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Sol Stern
The Closing of Diane Ravitch’s Mind « Back to Story

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I am saddened to read about the demise of one of our greatest education researchers. Over the years I have seen the results of her research with my children's schools, and she has taught me a great deal. I am now a confirmed Classicist. She, on the other hand, must be suffering from senility. Since her rants are anything but thoughtful.
Too bad that poor minority parents can’t afford Ravitch’s newly discovered educational romanticism. Their kids often enter school far behind Ravitch’s middle-class grandchildren, and if they aren’t taught lots of content knowledge in the early grades, they’re doomed to fall further behind. They will never be able to read Walden or understand poetry. "They" will never be able to understand poetry? Are you sure of this? This seems like there is one way - and I am certain there are many, many ways to educate children. It's the "one size fits all" that is the danger, in my opinion.
One would think anyone who ha just admitted they had everything wrong in the past 40 year of their life would hold their new-found beliefs with a deep sense of humility.

Not Ravitch. Like a new religious convert she seems to think she can erase 40+ years of being wrong by being intensely right in the most dogmatic way possible.
Economist Germa Bel, described the move toward privatization, in Nazi Germany, in a 2006 paper. The shift in power created the opportunity to confiscate Jewish assets, without backlash, from the majority population. Wealthy Anglo-Saxon businessmen saw Jewish riches. Injustice, didn't prevent them from taking them, just as, it didn't prevent them from taking the public's assets, before.
Bill Gates reportedly spent more than a hundred million dollars to create and promote Common Core. Then, Microsoft and Pearson announced a deal to develop curriculum for the copyrighted Common Core. The Waltons are huge funders of the charter school movement. provides evidence about the high cost and failure of the system. The aim of the big money is to privatize and corporatize public education.
Does history repeat?
She's absolutely right. It is a fraudulent reform. To quote a New Yorker article on the so called education reform "One Newark," in Newark Nj, a reform that has left hundreds of students without a neighborhood public school this year,
"everybody''ś getting paid, but Raheem still can't read." Of course, the everybody referred to here are politicians, administrators of charter schools,
Bill Gates and the Koch Bothers, Pearson Education, the wanks they hire to push phoney solutions for schools, etc....The only people not paid their worth are the teachers who educate our students, who are pushing for Real education, and of course our students, who are the real losers in this American Tragedy. Get informed.
What a ridiculous article! And you are funded by whom?
Credentials don't prove anything where insight, sound reasoning, or freedom from bias are concerned.

I've known a lot of well-credentialed people over the course of my life. Some of them even had an impressive skill, possibly even two such skills.

Credential focus is logical fallacy: appeal to authority.
It takes about 4000 words to describe in a negative article the credentials of Diane Ravitch in the field of education. What are your credentials?
Common Core is being foisted on us as the salvation we have been looking for. I have my doubts. I teach high school in the inner city. This is my 3rd go around with policies that will save the children. Forgive my cynicism. Also, please forgive my surprise that Mr. Stern has embraced CC-it is an odd pairing.
When the fabric of our society has unraveled before our eyes, it is folly to think that some tweeking (or even major overhaul) of the education system is going to be able to sew the pieces together. No amount of money or 'brain trusts' will ever be an adequate substitute for the shared values on which previous generations lived their lives - whether they were rich or poor.

Now what we need to do is figure out what those values were that have been lost and start thinking whether it is possible to re-write the story. But trust me, I am not talking about the failed 'values clarification' projects ushered in by the 60's generation. I am referring to time honored and more substantial values that stood the test of time.
The Common Core State Standards, per se, are not the problem. Everyone might begin by carefully analyzing the anchor standards, then go to the manifestation of those standards in grades k-12, and then read the curricular exemplars in part B. By the way, it is going to be a really long read, but I have faith that Ravitch's critics have the literacy skills and "stick to it ness" to accomplish the task and fully comprehend the standards. After reading all this I cannot imagine how anyone can then say the standards are "culturally bereft." Of course, the current heavy-handed manner of implementation is really the big problem. However, Ravitch's scathing critique of competition, particularly the way charter schools/KIPP schools can pick and choose students via parent and student contracts, and then remove unwanted students when the contract is violated, is valid. Problematically, as Ravitch points out, citizens should also consider that these schools are then not held accountable for making this activity public. I would like to see these schools tell the world the number of students that are dismissed for contract violations. Has everyone read some of these contracts??? Perhaps public schools should be allowed to take this approach. Would the critics of Ravitch's recent book like to see public schools be able to act in this manner? If so, then perhaps we could then set up off-shore educational penal colonies for all the rejects of America's education system. A Catholic high school counselor once told me that there was one question that she first asked of any student that was either causing problems or not living up to expectations in that high school. The questions was - So what public school do you want to attend? The message was clear. Yes, public schools and teachers need to be better and do better. These schools, plus all parents and students, need to embrace academic rigor. All of America needs to do that!! I am a big critic of schools, teachers, parents, and students who do not embrace academic rigor in schools or in their lives. However, the solution to the complex problem of educating America's diverse student population is not as simple as the conservative right, or the "Michelle Rhees" of the world, would like us all to believe.
It seems that Ravitch is upset and bitter that private organizations and foundations took responsibility for the reform ideas she supported and the public monopolies rejected them. In this bitterness, she naturally joins the counter-culturists wrecking her reputation. It's a common trait among the human species. This irrational trait. Wildly swinging the club around in anger. The left serves no better place to do so. They provide her shelter as she self-destructs.
My concern about Common Core other than being a violation of the 10th Amendment is that it doesn't seem knowledge based to me. I've been told by my trainers that we are not to tell students things they can look up. My contention is that they will not look things up, leaving us with a more ignorant generation than we already have. As far as Ravitch is concerned, I knew something was wrong when I saw my union, the NEA, all of a sudden complimenting her.
Andrei Radulescu-Banu December 30, 2013 at 8:28 AM
What Diane Ravitch may have realized was that Deborah Meier was indeed representative for the state of mind of the nation's teachers, and none of the old arguments seemed to nudge her.
Common Core is certainly not a "free market" reform. It is a culturally bereft, Hirsch-free abomination. How do I know this? I teach in a public school and have taught HS English for 15 years. Your embrace of Common Core as salvation is an odd one, Mr. Stern.
In more or less reverse order, ignoring for the moment your view of the vitality of communism, colleges may propose measures of excellence but it's the customer who disposes. That would be students who are paying their own way and parents who are paying for the students.

