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Who is this Diane Ravitch Person?
And Why Do I Care?

Diane Ravitch is like the Rush Limbaugh of Education. She is very popular with the BATs (Badass Teacher's Association.... yes I know that the acronym should then be BTA.. but .. I guess it's a teacher thing). She blogs on the New York Times site. Not sure if she is paid for that or not, but she often has a new post there. Her bio says she "...is a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development." More on her extensive background in Education can be found on Wikipedia

Ravitch was, from many accounts a highly motivated and active Educator. Her early books show sharp logic, informed views and enlightened foresight which very often prove to be true. Over the years, this changes and you can follow the changes through her prolific writing. Her vocabulary becomes harsher, her vision narrows and soon there are no stars in the sky, only black and white. There are now only two sides to an area which as become not simpler but more complex.

Honestly, I really wish the Ravitch who wrote The Great School Wars, New York City, 1805-1973 would step back up to the podium. But as she became sharper, her popularity grew, and more people listen to her now than ever before. But these are no longer the people who use to listen to her in years past. These are angry crowds who love her anger, not her once clear sight. Now she works for the think tanks. It is unfair to compare her to Rush, because she actually did something with her life, and doesn't get caught taking oxies in Florida. However, today she has no concern for any other view of reality than her own. I respect who she was, but I can't offer the same to who she is now. Not when the stakes are so high.


Reviews on her Latest Book. 

This review is from: Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools 

This book creates a vivid, compelling case for the casual, uninformed, and incurious. The author severely over-generalizes and consistently misuses data and research. There are many good arguments for the types of reform the author advocates, but you won't learn any of them by reading this biased manifesto. Note that this is a book written by a historian, which leads her to focus too much on anecdote (and perhaps what leaves her unable to properly interpret analytical research).

At the heart of her bias is a desire to polarize the issue of public education to "reformers" and "privatizers" vs. everybody else. This will resonate well with those that:
a) know nothing about public education, and are willing to buy what she sells
b) are not open minded enough (or diligent enough) to try to understand their opponents viewpoints

If you really care about public education, you're better off reading academic papers and books written by objective authors. For context, I am very pro-public school, pro-teacher (certainly not anti-union), and believe most poor districts are critically under-funded. I really wanted to like this book.

I respect her passion, but after reading this book, Diane Ravitch's popularity truly scares me. I liken her research & logic to that of a Glenn Beck or a Bill O'Reily:
- first, form a viewpoint
- second, inform yourself of only the research and literature that supports that viewpoint
- third, dismiss all other research as garbage
- fourth, climb on a soapbox and scream at those with alternate viewpoints, yelling "idiot" and "thief" until you are red in the face

This review is from: Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools 
The author starts with a false premise and never leaves it. How many parents in this country today would say that the success of the United States is based upon their public school education? That is the claim of this author in the last chapter. The success of this country is based on right understanding of freedom. The government school system today does not function under the same definition of freedom our founding fathers had.

If someone wants to get a better understanding of how false logic works, this book is full of examples. If someone wants to learn how Marxist thinking works this book will give you practical example after practical example. If a reader is looking for examples of someone not living in reality, this would be a great place to start.

Sure I would recommend this book to anyone who truly wants to understand why the government school system is failing, it answers the question quite well! I am not sure the author wanted to make that her point?


This review is from: Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools 
Shockingly shameless propaganda. Should be in Fiction category.
I am only sorry that you can not give a negative star rating. My take -5 stars.

Thought this book might have some new or interesting ideas about improving public education. It does not. A series of warmed-over generalizations recast with shrill rhetoric. It is a personal slash-and-burn attack on anyone who has questioned the status quo education bureaucracy. The author resorts to name-calling in place of facts. When "facts" are presented the supporting data bears no relevant statistics to back up the point. It is almost as if the author thinks that we, the readers, are so poorly educated as to be impressed with a chart and not notice that the data has nothing to do with her point.

However, the author looses all credibility (as well as humanity) when she actually says that critics of public school teachers as uncaring should "look to the teachers of Newtown, CT" as proof that they are wrong! How can the author be so crass as to use those heros to make her political point. She should be ashamed. I must wonder if this book had a professional editor or if the publisher reads what they print. It an era desperately in need of rational discussion, this book is a huge Error.


This review is from: Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools 
I bought into Ravitch's credentials of being a "historian" and thought this would be a great book to help me understand more about how school systems work and the pros/cons of various initiatives. I quickly realized this book was not aiming to inform me about a complex problem. Instead, it's written to convince me that ed reformists are bad people. If you are a learner and want to understand a system, don't read this book. If you are already a Ravitch supporter and just want to read something to confirm your views rather than to think critically about how to solve problems, you will enjoy this book very much.

Ravitch polarizes public education to make it about reformers-privatizers (because they are obviously in on it together in a plot to profit off poor children) vs. public schools. You will buy into this oversimplification if you know very little about ed reform, or if you are an uncritical thinker yourself who cannot recognize straw man arguments.

The education system is complex, and Diane Ravitch denies this complexity by narrowing every ed reform solution as clearly bad/evil/capitalist/anti-public. I'm disappointed that she decided to write another us vs. them, public vs. charter argument - it's about the kids we are trying to educate. Let's talk about what public school and charter schools that are effective are doing well. Instead, Ravitch makes blanket statements about all charter schools are bad, and so is the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan because they are all colluding to privatize education.

Even if you don't know the complete facts about our education system, you would question the author's validity based on her strong use of rhetoric, her staunch support of status quo, and her selective use of data. I can't remember a time where she showed any balanced views to demonstrate how some of the reforms being done are working, and what those successful schools have in common, and how to further support the growth of successful schooling models? She has nothing positive to say about the ed reformists, and this is a red flag for me. Reading her book made me want to rush to read an opposing view just to make sure I didn't internalize these one-sided conclusions and the selective data points. I want to be informed, not told what to think.

A book like this is honestly damaging to the public because Ravitch's impressive credentials provide the facade of someone who is a critical thinker who puts students first. But Ravitch here is not a historian but a politician. I've seen failing public schools quote Ravitch to justify why high-performing charter schools with a track record of success shouldn't be allowed to open in their regions - because Ravitch says that charters are part of a "privatization movement" and are "capitalist" and don't care about poor kids. I'm confused why a publicly-funded non-profit school system (which many charters are) are labeled as part of a "privatization" movement, and Diane Ravitch doesn't really explain this either. Instead, by using privation early and often, she hopes that you internalize that anything that wants to disband teachers unions and lifetime tenure is anti-public. The problem is that too many people seem to believe that what Ravitch says is fact, despite any data showing that there are high-performing charters who focus exactly on students of low-income neighborhoods, who get the job done despite only having 75% of the funding that public schools receive, and do so with great political barriers that fight for their closure.

Diane Ravitch also seems to ignore certain glaring pieces of data, such as below:
"Before the recent, mild tenure reforms in New York City, 97 percent of teachers were granted tenure in 2007. In the three years up to 2010, only 88 teachers out of about 80,000 city teachers were fired for any reason. That’s one-tenth of 1 percent. "


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