"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Unbearable Costs of "Unity"

The other day after I posted my communique to the Ravitch forces that reiterated my conclusion that we are NOT allied but, rather, that her actions have made me the enemy, Norm Scott spent some of his valuable time to send me a comment to say that too much time had been devoted to the debate about who is an ally and who is an enemy.  Here is part of his comment:
. . . . I think the amount of time and energy going into this debate pushes this to the ledge. What is the point when there are so many horrible forces on the attack? She is an incrementalist - I don't think that works but I don't have to spend my time addressing that issue because I would rather go after Randi and crew and ed deformers. I would rather have the new Ravitch than the old one. . . .Why not let ESSA come apart?
Here is my response to Norm. 
If too much time has been devoted to this issue, then I am wondering why you are helping to keep it alive by suggesting I let Diane and NPE go their merry way, all the while pretending to be against all the policies that their enthused endorsement of ESSA has enabled. Your preferred solution, it seems, is to "let ESSA come apart." I suppose like NCLB's coming apart, which took almost a decade and a half, and time enough to entirely unhinge the public school system and to waste money on 7,000 charter schools where children and teachers are regularly abused.

Sorry, I don't have that kind of time. Besides, how can ESSA "come apart" when Diane and the corporate unions are hellbent to get it implemented. The Ravitch books and blogs are very effective in maintaining the pretense that she is leading a network of resistance, and it's even fun to read sometimes, but it keeps the impetus to organize and fight contained. It's all talk and no action. Of course, that is her primary purpose.
She is not an incrementalist--she is a policy schizophrenic. 
This morning Norm offered this sadly disappointing follow-up comment:
I guess you think your work will have a major impact. I don't think that way about my work. I'm just a small cog - and there was a time when you and I were a tiny minority of people fighting ed deform -- I'm going back 15 years for me. ESSA is not the main enemy - the charter movement is and as long as Ravitch is on that case I am not wasting time attacking her. Or the corporate assault which she deals with it. ESSA will come apart but your war on Ravitch will do nothing to stop ESSA. I was part of the war on NCLB when our union supported it back in 2003 and 04. All we can do is point out what will happen and as it does people will sign on. Your attacks on her and her crew don't move the ball forward because building a force to take on the main issues is primary in this war. I was one of her critics before her change of mind. Her book helped moblize [sic] so many teachers and others. So she left out the union role but I can live with it. Is she perfect? Far from it. I'm not looking for perfection. Our enemies have nukes and we have pee shooters. Any pees Ravitch shoots at them is better than none. We should do our work and support things Ravitch and NPE do when they do it right - I have morphed from a lone warrior as I get older -- I bet I have less time left than you. I'll be long gone and the battle will still be on.
My response to Norm:
Notwithstanding your sad lecturing, Norm, to "do our work and support things Ravitch and NPE do when they are right," I am of the opinion that this is the same kind of thought disorder that has plagued you and other good union members for a long time.  It clearly suggests that even though we know the leadership is corrupt and sadistic, we should celebrate when they open the torture chamber door and throw us a bone.  

So very sad. And I'm sorry you are feeling are feeling sorry for yourself today.

But let's talk about the issues you raise here.  

If, as you say, the charter movement is the main enemy, Norm, then I am wondering why you are not a little incensed by the fact that Ravitch's endorsement of ESSA, which will provide billions of dollars for another generation of partially-online, no excuses charter schools.  I think you have to weigh that heavy support for ESSA against the speeches, blog fluff, and book stuff, which have made Diane a lot of money since her ostensible conversion a few years back.  

Diane has consistently stated her opposition only to the "for profit" charters, even though they constitute a tiny percentage of the 7,000 charters nationwide.  This July she this as buffer to criticism of the Clintons' longtime support for charters: 

At the very least, we can be glad that Clinton is opposed to the for-profits, which rip off taxpayers and divert public funding to their stockholders and owners. Let’s hope that means she is prepared to cut off federal funding that goes to the scam artists of the charter world.

Yes, well, let's hope in one hand, spit in the other, and see which fills up first.  Clinton is onboard the charter train, which is one of the chief reasons Diane and the unions to put their support behind ESSA.

You should remember, Norm, that I, too, was very vocal in supporting Diane's 2008 move away from supporting NCLB policies.  I went so far as to review one of Ravitch's book, which she linked from her blog with this note: 
. . . . Jim Horn has been a thorn in the side of the know-nothings [CorpEd] for many years. He’s smart, he’s tough, and he has a long memory.

In this review of “Reign of Error,” he reminds me of my own long sojourn in the wilderness of bad ideas. Now, I am happy to say, he welcomes me into the fold as an ally in the fight to preserve public education.
Since posting that review in 2013, I have become critical of Diane Ravitch's positions on a number of issues.  Here's just a few.

Early in 2016, she called me out by name, along with others, for questioning connections between FairTest and CorpEd.  In doing so, she didn't hesitate to go on the attack, all in the name of maintaining unity: 
Deborah Meier, a long-time leader of genuine school reform and an opponent of standardized testing, read an article by Jim Horn of “Schools Matter” that referenced a simmering feud among allies. The basis for the article was a series of posts (see here and here) and comments on this blog. Several readers watched the angry comments and wondered what was going on.

As you will see in Horn’s piece, he and others are angry at Fairtest, which has led the fight against high-stakes testing for many years. Horn, Mary Porter, and Emily Talmadge warned that Fairtest was taking Gates money and was no longer trustworthy. Lisa Guisbond of Fairtest replied several times on the blog, insisting that Fairtest had not sold out, that it had taken a one-times Gates grant of $5,000 to study performance assessment. There was a lot of back and forth. . . .
Are you still reading, Norm?  Then three days ago when Diane Ravitch posted "Allies Should Work Together, But Not Everyone Agrees," she pretended to not know who I am or why I would, in any way, be upset with NPE or Diane Ravitch. 
". . . he has an intense and personal animus towards me. Again, I can’t explain it. I don’t know why. . . . I have never met him. I hear he doesn’t like me. I don’t know why."
Would you attribute this lie, Norm, to her dotage or to her disingenuous nature?   I think you know that Ravitch knows why there is smoke in her tent and why activists are sawing at the guy lines.  

She knows, too, that as long as she can feign ignorance and pretend that she is being stalked by psychopath, she does not have to respond to her decision in 2015 to cut backroom deals for supporting ESSA.  Or maybe she did not cut deals at all--maybe she simply accepted what Lamar Alexander was offering.  

As long as Diane can convince you and her other readers that her pea shooter blog is more important than the big guns she puts on the table to support ESSA's corporate education reforms, she will never be held accountable for the treacherous acts already committed and future ones made to order for those who don't recall the past.
So Norm or anyone else should stop pestering those who do not support ESSA or ESSA supporters.  We are not allies, and we are not united.  Period.

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