The college may tout its dedication to social justice and environmental responsibility but what a significant percentage of those who write the checks for tuition are going to look at is the return on *their* investment. That's a big part of the reason "studies" departments have been undergoing a quiet absorption into history and English lit departments - the return on investment sucks.

With regard to affirmative action students, they flunk out at a much higher rate then non-affirmative action students so not much has to be done to deal with that problem regardless of any demerits that may be handed out. And really, how tough is it to convince a kid that they're not going to graduate and that it's time to move on? Not that tough I'm thinking and not that tough on the basis of the percentage of affirmative action students that don't complete their degree requirements.

You are correct that some schools have such stupendous endowments that they might theoretically drop the requirement for tuition but the schools, as monolithic entities, aren't the only participants in various free market competitions associated with higher education. Faculty, depending on their particular situation, are quite often immersed in very competitive environments.

Non-tenured faculty compete briskly to attain the dizzying heights of tenure and the tenured had better produce results commensurate with their status or they'll feel the sting of appropriate consequences.

For both, although more for the latter, a steady diet of red meat, in the form of post-grad and graduate students is necessary to do the inevitable scut work of producing publishable research. The smarter and more energetic your little worker bees the better and more reputation-enhancing the results. So there's a powerful constituency within the halls of academe who needs smart, well-educated and industrious kids.

Ultimately though the fate of all schools is dependent on the quality of the education it delivers, differentiating higher education from K-12, so the Harvards of the world can skate by on their reputation and endowment for some period of time but will ultimately have to answer if they've dropped their standards. After all, a Harvard MBA who's a dumb-ass is a dumb-ass. Harvard will survive graduating a few of them but should it become the rule then Harvard will inevitably enter a descending spiral. Employers won't hire graduates who aren't well-prepared and that reticence will feed back to the people trying to decide where to go to college.

So while you're absolutely correct government subsidies do, and have, caused dire inflation in the cost of college, that inflation hasn't had much impact on some of the other competitive arenas in which the higher education sector operates. Professors still need smart grads and post-docs to help them maintain their reputations and do research. Students/parents still look at average starting salaries associated with the colleges.

Finally, with regard to communism, you've got to get out of Ann Arbor or Cambridge or whatever college town you inhabit, possible teach at.

Outside those intellectual hot-houses communism's largely forgotten. Most self-professed communist regimes are economically-rotting hulks the obvious exception being China. China, however, is communist only to the extent necessary to maintain the leadership in comfort and power. But it's a pretty piss-poor brand of communism that has stock markets, private ownership of the means of production, private ownership of land and a rising standard of living. While China doesn't quite qualify as communist-in-name-only the Chinese leadership simply ignores the deviations from Marxist/Leninist/Maoist/whoever-ist theory if it gets in the way of making a buck and doesn't diminish the leadership's power.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Get to know some of the younger faculty, especially outside the the departments most closely aligned with leftist ideation, and see how they view the "studies" departments provided any still exist as distinct entities at your school. Provided they trust you enough to be honest, many will tell you that critical theory's a waste of time and mind-numbingly tedious as well. They'll, minimally, do and say what's expected of them because that's part of the cost of getting a degree but outside the earshot of the ideologues they'll treat all that lefty nonsense as the crap it is.

Glen Reynolds, of "Instapundit" posits a bubble in higher education. He's right and wrong.

It won't be a bubble in the classic, musical-chairs sense that we've seen in the investment world but higher education is due for a collapse because cost and value have gotten out of whack. Government money's papered over the rift but that can only go on so long as you've got other people's money to spend. That money's running out and when it does one of the first luxuries to be jettisoned will be classes, and ideas, that aren't particularly useful. Critical theory of every stripe falls into that category. You can see that process already begun in the quite dissolution of "studies" departments but that's just the opening salvo. As the pressure mounts to demonstrate value all the little Marxists who've found happy homes in econ, art, lit and history departments will come under scrutiny. When the livin's easy up with Marxism it's not that tough to put but when people get picky they won't be picking those Marxists and then they'll make an acquaintance with the Grand Egress.

Hmmm, that's over a thousand words and I'm pretty sure I won't be able to bill the City Journal so I'd better see to my breakfast.
Allen, I certainly agree that the free market is the surest route to excellence in education. But I think you exaggerate the distinction between government monopoly K-12 and free market colleges. Our colleges do not operate in a free market system. They are heavily subsidized by the government, both in terms of research grants and in terms of tuition loans. (Why do you suppose tuition has gone up many times faster than the rate of inflation? Anything the gov't subsidizes always experiences dire inflation.)
Also, several of our very best schools are so wealthy that they are no longer part of the free market system. The endowments at Harvard and Yale are so great that they could get by without charging any tuition at all. So the tail (investments in the endowment) starts to wag the dog (education.)
Lastly, the concept of excellence has been redefined for the consumer. All the rankings of colleges for the consumer include "social engineering" goals in their definition of excellence. There are demerits for admitting too few minority students and there are demerits for flunking out students once admitted.

As for your assertion that communism is extinct and irrelevant, I am almost too dumbstruck to reply. Have you visited a college recently? Courses in "gender studies" "race studies" and "critical whiteness theory" are directly out of the Cultural Marxist playbook. The Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxism invented "critical theory" as a means of attacking every aspect of Western culture. Don't you ever wonder why college students today write papers declaring that some lovely poem about a lark is actually a vile screed promoting colonialism? It's because Marxist "critical theory" has taken over the English classes! Or why art history students can see racism in a harmless still life of fruit and flowers? Marxist "critical theory" now not only has entire courses to itself, it has invaded all the other courses as well. Marxism today is not merely relevant to higher education, it has very nearly taken over higher education! (And,sadly,it is often most prominent at our most prestigious institutions.)

