REIGN OF ERROR: Perhaps the most important American book of the 21st Century... Putting 'service' back in its proper place of dignity, respect, and history

Diane Ravitch's book Reign of Error was published on September 17, 2013, and by the end of the week had been blogged and reviewed thousands of times. But that will only be the beginning, since Reign of Error is probably the most important defense of democracy to be written and published in the USA in the 21st Century, and it rivals the major polemics for democracy of past decades and centuries. And Reign of Error couldn't have come at a better time. The book -- written by a historian, professor, and fierce polemicist -- comes at the best possible time for the explosion of a national resistance to the policies it critiques.

"Reign of Error" was published on September 17, 2013, but its roots go back 25 to 30 years in recent U.S. history and for the entire history of the struggle to expand American democracy beyond those years. The book will someday stand alongside "Common Sense," "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and "J'Accuse!" in the sort list of books that have truly expanded the scope of human democracy and freedom.Why is now more timely? The facts about corporate "school reform" have been known for a long time. Thanks to organized teachers (including the Chicago Teachers Union, of which I am a proud member and delegate), parents, students, and a growing number of intelligent citizens committed to democracy, what for more than a decade some of us called "The Resistance" is ready to break loose.Reign of Error will give everyone joining The Resistance a handbook to guide the answers to the lies of those in power, weapons and ammunition against the rising tide of hypocrisy and mendacity that has been corporate "school reform" for the past quarter century.

"Reign of Error" is a weapon in the work of The Resistance. It is not just another book to help us understand the lies, hoaxes, half truths and hypocrisies of the enemies arrayed against American public education, the American "common school, and indeed American democracy itself. The book lives up to the author's promise to provide the answers to the question posed at us since the beginning of The Resistance (for many of us 20 or more years ago): "What would you do instead?"

First, readers need a detailed review of the book. After that, readers should consider how perverted "American values" became during the reign of "standards and accountability." Finally, as the CORE convention approaches in Chicago, it's time to think about what The Resistance might do this year to thwart the tyrants and tyrannies exposed in Reign of Error.

In her Introduction, Ravitch makes her purposes clear: "The purpose of this book is to answer four questions. First, is American education in crisis? Second, is American education failing and declining? Third, what is the evidence for the reforms now being promoted by the federal government and adopted in many states? Fourth, what should we do to improve our schools and the lives of children?"

REIGN OF ERROR: A Handbook of Resistance

Reign of Error is nearly 400 pages long, of which nearly 100 pages consist of notes, an Appendix that should prove useful once appreciated, and a detailed index. For all the depth of its scholarship and historical accuracy, the book is quite readable and quotable, to a delightful degree.

When Barack Obama announced that Chicago's Arne Duncan would become U.S. Secretary of Education, it was December 2008, less than a month after Obama's election. By picking Duncan, whose cultural clout and reactionary ideology had prepared him in the eyes of the corporate "reform" crowd to head Chicago's public schools in 2001 (despite the fact that Duncan had no teaching experience or credentials), Obama signaled what many suspected: That the President's policies on education "reform" would continue in the same corporate direction as those of his predecessor, George W. Bush. In fact, by the time the administration's "Race to the Top" program had been laid out in full, it was clear to most critics that Obamaism was a nastier attack on public schools than Bushism had been.Reign of Error has four parts. Some reviewers have suggested another schemata for this analysis, but it seems like four show through. The parts consist of an introduction, a fact check, then solutions, and finally a wrap up. These are: The Introduction; the FACTS chapters; The WHAT IS TO BE DONE chapters; and the conclusion. Together, they constitute a very well organized lecture series on how to understand, organize to finally defeat the tyranny, hypocrisy and mendacity of corporate "school reform" in the USA.

PART ONE, consists of the brief Introduction and the first four numbered chapters. Each chapter could be accompanied by a lengthy quotation, but those will be assembled at the end of this essay.

The chapters of the Introductory part are:

CHAPTER ONE: Our Schools Are at Risk.

CHAPTER TWO: The Context for Corporate Reform.

