Friday, May 25, 2012

Too many children left behind

I heard Diane Ravitch on Charlie Rose last night.  What a breath of fresh air!  Listening to Romney lay out his "education plan," he obviously should have consulted with Ravitch first, then he might have had something.  As it is, he lays out the same recipe for disaster which Ravitch criticizes in her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, calling for an end to vouchers and testing.  She said on Rose that there is no evidence to suggest the "free market" model for education has worked.  She was quite critical of charter schools, which Davis Guggenheim extolled in Waiting for Superman.  Maybe Romney sees himself as "Superman."  More likely just another cynical ploy, among many, to use education as a hot political button.

Ravitch appears to be above the political rhetoric.  She had previously served as assistant secretary of education in Pere Bush's administration, and supported the idea of vouchers and testing at the time, but looking at the empirical data changed her mind.  The idea of vouchers apparently goes back to Milton Freedman, the great guru of supply-side economics, who promoted the idea of making the public education system into a "free market" in a widely circulated paper back in the 50s.  It wasn't adopted then, but became the basis for the conservative education agenda in the 90s. The idea has been adopted by many school districts over the years.  She focused on Milwaukee in her discussion with Rose.

She is also very critical of the Obama administration insistence on tweaking the No Child Left Behind program, which she feels has been a complete failure.  Testing has become the bane of public education, with so many schools now teaching to the Test for their own survival, as the results have become the prime criteria for which schools stay and which schools go.  Over 100 New York city schools have been closed down over the last few years because of poor test results.  She says tests should only be used as a diagnostic tool, not an administration tool like this.  She pointed to Finland, Singapore and Japan, which have the best education systems in the world, and these countries don't use testing like this, nor dilute their public education system with vouchers.  What they have is a national commitment to public education.


  1. Yes, your last sentence says it all -- they have a national commitment to education. For some reason, our nation has decided to abandon public education, just as it has abandoned most other public investments for the future. I heard a brief snippet of Romney's ideas, which sounds like efficiency of scale: more students in the classroom, more "education" for the buck.

  2. ... more vouchers, and more school closures. He isn't proposing anything that isn't already in place. As you say, the federal government investment is quite small, less than 10% of public school funding. At best, they provide stop gap solutions. I doubt states would be willing to cede authority to the federal government on education anymore than they have health care, so kids are pretty much at the mercy of their states and local school districts, which vary considerably given the tax base of these communities.

    Ravitch sounds like someone who has given the dilemna much thought. She appears to have written a book in the same vein as Jane Jacobs did 50 years ago on failed city planning.

  3. I see the GOP is now trying to blame Obama for the student loan woes in New Hampshire,

    I guess with the economy continuing to grow, Mr. "Fix-it" thinks he can fix education. What a joke!

  4. As if Romney is going to underwrite education and make it accessible to all -- as I believe it should be.

    I was reading a review of another book and the reviewer pointed out that the U.S. has had greater productivity and income over the years because of the greater education of its workforce. That's just not what the future holds now, I'm afraid.

    Eugene Robinson had a good article on Romney, who doesn't let the truth get in the way of another dig against Obama:

  5. It is going to be a very ugly campaign. Romney has very little to stand on. His only hope is to undermine Obama's accomplishments (foreign policy), take credit for others (the auto bailout) and blame him for whatever failures he can think of (education). It is hard to say how this will work, but the lies just keep piling up. I wish the mainstream media would be less accommodating and call out Romney more on these blatant lies.