Ah, it is difficult to know what Ravitch believes, even after reading your article. If she is against Common Core, however, she is certainly not in "solidarity with the destructive radicals of the education Left," as you write. Leftists love Common Core, along with liberals and globalists like Bill Gates. Primarily, people who are against Common Core are conservatives, who, having looked at the standards and the available cirriculum, find it less rigorous than what is necessary, needed,developmentally inappropriate for younger grades and is more concerned about imparting a leftist world view than it is in readying children for competition in a global economy. Have you read the common core education lessons available? Have you considered how it will impact creative thinking when uniform answers are expected on everything, including evaluating literature and writing? Common Core will not improve instruction. More rigorous teaching programs and firing bad teachers will improve instruction, that along with expecting parents to be involved in their children's learning and supporting respectful behavior in the classroom. Returning to a classical education would expect a great deal out of teachers and students and make us competitive with other nations. Common Core will never live up to its promises, because its promises are based on nothing but liberal dreams; no data or studies exist which show Common Core effectiveness. The Common Core intention is to produce Common, 'correct thinking' workers for American corporations. Anyone who believes Common Core is the answer is either dreaming or not informed.
The education establishment is every organization/individual that benefits from the current state of public education.

That would be teachers, administrators, board of education officials, unions, ed schools, book publishers, etc. None of them have an intrinsic stake in the the education of kids. They all benefit from the assumption that what they're doing is educating kids while having no requirement that they prove that's what they're doing. It's simply assumed.

Absent from that list, at least partially, are colleges. They actually do have a stake in whether kids are educated which is why colleges have entrance requirements. For the vast majority of entrants college is an investment in the same sense as buying stock is an investment; there's the expectation of a return on that investment. If prices go too high or, more importantly, if the educational quality of the college drops too low, the rate of return becomes unacceptable and people go looking for alternatives. Like we are which is why colleges have been trying to hold the line on tuitions and costs. When the price is too high people don't just dig a little deeper, we find alternatives.

But it's not just the average starting salary of its graduates to which colleges must point to demonstrate the value they produce. Colleges are also looking to their post-docs to help produce the research that puts the college on the map and dumb or lazy freshman rarely turn into smart and hard-working post docs.

But when you look at the K-12 sector there's no such *foundational* requirement.

Teachers don't get fired because they're lousy teachers and principals don't lose their jobs if they don't know how to maintain a good learning environment in their school. School superintendents don't get or hold onto their jobs because of the SATs of the kids and neither do board of education members get or lose elections on that basis.

Notice how that reality influences the hiring decision.

Since it doesn't matter if a teacher knows how to teach it doesn't matter if an ed school produces good teachers or bad. It doesn't matter if those teachers have been inculcated with various idiotic ideas because the school district, the hiring agency, doesn't care. Matter of fact, all the variously idiotic ideas that emerge from schools of education are welcomed by school districts because, just as at the ed school, they give the appearence of cutting edge modernity, the bone the public's been willing to accept that the public education establishment's doing its job.

If the school districts demanded teachers that know how to teach they'd reject those graduates that couldn't and the news would be fed back to the ed schools in a big, fat hurry. All the fatuous nonsense spouted by ed school profs is a luxury permited by the indifference of the school districts to the fatuous nonsense spouted by the ed school's graduates. But about fifteen minutes after that fatuous nonsense became an albatross around the neck of those graduates the ed schools would know it.

Or not. It really doesn't matter over the longer term.

Ed schools that respond, by dumping the Marxists and the other intellectual frauds that inhabit their schools, will survive. Those that don't won't.

But that change can only come when schools require teachers who know how to teach and the district-based system is inherently indifferent to any demand by parents. Charters, and the other alternatives are, however, not indifferent to parental demands. As the number of charters rises the need to differentiate good teachers from bad will become more urgent and mechanisms will be built to do just that. The schools that can prove to parents that they are doing a good job educating kids will survive and those that don't do a good job educating kids won't survive.

I'd also suggest you change your area of interest.

Your knowledge of communists in all their various iterations and permutations is impressive but rapidly becoming as irrelevant as the Berlin Wall.

Communism was a historical aberration that's as quickly coming to be seen as such as it is being forgotten. When the Millenials come of age in another ten years or so communism, thirty years in its grave, and all the previously well-known names associated with communism, will be of interest only to historians and narrowly-specialized historians at that.
moregeesethanswans December 24, 2013 at 2:21 PM
Allen, I would certainly agree that the "education establishment" (i.e. teachers' union?) is oblivious to the needs of the students. But the teachers' colleges are, both chronologically and causally, the horse that's pulling this cart of incompetence. And that incompetence is intentional, not just collateral damage.
Remember, Karl Marx once prophesied that a workers' revolt against capitalism was imminent and as inevitable as gravity's pull. When this prophesy fell flat, Marxists, not being empiricists, did not reject their original theory but instead "doubled down" as totalitarians everywhere are wont to do. They explained the workers' irritating failure to prove their theories right by describing Western culture itself a form of oppression that blinded workers to their own best interests (which interests should have been, of course, to prove Marxist theorizers correct.) Hence the birth of Cultural Marxism in Germany's Frankfurt school. The Cultural Marxist plan to "free the workers" by undermining Western Civilization from within naturally focused first on the media, journalism schools and teachers' colleges. During the 1930's the founders of Cultural Marxism were teaching at America's leading universities, including Columbia, Princeton and Berkeley. Their thinking has shaped "progressive education" ever since. They call it "the long march through the institutions." (like Mao's physical "long march.')
So when the kind-but-blinded teacher in my anecdote said that rote was damaging to kids and that learning must always be fun, she was actually following the teachings of Cultural Marxist Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse wrote that the best way to destroy the West was to destroy the thrifty and industrious middle classes. Out with the work ethic! In a righteous world, there must be no work, only play. (Yeah, tell that to the communists now living in their supposedly righteous worlds. They do nothing but play, right?)
Marcuse also advocated destroying Western culture through sexual "liberation." Schools must push for Marcusian "polymorphous perversity" in sexual values. Over-sexualizing the children serves the dual purpose of destroying future families and substituting sex for religion as "the opiate of the people."
Marcuse also liked to twist the very vocabulary of the West so that our once great ideals are turned on their heads. Tolerance, you may have noticed, has now become intolerance? Especially in our schools? That's because Marcuse and his ilk taught that tolerance, when applied equally, is actually oppression. The only "liberating tolerance" is to be intolerant of Western values while insisting on abject submission to values hostile to the West. That's why we have textbooks that hold the America of the 1600's to 21st century moral standards, while refusing to hold other cultures to any kind of moral standards at all.
So the lousy theories of the teacher in my example were no accident. And sadly, she was completely unaware that she herself is exactly the kind of earnest, hard-working petite bourgeoise that those theories are intended to destroy.