CHAPTER THREE: Who Are the Corporate Reformers?

CHAPTER FOUR: The Language of Corporate Reform.

These four chapters provide even the newest reader with a decent history and overview of the 30 years since the corporate attack on America's public schools began. They also provide the reader with a list of some of the characters who have played a major role in the attempt to destroy democracy in public education in the USA. Most of these people, including the propagandists and "journalists", are trying to and make the peoples' education, through a series of propaganda points, just one other servant of the commodification of just about everything. They preach the "market" approach to every aspect of American life in a way that would have cost us most of the key confrontations that make us the democracy we are today.

Each chapter of the four in what I consider the introduction to Reign of Error has a large amount of material that is delightfully quotable, but for this review I have decided to steer away from that temptation, hoping to motivate anyone my review influences to buy, read, and share Reign of Error. (One of these three chapters has been reprinted in Valerie Strauss's delightful education blog at The Washington Post, with permission of the publisher). PART TWO consists of sixteen chapters most of which begin with the words "The Facts About..." and dissect the phony arguments and trash "science" behind each of the major propaganda points and claims of the corporate school reformers. Reading Reign of Error for the first time, this is the section that tempts the reader to jump forward (like you might do in a novel).

The chapter entitled "The Mystery of Michelle Rhee" is almost too tempting to wait for. The reader can read it and then returned to the order the author had intended. By the time the reader returns to the Rhee chapter, it was clear why is had to wait until Chapter 15. One of the most considerate and useful things about these FACTS chapters, is that they enable the reader (later, after having mastered the book first) to return to each of them when our adversaries try to bamboozle us with another one of their vapid talking points or junk science claims.

The FACTS chapters are:

CHAPTER FIVE: The Facts About Test Scores

CHAPTER SIX: The Facts About the Achievement Gap

CHAPTER SEVEN: The Facts About the International Test Scores

By the time Rahm Emanuel (left above) had completed nearly three years as White House Chief of Staff, the Obama program for neoliberal attacks on labor unions, public schools, and the public sector in general had been perfected. Race To The Top in education was the signature program of Obama's administration, but unlike the watered-down health care "reform" that has proven so controversial across the USA, "School Reform" came to the White House with the same bi-partisan support that had brought No Child Left Behind and the "reforms" of George W. Bush. Emanuel's lightning strike mayor campaign in Chicago put him into the mayor's office, with large support in the city's black community, because Obama endorsed Emanuel. Obama's support for Emanuel's attacks on the public schools has continued since, with Obama pushing corporate "reform" across the USA from the White House, with Arne Duncan's, while Emanuel forces the same destructive policies on the people of Chicago despite widespread opposition. CHAPTER EIGHT: The Facts About High School Graduation Rates

CHAPTER NINE: The Facts About College Graduation Rates

CHAPTER TEN: How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement

CHAPTER ELEVEN: The Facts About Teachers and Test Scores

CHAPTER TWELVE: Why Merit Pay Fails

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Do Teachers Need Tenure and Seniority?

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The Problem with Teach for America

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: The Mystery of Michelle Rhee

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: The Contradictions of Charters


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Parent Trigger, Parent Tricker

CHAPTER NINETEEN: The Failure of Vouchers

CHAPTER TWENTY: Schools Don't Improve If They Are Closed

After these "Getting the facts straight" chapters, Diane Ravitch keeps the promise she made at the beginning of the book and goes into the solutions she promised.

The WHAT IS TO BE DONE section of the book consists of the next 11 (or possibly 12) chapters. These are:

CHAPTER 21: Solutions: Start Here

CHAPTER 22: Begin at the Beginning.

CHAPTER 23: The early years count.

CHAPTER 24: The Essentials of a Good Education.

CHAPTER 26: Make Charters Work for All.

CHAPTER 27: Wraparound Services Make a Difference.

CHAPTER 28: Measure Knowledge and Skills with Care.

CHAPTER 29: Strengthen the Profession.

CHAPTER 30: Protect Democratic Control of Public Schools.

