Thursday, November 01, 2007

Feud 'Twixt Wylde, Ravitch Laid to City's Machinations

So the latest tempest in a teapot is that Diane Ravitch -- surprise! -- is crying foul about Kathy Wylde's NY Post Op Ed, which I sent around yesterday.  Apparently the DOE kept track of Diane Ravitch's flip-flopping and hypocrisy and -- egads! -- provided information to Kathy Wylde for her recent article in the NY Post.  

Ms. Ravitch yesterday said the piece plainly originated from the city's Education Department, calling it a "paid hit job" meant to silence all critics of the  Bloomberg administration. "They're trying to intimidate me, and they're trying to silence me, and I'm not going to be silenced," Ms. Ravitch  said.

So let me see if I have this straight: Diane Ravitch is upset that the DOE took her criticisms so seriously that they studied her writings and when they discovered major contradictions over time, they shared this information.  Hmmmmm...
I would hope that all education reform organizations, whether governmental or private, pay close attention to their most vocal critics and listen hard to their critiques, for two reasons:

a) The criticisms may be valid, in which case they should be acknowledged and corrected.

b) But if they're not valid (and, in particular, if they appear to be driven by a personal vendetta, as appears to be the case with Ravitch, or by interests other than those of children, as is the case with many of the organizations representing the adults in the system), then it's critical to make every effort to set the record straight -- not by joining them in mud-slinging, but by responding quickly, forcefully and factually.  I think Kathy Wylde's article did precisely this.

I am very sensitive to large, powerful organizations using their connections and resources to attack legitimate critics -- because I've had it done to me (in my hedge fund life many years ago).  So if I thought the DOE was going after Ravitch in this way or was engaged in a J. Edgar Hoover-like pattern of behavior of keeping files on enemies, no one would be protesting louder than I.  
But I see no evidence of this.  For example, there were few more vocal critics of the DOE in the early days of the Bloomberg/Klein era than Eva Moskowitz, when she chaired the education subcommittee of the City Council.  But she was raising legitimate issues and it wasn't personal, so not only did the DOE not retaliate, but I've recently heard Joel Klein publicly thank Eva for holding his and the DOE's feet to the fire, saying something like: "Eva, I didn't always agree with what you were saying and sometimes we got pretty mad at each other, but I respected you and knew that you were motivated by wanting what was best for kids."

Having read many of Ravitch's articles over the years (though I don't claim to be an expert), I don't think she falls into the same category -- instead, my impression mirrors that of Kathy Wylde's, so I think her article was fair and accurate and Ravitch got the comeuppance she deserved.  If the DOE had a hand in that article, I have no problem with them attempting to set the record straight.
More broadly, let me be clear: reforming a $500+ billion/year public school system that is working so well for millions of adults while utterly screwing millions of our most vulnerable children isn't going to be easy, and enemies of reform will stop at nothing to maintain the comfortable status quo, kids be damned.  Specifically, they will lie and distort endlessly -- and get away with it unless reformers respond and set the record straight.  
This is exactly like a political campaign -- and we school reformers have done a lousy job responding to the attacks, lies and distortions of the educational status quo.  I hope Democrats for Education Reform can play at least a small role in rectifying this.

Feud 'Twixt Wylde, Ravitch Laid to City's Machinations
Staff Reporter of the Sun
October 31, 2007 <blocked::>

A scathing opinion piece deriding a prominent critic of Mayor Bloomberg’s education policies was generated with the help of city officials, sources said yesterday.

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