Ravitch: The Problem Is Bigger Than a Pineapple

I’m intrigued by Ravitch’s born again status, her being embraced by those who would have otherwise turned their nose at this social conservative decades ago. And note that Ravitch, while playing to lead the “rebellion,” is mum on the Common Core (and the testing apparatus being built to impose it, namely PARCC and the other one with the silly name, “smarter” and “balanced”). Thus while she may have changed her view, and while she may have learned from her mistakes, she is silent on what I believe to be the nail in the coffin of public education as we knew it. And while much of what she prints and says is useful, I believe it is dangerous to relieve ourselves of our critical faculties and get all excited because this bigwig has decided to “join the fight” (after helping craft the cage the bars of which we now rattle).

Might we be misled?

For example, the effort to frame this as a revolts against testing is misleading, at best. One does not revolt against a technology only, but the power that imposes the technology. People are actually questioning the power that imposes the testing insanity. We know to deride “the war on drugs” (and every other similar “war”) as it makes so little sense and provides so unclear a guide. Is this a “war on testing”? In the 1960s, Banesh Hoffman mis-identified the problem as the Tyranny of Testing, but we know that tests do not get all tyrannical on their own.

The fact is, rendering current sentiment as a rebellion against tests misses the key conclusion that has been hammered home by most exposes of education “reform”. The problem with these “reforms” is that they are rooted in the exclusion of parents, educators and students (and their communities) from being decision makers. The problem is that the “reforms” put “business” in power against the people — a private power over that which is to be public. The character of what these “leaders” decide is not what teachers, students and parents want or would decide if they had real political power to influence the nature and function of their schools. Thus their exclusion. They don’t make those “tough” decisions, the “right ones”.

These tests are a political tool of and for the economic and political elite; their use, form and function reflects the narrow and self-serving interest of this elite, an elite with no legitimacy and no credibility: the rebellion needs to be exposed as against them and for a new vision of public education.

Yes, the problem is bigger than a pineapple. It is the problem of decision making. The attack on public education will not cease until those empowered to attack are no longer empowered to attack. So yes, sign the petition. But be clear on the limits of asking those attacking you to stop.

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