CHAPTER 31: The Toxic Mix

The Conclusions are in two chapters, aided and abetted by all of the end materials.

CHAPTER 32: Privatization of Education is Wrong

CHAPTER 33: Conclusion: The Pattern on the Rug.


As I went back over the "FACTS" chapters in Reign of Error, I realized that the historian and professor had actually created two distinct types of analysis here. Where the facts are already clear and the research is conclusive, Diane Ravitch states that this stuff is wrong. That's the "Hoax" in the book's title. But there are a couple of lingering realities that deserve a book length expose in and of themselves (although in my opinion, here, too the facts are clear) and so Reign of Error devotes a lot more space than in the average "FACTS" chapter to them.

Two that could easily yield another books are the chapters on charter schools and on virtual schools. They are CHAPTER 16: The Contradictions of Charters, and CHAPTER 17: Trouble in E-Land. Very carefully, with the zeal of an investigative reporter much younger, Reign of Error assembles a devastating expose on the frauds and hoaxes of charter schools in the USA today. This goes right down to exposing instances where families with political connections participated in milking taxpayers (and gullible charter school families that bought the marketing scams recruiting their children) for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Yes: hundreds of millions of dollars is the price tag we have already paid for the charter hucksters who have defrauded the public since the charter scams began within the past 15 years in the USA. And given the present state of things (and the Obama administration's hucksterism on behalf of charters) the changes will take time to reverse.

A reviewer is tempted to quote at great length from many parts of Reign of Error, but the details of the charter school scam across the USA are so thorough that a few points must be made here. The most important fact is that charter school operators (both "not for profit" and "for profit") have scammed the law and the courts so that they can have it both ways. They get public money without public oversight, and then when the public demands oversight (or even basic transparency) they get their political allies -- and often the federal and state courts -- to tighten their abilities to be private and secret.

"Are charter schools really public schools?" Ravitch asks. "Or is this rhetorical spin, meant to assuage those who instinctively recoil at the notion of public funds going to private schools? Charter operators insist that they are public schools, fully entitled to be treated the same as other public schools and to receive the same funding, even though they are privately managed and exempt from most of the rules and regulations public schools must follow. Many call themselves 'public charter schools.'"

Anyone who has been to two meetings of the Chicago Board of Education or paid attention to Chicago's charter scams can attest to this reality. Blessed with millions of dollars in private funding and supported by the Illinois Schools Fund (housed in the offices of Chicago's Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, the main Business Roundtable-CEO outfit in Chicago), the charters of Chicago periodically mount rallies, marches, and speakers to proclaim that they are really public schools and are getting short changed. Phyllis Locket has been pushing these talking points in Chicago for a decade, including hosting the annual "New Schools Expo" which began promoting diversity and has since degenerated into an Expo where "New Schools" for Chicago means charter schools and "turnarounds" -- only. Real public schools need not apply.

Everyone who pays attention to the Board's meetings has heard Andrew Broy of the "Illinois Network of Charter Schools" or one of the other astroturf groups proclaim this in Chicago about charters. Often, they are backed up by parents who read carefully from scripts repeating the same talking points, both at the Board meetings and to reporters.

But as soon as the public tries to actually enforce a level playing field against charters, they discover they are not really that public. Transparency and even simple audits are not something they want.

"Charter operators want to have it both ways," Ravitch writes. "When it is time for funds to be distributed, they want to be considered public schools. But when they are involved in litigation, charter operators insist they are private organizations, not public schools. The courts and regulatory bodies have agreed with the latter point. In 2010, the Ninth Circuit Curt of Appeals ruled that a charter school operator in Arizona was a private nonprofit corporation, not an agency of the state, when a teacher who was discharged sued the school. Even though state law says that charters are public schools, the federal court ruling rejected the claim that charters are state actors."

Ad charter critics in Chicago and elsewhere have been pointing out for a decade or more, one of the main results of this particular hoax and hypocrisy is increasing segregation. In Chicago, the UNO charter schools market themselves in Spanish to families in the barrios by claiming that the UNO schools with be safer than the real public schools (meaning, no black kids) but not as expensive as the Catholic schools which have helped create some of Chicago's more vicious segregationist experiences. UNO even has a marketing person, a former nun, who has been making this pitch for years and years. The other Chicago charters utilize the same stuff, but none as completely racist as UNO.

