educational thinker with her facts-bereft New York Review of Books critique of Arne Duncan's tenure as U.S. Secretary of Education. Certainly one can find fault with Duncan's handling of the No Child waiver gambit; he must also take heat for teaming up with Sen. Tom Harkin on the rather shady targeting of for-profit colleges. But Duncan, along with President Barack Obama, has done an otherwise fine job in pushing systemic reform — especially in pushing for performance-based teacher evaluations and the expansion of charter schools. More importantly, as New Schools Venture Fund's Benjamin Riley pointed out in his comments, Ravitch's spectacular errors (including her failing to note Duncan's derision of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's successful abolition of collective bargaining privileges) prove once again that she cannot support her own arguments with facts.

Wilkins' argument, on the other hand, is less one based out of any intellectual deception. Instead, Wilkins exhibits a failing typical among Beltway reformers (and one that I've criticized over the past few weeks): The idea that parents are too unsophisticated to make smart decisions. Declaring that "the trigger seems promising", Wilkins then goes off to offer an argument similar to that of Ravitch: That Parent Trigger laws may serve as stalking horses for for-profit charter school operators. From where she sits, "these companies will use the trigger to exploit desperate, frustrated families" while offering low-quality education.

Certainly there are charter school operators who shouldn't be allowed to control schools of any kind. But that's not necessarily a problem of for-profit operators alone.


More Condescension of Parents: Ravitch and Wilkins Department

March 19, 2012 2 Comments by RiShawn Biddle

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