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Diane Ravitch at AASA National Conference on Education

Recently I have been reading and watching Diane Ravitch. Ravitch, you’ll recall, is an educational historian who served for a time as an Undersecretary of Education.  She’s now at NYU and the Brookings Institute.

Here is her website to learn more about her: http://www.dianeravitch.com/

Recently Ravitch has come out very strongly against federal education policies like No Child Left Behind and President Obama’s Race to the Top. She has been a leading counter-voice against the newest national educational narrative, which she sees as deeply anti-public education, anti-professionalization, and pro-privatization, pro-charter school.

This summer I was sent links to videos of Ravitch speaking at the American Association of School Administrator’s National Conference on Education in 2011.

Here are the three youtube links of Ravitch’s speech. Each is about 20 minutes long. I found these powerful and interesting.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvstR3Bkh4c
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p52Ygnt7B_E
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siRN0WNSqao&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PL80E120BDD2A63FB6

I am especially in sync with Ravitch’s ideas that public education is the lynchpin of our democracy, and her belief that calls for privatization and increases in charter schools are fundamentally anti-democratic. She points out that the drumbeat for charter schools, fueled by movies like Waiting for “Superman”, is paid for by those with a monetary stake in increasing charter schools in this country.

Ravitch wrote a powerful critique of Waiting for “Superman” in the New York Review of Books. Here is the link to that review: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/11/myth-charter-schools/?pagination=false

She mentions in the AASA speech that she was told that her review helped prevent the film from being nominated for an Academy Award.

As someone who helps trains public school teachers, as a former public school teacher, as a product of 12 years of public schools, four years of public higher education, and as someone who now is employed in a pubic college, I take attacks on public education and public school teachers seriously.

It is refreshing to hear someone as smart and informed as Diane Ravitch defend public education and public school teachers. As Ravitch points out, more tests and increased privatization do little to improve education for our most at-risk students.  In addition, attacking public school teachers, who work very hard to improve student learning, distracts from the many influences on student achievement, provides a public scapegoat, and demoralizes teachers.

I hope you take time to look at Ravitch’s speech or her review of Waiting for “Superman”.  She provides a compelling counter-narrative to the anti-public school narrative currently enjoying popular support.

– James Whiting

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