"Legal scholars, taking note of this decision [the Ninth Circuit case], warned that 'students of color may be unwittingly surrendering protections guaranteed under the Constitution when enrolling in charter schools."

And there is not enough said about how charter schools, by promoting the "Teach for America" model by means of which teachers are hired, have dumped thousands of veteran black teachers (and many veteran white ones) replacing them with young unmarried white kids, usually female, who are in "teaching" for a couple of years to burnish their resumes before moving on. In order to cover up the massive segregation that began when Arne Duncan was still in Chicago as "Chief Executive Officer," Chicago simply stopped publishing the racial data, school by school, that had been forced out of the city beginning in the 1960s by the Civil Rights Movement. Every time Duncan prattles about charters being part of the "civil rights" movement of today, a group of veteran teachers who have been kicked out of their profession by Duncan and his clones should be there shouting the truth. But at least with Reign of Error some of the facts are being reported, and, as noted, in a way that would make Woodward and Bernstein proud.


Ravitch's chapter "Trouble in E-land" also hits the mark and could be developed into another useful book. Like "The Contradictions of Charters," it charts a national investigation that is continuing, as the expansion of virtual learning frauds continues, with federal sponsorship, as completely as the charter frauds are spreading.

Anyone who has followed the corrupt course of the privatization attack on public schools from the perspective of Chicago's vast and complex realities knows there is a special place in Hell for William Bennett. Early in the years of "A Nation at Risk", Bennett sonorously proclaimed that Chicago's public schools were "The Worst in America." One of the many ironies of that statement in retrospect was that he made it at a time when future First Lady Michelle Robinson was attending Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, clearly one of the "best in America" by any measure.

Looking back, it now can be seen that Bennett's statement was part of a developing strategic attack on public schools, first in the cities and now generally. "Worst in America" has to be coupled with the rest of the plutocratic propaganda aimed at American public schools through ALEC, the corporate media, and outfits like Chicago's Civic Committee (which had been doing that work long before a new generation of largely corrupt Chief Executive Officers invented the Business Roundtable). But the tangled web of hypocrisies and hoaxes of corporate school reform almost reached its caricature when Bennett put his push behind virtual charters.

Within a year after Bennett's one-size-fits-all slander against Chicago's schools (not "most segregated in America," not "most neglected in the ghettos by Bennett's class"... but "Worst in America"), the Chicago Tribune published the only "Tribune Book" published in the second half of the 20th Century. The book, based on a spurious series of slanderous "news" reports on Chicago public schools, was called "Chicago's Schools: Worst in America." Although we didn't know it at the time, the race to develop the Chicago Plan and launch the Chicago Boys of the 21st Century against American education was on. Bennett, his reactionary allies and sponsors, and those with political power were on the march to the America now clearly described in "Reign of Error."

Those who had watched Bennett's career were never ceasing to be amazed. Around the time of his corrupt attack on Chicago's schools, he published, with a straight face, "The Book of Virtues." He preached about is version of "virtues," ultimately getting himself a Rush Limbaugh type job on one of the nation's foremost Christian radio stations, the Salem network. All the time, as those following the man's corrupt career, he was charting a course towards more profit, more power, and more punditry.

It was therefor no surprise to anyone who had watched Bennett in action over decades when he teamed up with the entrepreneurs to launch "K12," which is now one of the most notorious examples of criminal exploitation of public dollars, the largest "Virtual Charter School" that helped launch the plague of virtual charter schools.

The Reign of Error chapter "Trouble in E-land" is a major investigative expos� of the brief but expensive and explosively corrupt American experiment in "Virtual Charter Schools." And Mr. Book of Virtues is right in the middle of all that corruption, as usual following a pronouncement from the opposite direction.

