Repost: Interference

I repost this piece written in October of 2014 and will repost others that I think are significant to what is currently taking place in the American society.  The harsh criticism of Ms. Ravitch is now over three years old and, perhaps, she has truly changed her way of thinking since the piece was first published.  I argue that her claim to have made a radical turn then was subterfuge, her underlying principles as problematically conservative as they ever were, the only real change being that she now was a strong supporter of teachers, those teachers, in the context of the history of the time trained to do what No Child Left Behind mandated.  Whether or not Ms. Ravitch has come to support the kinds of progressive change needed to bring the nation back to its senses, respond to the era of Trump in a truly meaningful way, is to be seen.  Here is the article with flaws and blemishes:

After seeing ad on Facebook by actor explaining how Diane Ravitch is Education’s hero: Do not buy it, October 13, 2013

As some of you who read my early posts to this site know, I find it difficult, very difficult to take Diane Ravich’s radical turn away from NCLB seriously and this is not because I find it impossible to believe that people can change.  I do not think Ms. Ravich has changed at all, that she is the same Diane Ravich she was when she was a tool for the George W. Bush administration doing every thing she could to make sure that the act that Congress stupidly passed in the name of improvement of the nations schools would be implemented.  She now says she is against government interference in school policy and wants us all to get behind her because she is a champion of teachers and against the Common Core State Standards.

I sincerely believe, after reading a host of her posts on her blog site and many an article in which she has championed herself as champion of public schools and their teachers, that she is not a fraud, but working over people who, after the devastation NCLB caused, want a strong advocate, someone they can get behind who is really behind them, who is not like the Ravitch’s and other educational “leaders” in the Bush administration who demoted teachers to clerks and did everything to control them, control them so tightly that they could not breath a breathe of creativity, could not do what they knew to be right for their students because of the “research based” mandates of NCLB iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act.  NCLB and its conceptualization of research not only ruined schools, teachers, and the education of millions of students, but also undermined the credibility of educational research for, under NCLB it was used to prove true what was false and so that what was false could be used to support educational practices demeaning to students, their teacher, and the whole of the American educational system that NCLB was meant to rip apart and did rip apart.

It is that system, the one that NCLB created by ripping apart schools programs that at least had a bit of progressivism in them, that had an ounce of real humanity in them, that Ms. Ravitch wishes to preserve.  She does not like at all the Core State Standards, and of course she wouldn’t because they offer the antidote to NCLB’s poison, poison still working its way through the system as teachers trained and force to adapt to NCLB realities make up a major portion of those working in the system with the same materials and the same tests to guide a good mount of passes for educational practice.

Ms. Ravitch is only against government interference if it interferes with her notion of what schools should be and what she thinks schools should be is not clear, I think because if she made clear the goals she supports many of those now following would reject her outright.  It was her notions of proper educational outcomes, those she shared with other Bush administration advisors, that created the extant system, just now under repair because of the development and implementation of the CCSS standards that she hates.

I must admit that I do not like many of the same reforms and reformers that she dislikes; I am not fond of the ways in which Ely Broad and Bill Gates are influencing the system, and the discourse, from their high purchases in billionaire land, a place from which it is quite impossible to determine what it is education-wise that us mortals really need or why we even need what we need.  These are not people interested in democracy or in preparing people for democracy by providing through education the tools for empowerment that with the ability to develop informed opinions that they can articulate clearly in the forums of democratic debate.  These new educational leaders do not want to debate; they want to control and that is exactly the role they are playing in the current educational debates, the outcomes of which they win, not with strong arguments but by buying them.

But Diane Ravitch is not the one who possesses the sensible and sensibly democratic counterpoint.  She wasn’t for the people while working for the Bush administration and she isn’t now and there is little in her massive body of commentary that argues for the kind of educational system that would be good and right for democracy.  She, I think, is about the economic order, its stability and not much about the kind of revolutionary fervor good American education, education in line with what the Declaration proclaimed to be the purpose of a form of government such as that developed in the U.S. Constitution to promote involvement in the decision making processes of the society by those whose freedom they agreed to have sensibly curtailed in order to allow for maximum amounts of freedom for the many and not absolute freedom for the few who could afford to buy it and buy it from the poorly educated masses who could be convinced to sell their freedom for the security of a job, too often a job that interfered with rather than enhanced their pursuit of happiness.

