Yesterday, however, a friend pointed me to this piece from the Washington Post by New York University research professor, author, and education historian Diane Ravich where she takes Guggenheim to task, employing the actual data to argue against the twisted and distorted "facts" used to support the film's dangerous premise that we have no choice but to go all-in for turning our public education over to private corporations. It turns out that this is a condensed version of her review of the movie that recently appeared in The New York Review of Books in which she goes into much more depth, clearly exposing the film as little more than propaganda for the powerful Wall Street and political interests seeking to take over one of the bedrock institutions of our democracy.
The most disturbing part of this so-called "reform" movement, aside from its complete reliance on anecdotes to support its claims, is that it has become an all out assault on teachers, demonizing us as the root cause of a problem that is far, far more complex and far-reaching than these propagandists want us believe.
For many people, these arguments require a willing suspension of disbelief. Most Americans graduated from public schools, and most went from school to college or the workplace without thinking that their school had limited their life chances. There was a time—which now seems distant—when most people assumed that students’ performance in school was largely determined by their own efforts and by the circumstances and support of their family, not by their teachers. There were good teachers and mediocre teachers, even bad teachers, but in the end, most public schools offered ample opportunity for education to those willing to pursue it. The annual Gallup poll about education shows that Americans are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the quality of the nation’s schools, but 77 percent of public school parents award their own child’s public school a grade of A or B, the highest level of approval since the question was first asked in 1985.
In reality, we are more satisfied with our public schools than we have been at any point in the past quarter of a century, yet we've been persuaded that our schools are failing. And now that they've persuaded us of this, they're scapegoating teachers because solving the real problems, like poverty, require scapegoating everyone, and how do you get support for that?
Ravich is one of my heros, one of the few strong voices out there pushing back against our current misguided rush toward more testing, more standardization, and more privatization of public schools. I urge you to click on the links, especially the longer New York Review of Books piece.
Please take it on as homework from Teacher Tom. Please. Powerful forces ranging from the president, to Bill Gates, to hedge fund managers, and now big-name filmmakers are lining up behind this agenda and pushing hard. We need you to help push back.
Please click those links, but I warn you, it will make your blood boil.