Before Bennett was offered a chance to cash in on virtual charters, he was against it. But when the founders of K12 made him an offer he couldn't refuse, Bennett stepped up like a virtuous entrepreneur and grabbed for the cash.

"The biggest pot of gold for business-minded reformers was the for-profit online charter school market," Ravitch reports. "The first to see this opportunity and to cash in on it, were the founders of a new company called K12 Inc. The brothers Lowell and Michael Milken and their associate Ron Packard started the company in 2000. Michael Milken was known as the 1980s junk bond king. Since his release from prison, he had become a philanthropist with a particular interest in education. Packard had worked at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. The founders invited the former secretary of education Bill Bennett to serve as chairman of the K12 board. At the time, Bennett was a skeptic about electronic learning; he was co-athor of the book The Educated Child, published in 1999, which asserted there was no good evidence that most uses of computers significantly improve learning.' Given the opportunity to join the Milkens and Packard in this new venture, however, he changed his mind. The investors thought he would be a magnet for conservative Christians and parents who were schooling their children at home."

K12 kept Bennett out front, promoting the virtues of virtual charters through the mouth of the guy who had marketed his Book of Virtues until Bennett became more than a virtual liability.

Then Bennett's star crashed and his role in K12 had to be quickly reduced, thanks to his own words. It was almost the kind of comic moment that many people thought could only exist in fiction, in the works of a previous writer who exposed the hypocrisies and greed of the Utilitarian Era -- Charles Dickens. Bennet showed himself, again, to be both a hypocrite and, unforgivable in the USA at the time, an overt racist. He averred that maybe abortions of black babies would reduce the crime rate in the USA.

Mr. Virtue said, on Christian radio in 2005, that aborting black babies would reduce America's crime rate.

"After pondering on his radio program how aborting every black infant in America would affect crime rates, best-selling author and self-styled 'Values Czar' Bill Bennett is vehemently denying he is a racist and defending his willingness to speak publicly about race and crime," one report has it. "On the Wednesday edition of his radio show, 'Bill Bennett's Morning in America, syndicated by Salem Radio Network, a caller raised the theory that Social Security is in danger of becoming insolvent because legalized abortion has reduced the number of tax-paying citizens. Bennett said economic arguments should never be employed in discussions of moral issues. If it were your sole purpose to reduce crime, Bennett said, 'You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down... That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down,' he added."

Within a week, Bennett was no longer the virtuous face of K12. But, as Ravitch reports, K12 continued its thrust into those states where largely Republican power had given them access to public funds to do virtual schooling.

Within a few more years, reporters' investigations into the actual performance of the virtual charter schools, including K12, showed that they were pretty much all a scam. The profit motive created a situation where the virtual schools had to expand the number of "students" they had registered, while adding more and more "students" to each teacher. The oldest trick to increasing profits in capitalism -- what was called the "speedup" on assembly lines as far back as the days when Henry Ford still owned Ford Motor Co. -- was the profit method for K12 and the other virtual charters.

So, despite claims that the virtual charters were going to revolutionize K-12 schooling in America (ironically, just as Michael Milken had claimed he was revolutionizing investing through his "junk bond" theories until he was caught in criminal activities and jailed, while his company, Drexel Burnham, collapsed 20 years before similar theories and practices collapsed Lehman Brothers and AIG leading to the Great Recession that began five years ago), K12 and the virtual charter schools have been exposed as cheats, at best, or outright criminals at worst. Only their clout keeps them in business. Their clout and the ideology of privatization that still dominates many states' education spending.

"As the [virtual charter] industry prospered, it came under increased scrutiny. Journalists and researchers began to question the cost and value of the education it provided, and educators awakened to the fact that every student who left a district school for a charter, whether bricks-and-mortar or virtual, diminished the district's enrollment and budget," Ravitch reports. "In an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, John Heckinger pointed out that K12 schools had worse academic results than brick-and-mortar schools. The company's response was that it was enrolling high numbers of poor students, a rationale that would be scorned by reformers as an 'excuse' if offered in defense of a regular public school. Critics, including the auditor general for Pennsylvania, complained that the state's cyber-schools -- which receive nearly $11,000 per student -- were overcharging for their services. When K12 enrolled special education students, its charges far exceeded those of the local school district.."

