Diane Ravitch: Public education in peril

Some may not immediately think of Diane Ravitch as a staunch defender of public education,’ a TLN member commented recently in our daily discussion group. Thinking, perhaps, of Ravitch’s writings (see, for example, The Troubled Crusade: American Education 1945-1980) or her blog debates with the more Dewey-eyed Deborah Meier. Ravitch is a contrarian, for sure. She’s also a genuine scholar who is always worth reading. Her frequent criticisms of public education, as our TLN commenter notes, make Ravitch’s recent comments to the National School Board Association “carry even more gravity.”

In early February, Ravitch warned participants at the NSBA Leadership Conference that “(t)here is a large and growing movement to dismantle public education.”

Today’s critics, she said, blame the public schools for the mediocre performance of U.S. students on international assessments. But that is more of a “long-term problem, not a crisis.” Schools can’t take all the blame for a culture that honors athletes and entertainers but not those who choose careers in science, education, or public service.

Ravitch said today’s classroom environment is too focused on the subjects tested in high stakes accountability systems, at the expense of “creativity, originality, and disciplined thinking.”

In comments that are echoed in a recent Teacher Magazine essay by TLN member and high school teacher Mary Tedrow, Ravitch said that many of today’s critics want to replace public education with a “completely choice-based system of vouchers, privatization, and charter schools,” under the assumption that “in an open market, good schools would thrive and bad school would die.” But this is a “ludicrous model to apply to public education,” she said, “which is a public service, not a private good.”

Read more of Ravitch’s comments in this article at the NSBA website.

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