Oh, moregeesethanswans, you're so close to understanding the situation but not close enough.

If the problem were the ed schools your not-cruel-but-blind teacher would have been beaten on the head by the reality she escaped in ed school. Alas, that reality is held at bay by the institution of public education which, far from doing something to curb the destructive ideas emerging from schools of education, embraces them.

If fact, you've got the cart before the horse.

It's the public education system that's indifferent to education and that rewards ed schools for coming up with idiotic but catchy ideas. The ed schools aren't, after all, rewarded for producing well-trained, capable teachers since the public education system is indifferent to teaching skill. So the substitute is "learning to learn", "higher order thinking skills" and the whole rest of the panoply of valueless ideas that emerge from schools of education.
moregeesethanswans December 17, 2013 at 2:03 PM
Dismantle the teachers' colleges! They are nothing but hotbeds of Marxism, generating one inane theory after another. Here follow some examples from my own experience in the early 1990's. (I lived at that time in a small Midwestern factory town having a lower income demographic and a slightly higher than average minority population.)
Example #1 - The Cruelty of Games when Rote Would Do - On my first day of volunteering in class I was assigned to tutor a minority student who "just didn't understand long division" and who "had an unstable home life." The boy sat crumpled in his chair, staring at his knuckles. He wouldn't initially meet my eyes or raise his voice above a whisper. Fortunately, getting him to speak intelligibly proved to be my biggest challenge. Within 20 minutes it became obvious that the boy understood long division just fine; his problem was that he had never memorized his multiplication tables. I was a little surprised to find that the teacher had no flashcards to give me, but I made my own and, by the second day we were making great progress. The boy began to sit up straight and call out his answers in a strong, clear voice, glancing around to see if the other students were noticing his good performance. So I was surprised on the third day when the teacher took me aside and told me that "rote learning" was not in the best interest of the children, and was especially damaging to minority children. I was asked to spend the hour observing the "fun, social learning" methods she preferred. Then the horror show began. The class began a game pitting one child against another to see who could solve long division problems the fastest. The winner could choose his next competitor. My tutee, counting on his fingers to try to figure those remaining multiplication tables he still didn't know, didn't have a chance. And he was chosen over and over again as the favored opposing player. It was unbelievably cruel, but the teacher couldn't see it. Ensconced in her theory, she was blind to the facts.
Example #2 - Unscientific Experiments to Justify Inane Theories - I was never allowed to work with my promising tutee again. On my third day of volunteering, the excited teacher told me I would be able to help her in an important experiment to prove that minority kids learn best in groups. "To prove?" I asked. "Don't you mean "to find out if?" No reply from the teacher. We were to divide the black kids into two groups. One group would learn a history lesson the usual way through reading and lecture. The other group would augment the lecture with a group discussion moderated by me. How is that a fair comparison when the "group studies" group got to spend double the time on the subject matter? But wait, it got worse... The group discussion was to take place while the "free lunch kids" (title something or other, they were called) were out of the classroom! So the middle class black kids, some of whom were excellent students, were pitted against the poor-performing deprived black kids. Can you guess who did better on the test? I tried to talk to the teacher after class about the flaws in the experiment, but she was indignant that I would challenge the wisdom of some institute or other out of Austin, Tx which she seemed to revere. What's more, she said that the designers of the experiment specifically suggested that the group studies take place while the free-lunch kids were out of the room.
This teacher was neither a cruel nor a particularly stupid person, but she was blinded by ideology. Like I said, dismantle the teachers' colleges!
"it's a travesty that she has ended up in solidarity with the destructive radicals of the education Left. For poor kids, it's a tragedy." What do you know about poor kids, anyway? It sounds like you know nothing personally about the educational system and the ways in which it both perpetuates and is caused by the poor class's struggle. Diane Ravitch knows exactly what she is talking about. And you, sir, are part of the problem.
Any institution without standards for students or teachers is an expensive hoax. And the joke starts with teaching credentials,meaningless degrees in "education." Lack of subject substance and tenure combine to produce custodial emporiums where the blind pretend to lead the uninspired. With faculty and student, the problem, like many other government programs, is now generational - a good ideas gone bad. The institution too often becomes the enemy of the idea.
Danaher M Dempsey Jr December 08, 2013 at 7:04 AM
#1 Read John Hattie's "Visible Learning for teachers" as well as his "Visible Learning" to find out what really works.

#2 Current CCSS thrust complete with very expensive testing is hardly in line with what works.

#3 It would be far cheaper than CCSS current spending plans to follow Florida's well proven example of requiring students to be able to read to advance to grade 4. Florida's action has made a very significant impact on student performance in grades 4 through 8.

#4 Look at TIMSS testing and the NAEP comparison for math in 2011. Many US States surpass Finland.

#5 Investigate the sample size needed for valid evaluation of a teacher by student test score performance. This idea of using student data to evaluate teachers was flawed from the beginning for it is statistically unreliable but ...
a. statistical validity was not a concern for those pushing it.
b. the unions did not care.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data
-- W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993)
Actually, there are more then "two sensible interpretations". There's the one I described that you've chosen to ignore.

That interpretation is that teachers are at the lowest professional rung in the public education industry so they have the least scope of authority and action. They do what their principal, their superintendent, the local school board, the state school board, the state legislature, various judges and federal agencies tell them to do. Perhaps your superior perspicacity allows you to observe the means by which those at the bottom of the professional pyramid in public education have responsibility for the poor performance of the institution for which they labor so feel free to explore the question.

My explanation is that the public education system is structurally flawed and one of those inherent flaws is most clearly visible in the institutional indifference to teaching skill.

An newly-minted engineer from MIT, according to the Wall Street Journal can expect a starting salary of $75,500/year whereas an engineer from Morehead State is going to have to be satisfied $34,800. Starting salaries for teachers are unrelated to the college they attended.

Catch the important factor? No? OK, I'll explain.

When some agency or company goes out to hire an engineer they want to hire a good engineer. Hence, schools with a reputation for turning out good engineers have the starting salary of their graduates bid up over the starting salaries of engineers from lesser schools. That's because those who hire engineers understand a good engineer's more valuable to the organization then a lousy engineer. But, those who hire teachers are indifferent to the school their prospective hires attended or their grades. If they've got a teaching certificate one teacher's as good as another.

