Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ravitch is Wrong Week, Day #1

Here's the first of a series on Jay Greene's blog, rebutting the endless nonsense in Ravitch's book:

As an overall matter, the book says little, if anything, that is actually new on the subjects of testing and choice. What Ravitch is really selling with this book is the story of her personal and ideological conversion. Not so long ago, she was writing articles like "In Defense of Testing," or "The Right Thing: Why Liberals Should Be Pro-Choice," a lengthy article in The New Republic that remains one of the most passionate and eloquent defenses of school choice and vouchers in particular. Now she seems to be a diehard opponent of these things. But she's not saying anything that other diehard opponents haven't already said countless times.

The book does score a few points in critiquing the charter school movement (e.g., charter schools have an unfair advantage in competing with Catholic schools in the inner cities, and charter test results haven't been as promising as might have been expected), or in critiquing testing and accountability (e.g., states have been watering down their standards, as shown by wide discrepancies between NAEP and state tests).

But these few good points are outweighed by the bad arguments and leaps of illogic that permeate much of the book. The book's faults fall into five general categories, each of which will be the subject of a blog post this week:

1) Ignoring or selectively citing scholarly literature;

2) Misinterpreting the scholarly literature that she does cite;

3) Caricaturing her opponents in terms of strawman arguments, rather than taking the best arguments head-on;

4) Tendering logical fallacies; and

5) Engaging in a double standard, such as holding a disfavored position to a high burden of proof while blithely accepting more problematic evidence that supports one's own position (or not looking for evidence at all).


Ravitch is Wrong Week, Day #1

(Guest post by Stuart Buck)

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