Wednesday, November 6, 2013

There's only one problem with this narrative.

"In the early years of the twenty-first century, a bipartisan consensus arose about educational policy in the United States. Right and left, Democrats and Republicans, the leading members of our political class and our media elite seemed to agree: Public education is broken. Our students are not learning enough. Public schools are bad and getting worse. We are being beaten by other nations with higher test scores. Our abysmal public schools threaten not only the performance of our economy but our national security, our very survival as a nation. This crisis is so profound that half measures and tweaks will not suffice. Schools must be closed and large numbers of teachers fired. Anyone who doubts this is unaware of the dimensions of the crisis or has a vested interest in defending the status quo."

"Furthermore, according to this logic, now widely shared among policy makers and opinion shapers, blame must fall on the shoulders of teachers and principals. When test scores are low, it is their fault. They should be held accountable for this educational catastrophe. They are responsible because they have become comfortable with the status quo of low expectations and low achievement, more interested in their pensions than in the children they teach."

"In response to this crisis, the reformers have a ready path for solving it. Since teachers are the problem, their job protections must be eliminated and teachers must be fired. Teachers' unions must be opposed at every turn. The "hoops and hurdles" that limit entry into teaching must be eliminated. Teachers must be evaluated on the basis of their students' test scores. Public schools must be evaluated on an "objective" basis, and when they are failing, they must be closed. Students must be given choices other than traditional public schools, such as charter schools, vouchers and online schools."

"In Hollywood films and television documentaries, the battle lines are clearly drawn. Traditional public schools are bad; their supporters are apologists for the unions. Those who advocate for charter schools, virtual schooling and "school choice" are reformers; their supporters insist they are championing the rights of minorities. They say they are leaders of the civil rights movement of our day."

"It is a compelling narrative, one that gives us easy villains and ready-made solutions. It appeals to values Americans have traditionally cherished--choice, freedom, optimism, and a latent distrust of government."

These are the first 5 paragraphs from a new book, Reign of Error, by education scholar/historian and former Asst. Sec. of Education Diane Ravitch.

Pick your source: NBC's "Education Nation", local or national newspapers, local or national TV/radio, they're all saying essentially the same things found in those 5 paragraphs. How often to do you recall pundits on Fox News and MSNBC agreeing on anything? Those who have spent their careers in public education are--to say the least--dispirited.

But let's continue just a bit farther, to paragraphs 6 and 7.

"There is only one problem with this narrative."

"It is wrong."

"Well, Dr. Ravitch, that's your opinion," one might say. But then Ravitch does the most frustrating thing: She looks at the "everybody knows" claims made by "reformers" and shows that they simply are not true. How does she do this? With FACTS.

Now we will examine some of these claim-crushing facts in the next post or two, but don't wait for me. If you're tired of being told that public education is ruining the country and that retired teachers should be ashamed of taking their pensions, buy the book right now. Click on the link above, it will take you to Amazon where you can be reading the book in less than a minute if you have a Kindle. If you don't, they will be happy to send a real book to your home.

Read the book and be ready to jam some facts down the throat of the next irritating bozo who tries to pull one of those "everybody knows" arguments out of his clown car full of claims.

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