Ravitch gets quickly to the core problem, one of philosophy that has nothing to do with the "virtues" the deposed chairman of the board of K12 had preached: the mystical belief by the corporate reformers in the special power of entrepreneurs and "markets.'

"Unlike most educators, people in the corporate sector believed that education would be transformed by those who have a profit motive," she continues. "Michael Milken was serenely confident in the education program he initiated. To address education and other major problems, he said, 'In each case, the solution is the same: Unleash the energies of entrepreneurial people, and they will change the world."

And when men like Milken, who had helped bring down a part of the American economy in the 1980s talk like that, it is always in the context of attacking the public sector and demanding and end to regulation of both public and private activities. It's as if the partner of the author of the "Book of Virtues" wanted to repeal the Ten Commandments because they were a burdensome example of government regulation.

Much more could be reported and written here about the corruption that has been unleashed during the era of the entrepreneurial people beloved by Michael Milken -- and Arne Duncan, and Barack Obama, and all the others promoting corporate school reform. But for this review, it's time to put forward the idea, as Ravitch also does, that there are distinct roles for the public and private sectors, and that the idea that "markets" and "market values" should rule across all human activities is just as functionally bankrupt as it has been proved to be economically bankrupt in the days between Milken's junk bonds and the recent reign of Dick Fuld and Lehman Brothers. These guys keep coming because they have the dollars to buy the ideas -- for a time -- but ultimately in a democracy better ideas, and a more balanced reality, at least have a chance. And the most dramatic example comes within the lifetime of many of us, during an era when "the service" was honored rather than denigrated.

So let's take a moment back to World War II and the values it defeated (for a time).

And there is a huge irony here, given the American roots of works like Reign of Error, fierce polemics, filled with facts and firmly rooted in history which made me laugh out loud when I first realized it:


Even though Diane Ravitch offers the corporate plutocracy and their planners an answer to the "What would you do instead?" nonsense, she is also in the company of historical predecessors who, finally, simply answered: "No!" Some systems are so bad that simply ending them is the good, a dialectic where the truth is in abolition.

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "J'Accuse!" came to my mind very early as I was reading the latest Ravitch book while sitting in front of a bookshelf that includes most of her earlier books. Some writers reach the perfect timing in their lives, and they get to write at the peak of their skills to make points that don't need to be repeated. Whether it was Harriet Beecher Stowe's stunning fictional polemic against American chattel slavery, Emile Zola's confrontation with anti-Semitism in France, or any of the other works we read when we are allowed to learn history, some books arise out of their times but transcend those times by the confrontation they make with the enemies of human freedom and democracy. "Reign of Error" is one of those books.

But let's talk about the book, which summarizes so much in a readable and tightly informed manner that it's almost deceptive in its simplicity. The book is a handbook for those who are now ready to roll back a quarter century or more of deceptions and plutocratic attacks on democracy.

While I was reading "Reign of Error" and preparing to review it, I was tempted to take down the library of books that have come out against the attacks on democracy that Ravitch is taking on head on. Since the publication of that odious propaganda piece "A Nation At Risk" 30 years ago, corporate America has been slowly unleashing what our friend Gerald Bracey called "The War Against America's Public Schools" and another friend, Susan Ohanian, outlined in any number of books, most notably "One Size Fits Few."

One other thing that's a nice fit. Reign of Error is published on the first anniversary of our vote here in Chicago to end the picketing and go to a referendum following the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012. It's fitting the Diane's friend Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, provides the book with the longest dust jacket blurb. But that also fits Reign of Error into what I think we need to respect as a broader historical context.

Just prior to the beginning of our strike in September 2012, I gave the officers of the CTU one of the two World War II Victory medals I had. Both my parents had served in the United States Army during the way, my father in the "ETO" and my mother in "The Pacific", my father as an infantryman and my mother as a nurse. Because of that "service," both received an American flag when they died, and both had the service medal after the war when they came home. For family and personal reasons, my family wound up the place where those family heirlooms remain. As my sons grew older, they would go to the cabinet where we kept the medals and other stuff, and ask about the various medals. On the front of the medal is Victory, holding the two pieces of the broken sword of war. The back of the medal, which was give to the more than 11 million men and women who served in uniform during that epic conflict contains Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms.'