I may have missed it, just not read enough or deeply enough to find it, but I have never really found what I need to begin to understand what it is that Ms. Ravitch finds so repugnant about the CCSS, except, it seems, her trouble with Federal government control of schools, this made particularly interesting by the fact that it was not the Federal government that developed these standards but a collation of state’s people who got together to, yes, decide what it was that all needed to have, as a result of education, to function well in a nation in which all can be affected by what the people of one or a few or many states decide or do.  Yes, NCLB allowed states to develop their own standards, but any evaluation of these standards will show that a good many states developed standards that anyone hopeful for the day when all people, where ever they lived would be well educated would have to see as being substandard.  Indeed, there is good reason for the people of California to want the people of Virginia or North Carolina to be well educated!

I think, too, she is horribly disingenuous in her proclamations of concern for children, for other people’s children and their wellbeing, being that she was a leading force in the government take over of schools, a take over of such proportions as to render all other Federal government intrusions into education minor in comparison.  She says she is sorry for this but then argues that the schools we now have, schools that were shaped by NCLB, to be good and the teachers in them good.  Many are good, indeed, but she has never been the champion of the goodness of the truly good, their well-being, or their right to think for themselves as professionals in developing school programs and classroom activities that a professional educator knows to be right and for the right reasons, for reasons of helping children and young adults think for themselves and do it well.

Ask Ms. Ravitch what she believes a successful graduate of a successful school program should be able to do with his or her education.  I have to think, from all I can gather from what she has said is that such a student would fit into American society and help it prosper.  Ask yourself who it is that really prospers by the current reality.  I do not know if she believes at all that the well educated graduate should be an active and effective member of a democratic society, one who can demand of the economy that it work to insure that all people prosper by their work and be able to use the profits of work to create a life of quality, prosperity, and happiness, the latter of critical importance in for the American creed in that it is said in the Declaration that the right to pursue it is amongst those rights that come naturally to human beings by virtue of their being human beings, by nature.

Ms. Ravitch, before her self reported radical conversion, was an active participant in an administration that turned schools into training grounds for obedient employees who would, with out much fuss work for the administration’s true constituents, those who now have received 95% of the current recovery, those who I can, I think justly blame for the situation from which were are now working to recover.  Indeed, she worked for an administration that helped to suck the middle class dry so that millionaires and billionaires could live more comfortable lives than they already were and gain even more control over a system that they had already bought several times over in terms they exert on the political system that now works to pass law that serves best, and sometimes only, their interests.

Blah, blah, blah, nothing but the bashing of the already hurting wealthy.  Still, the money is flowing where it is flowing and the wages of the working classes are going down even though those working fools are more productive than they have ever been.  So, back to the system Ms. Ravitch seems to favor, it is one that will continue to keep the people at bay by teaching obedience, by teaching students not to question authority, by teaching students that it is alright that the work they do is for the good of an economy that doesn’t really care if it eats them alive, the small fraction of the populace nothing but cheap labor for those at the top of the chain.

Yes, look at NCLB and its components and I think a good reading will get one to the motives, none of which had anything to do with nurturing critical thought, independent mindedness, creativity, or anything else that helps to make an individual a real force in shaping his or her own destiny as an effective member of a real democratic society.  Check out what she, along with friends like Checker Finn, and Rod Page, and the direct instruction folk at the University of Oregon, and other conservative educators deliberately took all decision making out of the hands of teachers and teachers of teachers and researchers who were doing research of any kind of which they did not approve, approving only of research and teaching methods that brought the results they wanted.

NCLB, the research they promoted, the research allowed under NCLB related mandates, showed the effectiveness of methods that were patently ineffective, harmful in many ways.  If you wish verification take a look at what was done to show that Reading First, a critical part of NCLB, was succeeding; the research proved that it was, in teaching students things that were not helping to improve reading but only scores on tests that really had little to do with reading!!!!!

Diane Ravich was there through it all and only began to complain when a new administration took over and had to listen, and they did it reluctantly, to the complaints people now felt they could make now that the Bush administration and its take no prisoners behavior were at least being somewhat curbed, the threat no longer so prominent.  The NCLB mandates began to fade because it was becoming apparent that NCLB was not only a failure but a catastrophe that had ruined the educations of millions.  I don’t blame Diane for wanting to be seen as a traitor to her own cause.  I do blame those so willing to believe her for helping to carry on into the future a notion of proper education that is patently improper for a democratic society.  She does not want truly strong teachers in the classrooms.  She wants to carry on the traditions of NCLB.  She likes those who will continue what she had teachers trained to do when she was a part of the Bush administration because her real goals are the same as the goals she supported under Mr. Bush.

As John Mellencamp would say, CHECK IT OUT!

By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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