Career Calling

December 11, 2011

A Strong Voice for Public Schools

Working people will only have opportunities if they have the skills and discipline need to be part of a fast-changing workforce.  For generations in America, public schools educated most Americans.  Now, especially in poor communities, there is an “education reform” movement that is pushing charter schools and vouchers as substitutes for public education.

Diane Ravitch was one of the early champions of such reform in the 1980s and 1990s.  After careful study, she has done something few experts do:  Admitted she was wrong.  In an essay reposted on Common Dreams, Ravitch outlines the politics behind the reform movement and how it does not serve the needs of children. 

One of Ravitch’s claims that struck me is that the reform movement is based on an inherent contradiction.  Reformers praise the public sector business model.  In that model, poor performers are left behind.  Does the logic of schools as business mean that some are sure to fail?  Ravitch argues, “The goal of our education system should not be competition but equality of educational opportunity. There should not be a Race to the Top. What is the Top? Who will get there first? Will it be poor and minority students? Don’t count on it. The Top is already occupied by the children of the 1%.”

I strongly recommend this article, especially to those people who support education reform.  Ravitch challenges us to think about the purpose of education, and she offer serious ideas for real reform.  Why should she be believed?  She is strong enough to admit she was wrong.  When was the last time anyone in Washington did that?

Postscript:  Here is an interview with Ravitch in which she criticizes the impact of the No Child Left Behind Law.

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