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

Friday, January 12, 2018

Thought Disorders of Diane Ravitch

Jim Horn
After Diane Ravitch decided in 2008 to shift to the left aisle of the neoliberal education reform jetliner, she quickly became entirely proficient in the obfuscating rhetoric and dissembling policy statements that her NEA and AFT patrons have made infamous over the past two decades.  For instance, Diane learned to howl about the negative effects of high stakes testing, while refusing to call for an end to the use of the same racist standardized tests.  She learned to wring her hands about school privatization, while refusing to call for the closure of charter schools.  She decries the drain of public funds going to for-profit charter schools, while ignoring the much larger siphoning of pubic education dollars to thousands of “non-profit” charters.

More recently, Diane has continued her lambasting of billionaire reformers like Eli Broad, even as she plans and convenes her conferences with corporate unionists who trumpet the virtues Broad’s favorite charter charity, Green Dot Schools.

Her address to the California School Boards Association provides the most recent examples of Ravitch doublespeak on school policy issues.

. . . we have federal and state policies that focus on one thing and one thing only: test scores. Test scores have become the be-all and end-all, everywhere in the United States, thanks to No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and now, the Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA]. Policymakers in Washington don’t stop to ask themselves why they want children to be tested every year from grades 3 to 8. No other nation does it.

Diane does not mention her eager support for Lamar Alexander’s ESSA before passage, when something might have been done to alter or at least protest the annual testing that she finds so dreadful.  Diane had no complaints then, when the awful bill was looking for votes.  In a statement of support prior to passage, she said

One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators. . . .This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.

She did not bother to point out that the bill would continue the incessant annual testing, which she now finds so awful—nor did she explain the reason for the testing to her supporters, which is, of course, to use the results to justify the conversion of the bottom five percent of public schools each year into charter schools.  That’s written in the ESSA. 

Somehow, though, Diane could not have hoped for anything better at the time, and she offered no resistance to CorpEd, nor did she provide any leadership to teachers or parents who were counting on her to represent their interests.

In her recent address to the CSBA, she supports the continued authorization of charter schools, even though her NPE issued a recent statement on charters calling for “an immediate moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, including no replication or expansion of existing charter schools.” 

Now she encourages local school boards to take on the business of authorizing new charters, which would be aimed at the poorest, least motivated, and most vulnerable students. 

Then, as if to demonstrate that her thought disorder is fully developed, Diane urges school board members to “do whatever you can to reduce segregation.”  Other than, of course, discontinuing the authorization of the most segregative corporate tool ever created for schools.

Charters should be authorized only by local school districts, to meet their needs. If alternative schools are needed, they should be part of the district. They should serve children who are not making it in public schools; students who are dropouts; those who have tuned out and need extra motivation. Charters should be for the weakest students, not the strongest. They should boast of how many children they have saved, not about their test scores. . .

Do whatever you can to reduce racial segregation.

Yes, go do whatever.  Whatever is always good enough for Ravitch when it comes to segregation.  Old habits die hard.


  1. Mr. Horn,
    Thank you so much for revealing facts about the "accidental public school advocate" that Diane Ravitch is and has been for decades. I pointed this out in my 2012 book, Why America's Public Schools Are the Best Place for Kids: Reality vs. Negative Perceptions. I thought, after my book was published, that I should send a copy to Diane because I saw that she was turning a corner in her advocacy for public schools with her previous book, The Death and Life . . . . So I sent her a copy and received a "thank you" email from her, noting that she enjoyed the book. But after I sent her my book, she shortly thereafter wrote Reign of Error . . .; and after my Dean at the College of Education at my university had seen and read my book and her Reign of Error book, he said to me, "Ravitch just wrote your same book" (referring to my book); something that I had also noticed days after I purchased Reign. I checked the references of Ravitch's book, thinking that at some point she would reference my book, especially because the topics were exactly the same as mine. Unfortunately, I found no reference to my words or book at all. I'm not making any allegations here; and Ravitch did NOT plagiarize any of my words of writing; but a mere reference to my book would have been professionally courteous based on my reading and obviously others as well, that she must have used my book as an outline for her topics.

    Beyond that travesty, I have been trying to explain to others that Ravitch is NOT a genuine advocate for U. S. children or adolescents as you have so clearly indicated in your post. All of us need to work closely with our state legislators at this point to insure that they don't pave the way for vouchers of more charters -- something that I spoke about in my book. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you want to speak.

  2. Thanks, Dave, for your comments. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, Diane is one heckuva flatterer. After her "conversion" experience in 2008, she flattered everyone from Jerry Bracey to Susan Ohanian. Even I was the recipient of a good deal of her flattery when she wrote her "Death and Life...," even though, like you, her flattery went unacknowledged in any of her books.

    Good to hear from another UTK alum. Finished my PhD there in 1995. Karl Jost chaired my Committee.