Given that situation, that teaching skill's treated as an irrelevancy in the hiring decision, I'd be most obliged to you to describe the means by which teachers wield the degree of influence over the public education system you impute to them.

I do not care to saddle teachers with the responsibility for anything but their own intellectual mediocrity and subscription to the priorities of the teachers' colleges.

"Irritates me? Don't flatter yourself."

I do not flatter myself. You are continuing to reply to me weeks after the fact. You're not doing it because your happy.


Your original comment, Mr. "Allen" was this:

"Sorry Art Deco but teachers didn't give us mediocre schools although they certainly are antagonistic to anyone checking up on them."

If you wish to say that teachers are not the sole culprits in giving us mediocre schools, that's fine. But you did not say that. There are two sensible interpretation of your statements. One is that you are sloppy in your descriptions and characterizations. The other is that teachers bear no responsibility (which they would if the teacher corps is optimal).

You said it. Own it or qualify it. You've refused to do that and instead lobbed insults at me. Back at ya, chump.
The union thugs (mafia-lite) and the Bloomberg crowd are, in my opinion, more in agreement than it at first seems. Why do I say this? Well, the union in NYC for example has embraced the small schools movement along with the Klein/Bloomberg/Rhee crowd, has signed off on using student test scores to partially evaluate teacher performance, has agreed to a de facto elimination of tenure for teachers starting their careers during the past six or seven years (they have to re-apply every five years), has allowed Regents exams to count as much as 20% of the final grade for courses even though Regents were never intended originally to be part of a final grade (and the contract with the DOE says "the teacher's grades are to be respected"), has not said 'little bo peep' about the grade inflation that is rife in the system, has not objected to any aspects of Fair Student Funding, has not objected to the emphasies of "social and emotional learning," has not objected to the implementation of the Danielson system for evaluating teachers, has embraced every phony rubric to come down the pike such as "college ready,""computer saavy,""chalk and talk," and has accepted the dilution of parent power in the way the School Leadership Teams are managed. In short, for the sake of impressing their members and at various points in time, the UFT, NYSUT, along with their confreres in the NEA object to this or that practice, bujt eventually "cave." It's a big game of control and power plays, and the teacher unions are generally on board. Oh yes, they do not like the charter schools, but this objection is small potatoes in the big picture. It just allows the unions to grab headlines and appear to be at odds with the reformers (who are both conservative and liberal nationwide). There is a dovetailing of reform interests. Do you hear any teacher unions really objecting to the Core Curriculum. There are just a few caveats, but nothing concerted. So I would suggest that we actually are seeing a convergence of interests between the "progressive elements" like the teachers' unions and Arne Duncan and the liberal nannies Bloomberg/Klein and the right like Scott Walker, Guiliani, Romney, etc. Only Texas is showing some independence of thoughts. There is a totalitarian impulse revealing itself in education theory. Wanting to "be competitive" is replacing our traditional respect for the individual. We are losing our way philosophically. Judeo-Christian morality, creativity, character building, knowledge and competence, critical thinking, cleanliness, and many "traditional values" have given way to systems, statistics, and standards (phony at best, and possibly destructive because overly reliant on standardized tests rather than student-teacher relationships and hard work. I'm just sharing these few thoughts. I'm quite pessimistic. We have smartboards everywhere, but the students are becoming less smart. Slogans about educational "equality" are sapping the youth and society of any real hope. One last word, Steve Bloom was the best student in my physics class in high school. I could only solve the four star problems in the book, but he could ALWAYS solve the most difficult five star problems. Whenever I asked him to explain the problems to me, he would tell me and the way he laid it out is was ever so simple. How couldn't I have seen it? Yet, I never saw how to do them, and he always saw. What is the explanation? He was better at physics than I. Yet, when I was teaching in a New York City high school and told my principal and some other teachers about this at a meeting extolling the virtues of cooperative (group) learning, my principal said to me, "Mr. Ludwig, he wasn't a better student than you. If you had used the discovery method and cooperative learning, you would know just as much as he." Wow! My education was inadequate. I had gone to two Ivy League universities and the University of London. I had published articles and written books and poems, but my education was inadequate. All I can say dear friends is watch our for the reformers and watch out for the anti-reformers. Watch out for the privatizers and watch out for the anti-privatizer. Pray constantly, and ask yourself everyday which of these factions really have the best interests of you or your children at heart.
Irritates me? Don't flatter yourself.

Here's the your phony assertion that started this pissing contest:

"You are insisting that teachers bear no responsibility for the condition of the schools, i.e. that our teacher corps is absolutely optimal."

Which, of course, I didn't. Feel free to point exactly where it is I'm insisting on any such thing.

What I did write is that teachers are creatures of the system, the lowest rung on the professional ladder. To saddle teachers with the responsibility for the state of the organization for which they work, whose dictates they are required to obey at the risk of losing their job suggests either personal animus or a distinct lack of understanding of the system. Or both.

Definitionally, the teacher corp is far from optimal. After all, the public education system takes no notice of teaching skill so it stands to reason there's no effort to seek out the best among the newly graduated class of teachers or winnow out the poorest of those who are currently employed. That's why teacher accountability efforts will ultimately fail, the fundamental nature of the public education system is unchanged.

I see though that your case of thesauritis is still untreated.
"Maybe we could take some out of the US imperialist war machine, and out of prison funding.."

There is no 'imperialist war machine'. Prisons are a necessary social function which cannot be replicated by private enterprise. Also, the incremental social benefit of more educational spending appears to be somewhere around zero. Not so for law enforcement.
"And please don't tell me what I'm insisting upon. I'm quite capable of expressing my views without unrequested interpretation.:

Request denied. I will interpret your words to remove the trumpery, even if exposure irritates you.
Performance may begin at home but that shouldn't blind us to the fact that some teachers, and some schools, do a notably better job of dealing with the effect on learning of a poor home environment then do others. So some schools are, if not a substitute for the educational foundation you mention, better at dealing with it when it's inadequate.

Shouldn't then those schools and those teachers be assiduously searched out and observed/emulated?

Sadly, they are not.

Perhaps the indifference of the public education system to excellence within its own ranks ought to be investigated?