Freedom from fear and want.

Freedom of speech and religion.

It took more than a generation and the work of billions of dollars of propaganda and mendacity to try and proclaim, with the privatizers and marketizers, "Service is for suckers!" The work of the leaders of the Resistance in 2013, helped by Diane Ravitch's Reign of Error, will turn around more than just the attacks on public education and democratic schools before this struggle is over.Having fought and won, all of those men and women were reminded in the most succinct way why they had had to fight. That medal was given for "service." It took more than a generation for a new generation of hucksters to proclaim, in an ever louder voice, "Service is for suckers. Make your money while you can!" The service that we do for the public requires sacrifices. At some times, the demands of "service" in this country have been unspeakably enormous. The Civil War; World War II; Gettysburg; Okinawa; Midway... At other times service in the United States may prove less burdensome, but in the same context. As I grew up, the work "service" meant the military service that everyone had given to end Nazism and the related horrors of fascism. Service was respected, and it took some time to realize that those who would commodity everything about human society were becoming the enemies of service to communities and country. Freedom is never free, and democracy has been bought over and over at a price. It was fitting that that medal be in the hands of the officers of our union when we embarked on that fight to restore the power of teachers against the pretense and lies of great wealth and plutocracy.

It is in that context that I review Diane Ravitch's latest service to our understand of our own history and the present struggles we face.


September 20, 2013 at 10:28 AM

By: Ray Beckerman

Your review

Great review. I think Diane Ravitch's book will change the landscape, and is a major moment in our history.

September 20, 2013 at 11:24 AM

By: Jean Schwab


A research survey person called and asked me such questions as :What is your opinion of Emanuel, CTU, and Lewis? They asked me if I would support giving vouchers to overcrowded or at risk school students so they can attend a religious schools or charters free. I told them that money should be put in neighborhood schools and not in sending students to schools that their parents did not choose to send them. They stipulated that the new schools would be already located in the neighborhood and would be "neighborhood schools." Is this the new plan?

September 20, 2013 at 12:48 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Voucher people are push polling. Get more info.

Jean Schwab has caught the pro-voucher people in what is called "push polling." That's when a supposed "neutral" poll is actually designed to promote on side of thing. Obviously, this particular poll is a "push poll" by people who want to have DATA to prove that the average Chicago parent (or grandparent, in this case) wants vouchers.

It is difficult, but whenever someone calls, I write down the number if I choose to answer. And if it turns out the calls is some marketing scam -- and that's what push polling actually is, since it is designed to promote a particular product -- then I can "get back to them" or expose them as necessary.

Most people are not in the habit of asking, 'How can I get back to you?" when some polling calls come. But it is a bad idea to answer the telephone, at this point in history, while trying to multi-task. The Internet has been exploding with all kinds of marketing tricks (including "news" stories that are actually sales pitches).

With a push poll for vouchers, it would be nice to be able to get the name of the person doing the poll and the entity sponsoring the poll. But you can only do this if you are sitting down, with paper and pen, when you take the call.

And as soon as they refuse to provide you with the information, you can politely -- or not so politely -- hang up. Or tell them to go to hell and never to invade your home again.

September 22, 2013 at 5:09 PM

By: Sean Ahern

Ravitch's Reign of Error

The book is subtitled "A Handbook of Resistance." I'll be reading closely for her suggestions regarding organizing resistance to mayoral control, charters, school closings, common core, high stakes testing, value added teacher evaluation systems, the disappearing of Black and Latino teachers, the poverty to prison pipeline and the bubble economy austerity measures that are gutting inner city school budgets.

As a NYC public school teacher, member of the largest teacher union local in the country I'll be looking for insights into how UFT Inc might do less collaborating with the corporate reformers and more resisting.

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