Against Ravitch

Perhaps it is because she floats around in the really thin air that is the field of education that the vacillating reactionary, Diane Ravitch, gets cheers from those who condemned her in her No Child Left Behind days. I have to remind myself that there are also bad historians at Harvard. What makes Ravitch consistent — and consistently reactionary — is her dishonest rejection of the social context of the NCLB and its monster sibling, The Race to the Top (Ratt), that is, her utter failure to locate these regimented education moves with the continuing crises of the system of capital, today losing wars and forging booming inequality.

Diane Ravitch's latest book (above) has caused a major debate over her break with the quarter century project she helped develop for America's ruling class. But as Rich Gibson points out in the Substance article here, Ravitch still supports the underlying inequities of American public education. That then allows Ravitch to appear to shift sides, when her real side is simple to see: class rule. At issue is the method, form, which seems to fascinate and distract education workers. Will it be the iron fist or velvet glove, ensuring oppression one way or another?

If the problem is poverty, as Ravitch says, where does poverty come from? Who gains?

Beyond that, what Ravitch dodges in the Huffington piece below [] is the fact that the union representing the fired Rhode Island teachers, the American Federation of Teachers, was, along with the National Education Association, absolutely pivotal in creating the NCLB, then electing the demoagogue, Obama. That laid the ground to fire the teachers. Those who did not see merit pay and dismissals lurking right behind high-stakes tests (pushed by Ravitch not long ago), cannot connect cause and effect.

Check it out:

Ravitch is a patriot, promoting the false notion that "we are all in this together for good education," when every signal from daily life says this is an international war of the rich on the poor with children of the poor, everywhere, fighting and dying on behalf of the rich in their homelands, while their parents fall deeper and deeper into poverty. Those children of the poor need to be drilled with the nationalism Ravitch backs, or they will not go fight, and their parents won't accept the poverty that Ravitch complains about.

The last thing that the reactionary patriot Ravitch (and the NEA and AFT mis-leaders) wants to see rising up is exactly what is beginning to rise up, a mass base of class conscious activists willing to take direct action to transform the system of capital, and its schools.

Here is some more pap from a reviewer, praising Ravitch:

From the dripping conclusion quoting Ravitch: "…we must preserve American public education, because it is so intimately connected to our concepts of citizenship and democracy and to the promise of American life. In view of the money and power now arrayed on behalf of the ideas and programs that I will criticize, I hope it is not too late. (p. 14) "

The reviewer claims that even within the Bush administration, "she was never a Republican. She was a Democrat, now she is an independent." Proof twice: little difference between Republicans and Democrats; not independent of, but enamored by, capitalism.

Ravitch, however, witlessly claims she’s not on any side. She is: Exploitation.

Democracy? It's becoming the new religion. Myth. Take this from three easy angles. The $12.9 trillion that Obama gave to the banks in the most grotesque transfer of public to private wealth since the oligarchs stole Russia (Stiglitz) was opposed by 2/3 of people in the US. That's sheer class rule, power. So are the two wars. opposed. yet endless: imperialism on its relentless search for cheap labor, raw materials, markets, and regional control.

From another angle: how many Rhode Island education workers are there? How many people fired them? It looks to me like the educators outnumber their enemies by 10-1, maybe more. Democracy does not apply at work, the place where most people set up nearly everything in their lives.

Third: massive demonstrations of students, school workers, and community people on March 4th show, we think, terrific unrest. But those participants represent less that 1/4 of the combined student/faculty bodies. A meeting of about 800 people decided on March 4th, the demands, and the substance of the demonstrations, declaring itself “democratic.” True? In a sense, yes, in much the same way that about 1/3 of the people in the American colonies sided with the 1776 revolutionaries. Democracy is a problem.

Public Schooling? Another myth. Education in the US has never been truly public, but fully segregated by class and race. Kids from different social classes get taught differing fact, under varying methods–mis-education fashioned through a tax system that favors the wealthy. The point is not to preserve public education but to rescue education from the ruling classes, to truly transform education.

I suspect there will be those who say that we need to have the Ravitch's to lead people, by baby steps, to new conclusions. There is no evidence that people learn that way, and, incidentally, events show that time is short.

The corporate state is here. Whether or not 2000 small bank failures, caused by the collapse of commercial real estate, will mean yet another collapse is unclear, but the deepening of financial, military, and social crises should be obvious — as should be carrot and stick methods of hegemony.

People can be told what is up and why things are as they are. That is happening. We don't need to applaud disingenuous second-tier analysis from people whose history suggests they may be on the other side at any moment.

March 4th was terrific. Can it stem the tide of reaction, fascism as a mass popular movement? We shall see.

Not-so loyal and disobedient citizens, marching off with mass demonstrations, seizing buildings, mutinying, striking, fighting back with direct action, the "promise of American life," being overrun by people who are learning why things are as they are. Good. And good luck to us, every one

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March 23, 2010 at 12:53 PM

By: Susan Nunes

What Drivel

People DO change, and I suggest this writer actually read her book and her columns instead of sounding like a fool. She is not the one being dishonest.

March 23, 2010 at 5:45 PM

By: Garth Liebhaber

Can you explain in more detail?


I have not read the book. Would you mind giving a more careful critique of your disagreements with Rich Gibson?

I'll tell you, as a teacher, I find it hard to read anything on education written by someone who has barely taught, if they taught at all. Yourself?


March 24, 2010 at 3:28 PM

By: Paul A. Moore

Give Me Gibson, Keep Ravitch

I wish I had the courage of Professor Gibson. I tried to say the same thing he did in this essay written after hearing about Ravitch's book but he did it so much more uncompromisingly.

The corporate assault on the public schools began in earnest coming out of the Business Roundtable's education summit meeting at the National Governors Conference in 1989. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a part of that corporate assault since its formation. It does not "rely on business principles to improve schools" it seeks to advance the interests of its business, namely the Microsoft Corporation, in the schools. It is the reason for the pathological pedagogy called "data driven education" which has spread like a cancer across the public school landscape (private schools don't bother with such nonsense). There isn't the slightest concern for this nation's children, it's all about the bottom line at Microsoft.

Diane Ravitch is a thoughtful, honest, and rational intellectual who deserves to be accorded great respect. But as she makes her turn away from "market oriented policies" it will turn out to be too late. As Al Gore has discovered and written about in his latest book, rationality and reason no longer hold any sway in the corporate-state that the USA has become. The possibility of addressing global warming or reforming the public schools is itself now "history". We're in the era of mass firings at Central Falls in Rhode Island and pronouncements like "Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans' schools".

Bush's Paige/Spellings and now Obama's Duncan are taking their turns rearranging the educational deck chairs on the Titanic. The iceberg is still dead ahead.

The economy of the United States is now fully devoted to war and no longer has the capacity to maintain a functioning public school system. The District and every state in the Union faces a deepening hole in their budgets. Unemployed people stop paying income taxes. Foreclosed upon people stop paying property taxes. No wealth is created in this country today so there's nothing to tax. Labor is no longer compensated in the United States!

Nothing that is except weapons of war. War making is the only "healthy" sector of the US economy left, which is why were staying in Iraq, escalating in Afghanistan, and expanding the fight to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. But an ability to deliver bombs from drone aircraft on people around the world will not rescue a broken economy.

Duncan's Race to the Top funny money is hot off the FED's printing presses. Whatever real wealth that hasn't been turned over to the banks or earmarked for keeping our Chinese creditors happy is devoted to war making and the weapons trade. The steadily accelerating destruction of public education in the United States is the result.

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