Common Core is a set of standards crafted by educational paladins who have made essentially no effort to demonstrate the value of the standard and stand to lose nothing if it fails, whether politically or educationally. The educational pearl has been cast before the swine and our sole purpose is to grunt in uncomprehending admiration at this bounty provided by our betters.

Since that's how the citizenry's supposed to act in the presence of the public education system the major difference between Common Core and public school system is its genesis - federal government in the case of Common Core, the states in the case of public education.

Gratifyingly, there seems to be a gradually stiffening resolve to reject the boons provided by our betters. Increasingly, rather then the prayerful acquiescence to every half-baked and idiotic fad foisted upon the public that's the historical response to educational "innovations", there's a demand for increasing the scope of parental authority. A most troubling development to those comfortable with the historical role of parents as nothing but the producers of children who then deliver them up to the public education system and then shut the hell up other then to grunt in uncomprehending admiration at this bounty provided by their betters.

Ms. Ravitch - remember her? - has clearly thrown in with those who support that role for parents after a career in which her reputation grew due to her criticism of the public education system. Fortunately for her, that criticism never questioned the value of a public education system explicitly indifferent to parental concerns and effectively indifferent to public concerns. The public education was, according to Ms. Ravitch, an example of perfection which only required a more pleasing and symmetrical rearranging of the deck chairs. If there's any justice she'll live long enough to see her views repudiated by a public that's lost patience with excuses.
The comments are intriguing. Here are some points that others touched upon, but that bear more thought, perhaps even a new article.

A higher set of educational standards is laudable, but has zero meaning unless there is a means of improving performance to meet the standards. Performance is not simply the fruit of good teaching or good curricula. Performance begins at home with the child in a willing lap, reading, discussing the world the child has experienced. Here is where the love of learning and respect for the "job" of learning begins. No school is a substitute for this foundation. Until we, as a society, are willing to address the uncomfortable reality that there can never be a school system that insures that all students perform well, we can reform education until the sun burns out and still accomplish nothing. Socially, the lack of a strong family reverberates throughout the culture and the economy. Pre-K classes are a start, not a substitute for parental involvement.

Another harsh truth is that America is different. Our 15 year olds will not "beat" Finland or Korea's 15year olds in PISA or any internationally benchmarked assessment. Those nations that score at the top are the world's most homogeneous countries. They do not spend time or resources accommodating multicultural sensitivities or non-native English speaking students and their families. And we do not separate our 13 year old students into votech or college prep. We test all our students, and our aggregate scores reflect our cultural struggles.

The comment that our 31 year olds are the world's brightest deserves more investigation-- it is true. More innovations, more ingenuity, more patents spring from America than anywhere else. The foundational freedoms we enjoy include the freedom to fail and try again. No stigma. But, those same freedoms should be understood as having risks-- not all will make it. We must try to insure opportunity for a stellar education for all who have the ability to do the work and the willingness to do the work.

Common Core is a set of standards geared toward admission to a mediocre Jr.College, not the nation's elite schools. The standards come with various "aligned" texts. Many of the City Journal readers would be aghast at the content of these aligned texts and curricula. Does a second grader have any capacity to put the work of Marxist Cesar Chavez in to perspective in a unit on "fairness" where the landowners are characterized as unfair toward workers? Do you imagine this lesson explores taxes, risk capital, land improvement, blight, drought or other vagaries of agricultural land ownership with the seven year olds?

Should 15 year students read a crudely graphic depiction of teen sex that includes sadism? Does such material offered in school communicate to the students, wink, wink, that the school approves of rough sex? And when student violence -- already a heartbreaking school problem--increases, will all the curriculum specialists deny the influence of "exemplar" texts such as The Bluest Eye, a novel of incest and rape against a nine year old child? Written, by the way, to show the perspective of the rapist, who should not be judged, according to the author.

The new president of the Scholatic Apitutde Test has promised to peg the SAT to the Common Core aligned material. This effectively invalidates the claim that school districts are free to devise their own material to meet the Common Core State Standards. Yes, free to set their own curriculum, but if the primary assessment tool for college admission is pegged to a narrow band of "aligned" texts, then no district is free of the threat that their students will appear to fail the SAT. Unless the highly politicized "aligned texts" are used, students will not be prepared to answer many of the SAT questions. It is a closed shop.

We need education reform. Common Core is not the reform we need. Common Core is simply an opportunity to exploit the urgent need we do have for reform, but this "solution" is worse than the problem.

This is a complicated topic on which we should urge one another to become well informed.

"...Let us see our children not as global competitors, but as children, little human beings in need of loving care and kindness.

Regardless of how we want to "see our children," they will need to earn a living when they grow up, and like it or not, they will be in competition with children who have been properly educated. This is the way of the world.

"Loving care and kindness" are not in opposition to learning facts. Actually, children love learning facts, as Ms. Ravitch can confirm by a brief chat with her grandson.
"Ravitch doesnt even try costing out her suggestionsthe price tag would be in the billionsor indicate where extra school funding might come from."

Maybe we could take some out of the US imperialist war machine, and out of prison funding...
Yup, empty of content.

Teachers - public school teachers - are creatures of the system. The institutional indifference of the public education system towards teaching skill wasn't engineered by teachers or even by the teacher's unions. It's just an inevitable effect of making education a public institution so saddling teachers with the responsibility for creating this system bespeaks a lack of understanding of the genesis and dynamics of the public education system.

Teachers, some teachers, and the teacher's unions certainly benefit from this situation and do their best to protect it but that's an expression of human nature. People look out for their own interests and getting upset at the fact says more about the upsetee then it does about the situation generating the heartburn.

And please don't tell me what I'm insisting upon. I'm quite capable of expressing my views without unrequested interpretation.

You are partially right however about who does think the teacher corp is optimal.

Ed schools do indeed think the current situation is peachy but it's not just ed schools. Unions and many teachers think so as well. How could they not? The current system funds their lives. But that whole crew taken together didn't create the system nor are they, in the face of determined and consistent public demand, capable of maintaining that system.

The limits on the power of the public education monopoly are visible in each charter school enabling bill that passes into law and the subsequent opening of each charter school. Public support for the public education system, to the extent it ever existed other then in the inability to imagine any other arrangement but the district system, is clearly eroding. At some point in the future that erosion of faith will result in a watershed event which will mark the beginning of the end for the current public education system.

