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Thompson: Bill Moyers Interviews Diane Ravitch

MoyersWhat do you get when you combine Bill Moyers and Diane Ravitch? WISDOM!

Both are among the all-time greats of their professions. During the Iraq War, I sometimes tried to duck Moyers' reports because he spoke more truth than I wanted to handle.  Similarly, as Ravitch assembles her case that test-driven accountability had morphed into "corporate reform," I'm often afraid of her message. But, Ravitch and Moyers do their homework before speaking the truths that I sometimes don't want to confront.   

Moyers began his PBS Public Schools for Sale by reviewing the $3-1/2 million dollar campaign against populist Mayor Bill de Blasio. He cited the New York Times' report that de Blasio was "even dialing up billionaires to ask for a truce." Moyers' said that what is at stake is the future of public education.

Ravitch warned that within a decade public education could be dead in cities like Detroit, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Kansas City, and Indianapolis. I've long worried about the same thing happening in my Oklahoma City. As choice in a time of cutthroat competition grows, it is easy to see how traditional public schools in those cities could become nothing more than "dumping grounds for the children that charters don't want."  Those are hard words, but can anyone on any side of our reform wars deny that the danger Ravitch describes is very real? 

Ravitch then articulated the single best principle for helping poor children of color, "Aim for equity and you get excellence."

At this point, I should probably make the standard, obligatory mention of the anger generated by Ravitch when she uses words like "corporate reform" and "privatization." But, hasn't she earned the right to carefully articulate her best judgments of the most appropriate definitions for understanding recent education history? Whether you agree with it or not, Ravitch has made a profound case that corporate governance and proliferation of charters threaten the essence of public education.  

Ravitch says that she was most disappointed by the failure of the Democratic Party to say "No" to corporate reformers. She called for a governor or a senator to take a principled stand against market-driven reform. In other words, Ravitch is challenging elected leaders to do what she did, as she rallied educators and led the grassroots counter-attack against test-driven reform.

For that reason, Democratic office holders should listen carefully to Ravitch's explanation of why we, the defenders of traditional public schools, are going to win. First, accountability-driven reform is failing. It had produced political victories despite its record of defeat in improving teaching and learning. Now, the backlash against testing is growing stronger. And, the hard truth is that reform has degenerated into "almost a full frontal attack on the teaching profession."  

I'm hoping that Moyers' warnings against the rise of plutocracy turn out to be exaggerated. Similarly, I'm hoping that the creaming of the easier-to-educate children into charters does not spell the end of schools that serve every child. On the other hand, if our worse fears aren't realized, one reason may be that Americans heeded the warnings of Moyers and Ravitch. -JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via. 



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