It’s always nice when, tasked with writing a book review involving a key figure in a certain field of which one is well acquainted, one ultimately has good things to say about the book in question.
Happily, Truthdig reviewer and public-school educator Patrick Walsh discovered that this was his lot in his Dec. 6 review of eminent historian Diane Ravitch’s “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.” We say “happily” here, as Walsh’s acclamatory review caught the eye of another expert in matters pertaining to both education reform and to Diane Ravitch, and that would be Diane Ravitch.
In an entry posted Dec. 15 on her pragmatically titled weblog, “Diane Ravitch’s Blog,” Ravitch guides her readers to Walsh’s work, demonstrating a refreshing capacity for unabashed enthusiasm (and for the use of the exclamation point) with a simple lead: “I love this review!”
Granted, Walsh kicked off his own piece by characterizing Ravitch as “simultaneously the most feared and revered figure in American education,” but this is about much more than a writerly love-in. Walsh backs up his praise in a piece that further underscores the need for critiques like Ravitch’s—and by extension, his own:
But Ravitch is a conscience that can’t be purchased. She is also an apostate. While serving as U.S. assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush, Ravitch was a proponent of standardized testing and “accountability,” which constitutes the base of much education reform. But in time Ravitch did something unique in the Brave New World of education: She looked for evidence of success in the various reform policies and found fraud and failure. This led her to a period of radical reconsideration.
Then Ravitch did something extremely courageous and rare: She publicly admitted she had made errors in judgment. Even more, she concluded that some of the policies she had championed were actually harmful.
To the privatizers, Ravitch represents the authority and integrity they are quietly and desperately trying to discredit or purge altogether.
To reformers, Ravitch remains more than a problem. As the reforms themselves grow ever more strident, standardized and, yes, totalitarian in structure, Ravitch embodies the institutional memory that no totalitarian system can abide.
This is but one of the reasons that Ravitch has become so revered by teachers who bear the brunt of the reforms. Teachers bear witness to what the reforms are doing to their profession and to the students in their charge. For teachers, politically orphaned, Ravitch is a crusader who has done what their politicians, and, sadly, even their unions, have refused to do. She has spoken truth to power to the richest people and the most powerful political figures in the United States who have aligned themselves with the ruthless drive to privatize our schools, the most vital public trust in this nation.
Again, Walsh’s full review is here, and Ravitch’s blog is here—and now you know that the work of both authors comes highly recommended.