Perhaps it'll mark the beginning of the end of all government intrusion into education but that's more a hope then a prediction.
Empty of content?

You are insisting that teachers bear no responsibility for the condition of the schools, i.e. that our teacher corps is absolutely optimal. There is one sort of person who believes that: people on the payroll of teachers' colleges.

I ain't buying your bridge.
A short post and empty of content other then some unsupported assertions and more then a touch of thesauritis.

Feel free to expand on the meaning of "full participants" since the phrase is open to any number of interpretations several of which are obviously false.

Teachers are the lowest level of professional in the public education system. Just how much influence over the system do you suppose they have? Would you have teachers go out on strike for better principals? Storm the central office, waving agricultural implements and flaming torches, to end the valueless regime of an incompetent superintendent? Form secret societies dedicated to teacherly virtues which kidnap teachers adjudged incompetent and flog them?

In fact, teachers have little power with which to improve public education even were it their job in any meaningful sense. But the structure of public education disempowers teachers, to the extent they ever had any such influence, just as surely as it disempowers parents.

That's the reason public education's a mess. The people who have an urgent interest in kids getting a good education - parents - are powerless to influence the system and those who the power to influence the system have little interest in ensuring kids get a good education.
"Sorry Art Deco but teachers didn't give us mediocre schools although they certainly are antagonistic to anyone checking up on them."

Rubbish. They are full participants in the mess that is public education. They are not exclusively responsible, but they are a responsible party. There are just quite a scrum of them who are willing to pen risible commentaries abjuring all responsibility. Stop lying, teach.
Sorry Art Deco but teachers didn't give us mediocre schools although they certainly are antagonistic to anyone checking up on them.

No, mediocrity's inherent to public education.

The kids will show up - it's the law - and so will the funding and neither's a function of the quality of the education the schools deliver. The rational response to that situation is to do as little work as necessary to avoid too much in the way of criticism and in many schools and districts that's exactly what's done.

It's that inherent mediocrity that supporters of the district public education system have to deal with in their defense of the system and as Rich demonstrates they do so by diverting attention.

It's the fault of the kids for not being engaged or of parents for not being engaged or of parent's income for not being high enough. It's television, the Internet, texting, sexting and drugs. It's too little in the way of drugs. It's not enough money, teachers or freedom from scrutiny.

There's always an excuse and the excuse diverts any prospective scrutiny from the structure of public education.

But it's a rear guard defense since there's charter school law in most of the country and other law, similarly erosive of the district system are finally finding some traction. With luck it won't be all that long before the that inherent mediocrity starts to contrast in the public mind with the inherent drive toward excellence which applies to schools dependent for survival on parental approval.
Teachers here, and I know several, say the same thing. The emphasis upon test taking has eroded their joy in teaching, intruded into their classrooms, and replaced their own judgement, and common sense and wisdom, with rigid sets of standards.

It is not the point of erecting school system to advance the 'joy' of teachers and we need to be skeptical of the judgment, common sense, and 'wisdom' of the sort of folk who sit through ed school. They gave us the mediocre schools we have and are antagonistic to anyone checking up on them.
Ideology aside, from my observations in Pennsylvania, charter schools do not perform significantly better than public schools, though they have some advantages in choosing economically more stable families and students.

Teachers here, and I know several, say the same thing. The emphasis upon test taking has eroded their joy in teaching, intruded into their classrooms, and replaced their own judgement, and common sense and wisdom, with rigid sets of standards.

You can argue that public schools are failing, but so is the private enterprise approach. For me, it's all about poverty and its disadvantages, and the resulting stresses upon families, economic and emotional. Kids know it, and they feel it directly.

The purpose of public education in our time is to ensure that instruction takes on certain stereotyped characteristics and institutions of instruction employ certain sorts of people. It serves the interests of

1. Those currently employed in the system as is.

2. The teachers' colleges and those favoring their ideology.

3. Public sector union stooges.


Public agency as a delivery vehicle is most certainly not a necessity. Deregulated philanthropic agencies funded by vouchers and donations (not tuition) in a matrix of state regents' examinations can do the work that needs to be done. If parents wish to home-school, you can provide that option and allow them to cash out their voucher for a fraction of the face value; their children just have to show up semi-annually for regents' examinations.

You only need public agency to warehouse incorrigibles.
At the end of the day I still ask myself this question "What is the purpose of public education?" My gripe with the corporate reformers is that their implicit goal - at least I think it is - is to produce people either being capable of working for them or buying from them as that is their model of the world. My gripe with the lefties is that their explicit goal is to produce people capable of tearing down the corporations and buying as little as possible unless its somehow a cool tech product or is made from all natural ingredients. If we just want a corporate vocational school - let's be honest, that's all some of these schools teach - fine but I'd like for us first and foremost for our schools to teach us to be Americans and learn why that is good and necessary for not only us but for the rest of the world. Almost anyone can learn to be a marketing executive or whatever in a corporate boot camp but please keep this never-ending noise out of the schools.
Ravitch ignores the obvious: the US produces the stupidest 18 year-olds but the smartest 31 year-olds in the western world. It takes 13 years of real world experience and liberty to overcome the increasingly vacuous 'curriculum' of the self-esteem purveyors. Public educators blames social trends, neatly ignoring their own egregious contribution to the social pathologies they lament.

Public education has been failing for 40 years. Time to try something different.
"This is no less biased that the recent work of Ravitch, and it is not informed by listening to the front-line workers in public schools. "

The 'front line workers' are the graduates of the teacher's colleges who have given us the mess we have. You have to listen to them verrry critically.
"Let us see our children not as global competitors, but as children, little human beings in need of loving care and kindness."

With the above definition of what "education" is supposed to do, perhaps Ravitch's revised thinking is correct. I don't see anything in the article suggesting at what age Ravitch believes a child, or for that matter an adult, if ever, must become globally competitive.

Is it possible that Ravitch's plan is to rely on those who choose to be globally competitive to support our reading Walden all our lives, morning, noon and night?
Certainly the principle of early learning about our shared cultural mainstays is a good one; but until a culture of learning takes hold within America's poor communities, it seems that no new educational idea will raise these kids' knowledge and intelligence.

Immigrant children did well for themselves in the early 1900s, facing tougher obstacles, as do Asians today. It is essential for poor black and hispanic communities to look inward and strive to promote better learning environments within the family for their children.
Why is it that not one teacher was asked what he/she had actually observed and experienced going on in the class room? If you want answers to your questions, ask a teacher who has 20-30 years of actual in-classroom experiece. They can tell you everything you need to know. This article needs to be rewritten with all the opinions of the Pedagogical Expert assh*les stripped out of it. But then there wouldn't be anything left of it.
Why is it that not one teacher was asked what he/she had actually observed and experienced going on in the class room? If you want answers to your questions, ask a teacher who has 20-30 years of actual in-classroom experiece. They can tell you everything you need to know. This article needs to be rewritten with all the opinions of the Pedagogical Expert assh*les stripped out of it. But then there wouldn't be anything left of it.
No idea what you mean, Tina, about a link. A link to what? It's been days since I looked in on this site. You may think what you said long ago sticks in my mind, but it doesn't. No idea also what you mean about an "obsessive troll." It's revealing though, considering the Sol Stern article is one I agree with and my posts here have been mainly supportive of that. Is that what an obsessive troll does.

As to your relentless pursuit of what is none of your business, what obnoxious term might there be for that tendency? I've once before suggested that you read up on the fallacy known as argument from motive.

It's why I do not question your motives, and why I do not really care how you earn your income. Or anyone else I debate with. You are laughably all wet, in any event, in the assumptions you have already clearly made about mine. But I have no interest in proving that to you. No proof would ever suffice.
Jon Burack -- I didn't put the link in because I thought the comment would not go through with a link. Some sites are like that. So I used words. In quotes -- assuming you would get the hint.

You can look things up on the intraweb using . . . words, right?

This guy's an obsessive troll. He follows people around and plays his 20 questions craziness.

While still refusing to address the cash he's making off this thing for which he's advocating.

So let's try another tact: Jon, share with us your Common Core curriculum materials. The ones you sell.
This is no less biased that the recent work of Ravitch, and it is not informed by listening to the front-line workers in public schools. You are like too many economists and arm-chair experts on charts and graphs who are fixated on test scores (50 items, 50 minutes, all fill in the bubble) as if these are some sort of gold standard for student achievement and will determine our economic fate. Wrong. The achievement gap has been an excuse to not fund programs that address larger social conditions that are known to account for 60% of the variance in test scores.
"Having said that, I am not too sure what you are asking, or suggesting, when you ask about curricular variation from place to place "How important is that problem in the scheme of things?" If you mean variation in what is taught, and when, from state to state, school to school, I think it is of crucial importance. I agree with Hirsch and the Core Knowledge approach that such variation is the single most important source of poor student performance and the huge performance gaps between rich and poor in America now. It's a long argument to make here, so I suggest you look at Hirsch's work on this, or at the work of cognitive psychologists like Daniel Willingham. The short answer is, knowledge and memory are vastly more important to critical thinking processes than just about anything else, and if students do not share a common knowledge base in school there is no way other forms of intellectual activity can make up for that lack."

We can check more recent and variegated data. But here goes.

1. People are less mobile than is commonly realized. I once had to do a study which required sorting through data on population churn. About 21% of the population at that time (ca. 1992) moved from state-to-state in a five year period, with 65% (at any one time) resident in the state of their birth.

2. The foregoing refer to the whole population, not the subset which consists of households with school age children. Some years ago where I was living (Rochester, N.Y.) published some data on year-to-year attrition attributable to migration. The burden of their figures was that annual departures FROM THE DISTRICT due to migration amounted to 1.2% of the student body per annum. Extrapolate: over a 12.5 year period, cumulative departures would amount to 13.5% of the initial pool. Again, anywhere they moved in New York would have been governed by the same board of regents. A certain number of those departures were intrametropolitan or intrastate moves.

Now, New York has a good deal less in the way of demographic churn than other states. It is likely more of an issue in a state like Nevada or Alaska, with high rates of churn.

I am assuredly not understanding your point about variation promoting the 'gaps' which seem to have teacher training faculty and school administrators so addled. That would only be the case if wage-earners or blacks had higher rates of migration than other subfractions of the population. I tend to doubt it. I think if we checked, we would find the opposite is now the case. (Blacks did have high rates of inter-regional migration prior to 1975, but that was then).


(By the way, you should ditch the habit of speaking in terms of the 'rich' and the 'poor'. Very few people (< 4% of the population) have much in the way of accumulated assets; they are disproportionately drawn from the ranks of people without school-age children. Really flush people tend to be in late middle age. Only a minority at any one time (~30%) lack important goods and services absent common provision or income transfer. People who fit in that category are disproportionately old and disabled, and thus lack school age children as well. They are also disproportionately fat; the missing goods and services are apartments up to contemporary standards, vehicles up to contemporary standards, and medical care up to contemporary standards.).


Now, what you seem to be telling me is that instruction in reading and English grammer and instruction in arithmetic requires stereotyped content. I am sorry, why does it matter if they are reading "Emil and the Detectives" in one district and "My Side of the Mountain" in another? I could see your point with regard to social studies, but social studies is such a mess anyway that I am not sure problems derived from district-to-district variation or state-to-state variation would be a priority.

Alternatively, you are saying that district to district variation in the pace and sequencing of skill development is a problem. Again, placement examinations and performance tracking would be the answer, along with an end to strict segregation by age in classrooms.

Can you elaborate?
The was "tough" (not "touch") common core - at the end of my last post.
Art Deco,
First, while I disagree with some of what you say, I first have to say, thanks, for asking an actual question and making an actual substantive point about the nature of the Common Core standards. It is a rarity in the internet debates I have taken part in that touch on the matter.

Having said that, I am not too sure what you are asking, or suggesting, when you ask about curricular variation from place to place "How important is that problem in the scheme of things?" If you mean variation in what is taught, and when, from state to state, school to school, I think it is of crucial importance. I agree with Hirsch and the Core Knowledge approach that such variation is the single most important source of poor student performance and the huge performance gaps between rich and poor in America now. It's a long argument to make here, so I suggest you look at Hirsch's work on this, or at the work of cognitive psychologists like Daniel Willingham. The short answer is, knowledge and memory are vastly more important to critical thinking processes than just about anything else, and if students do not share a common knowledge base in school there is no way other forms of intellectual activity can make up for that lack.

Common Core by itself, however, does not even impose a curricular uniformity on the nation. It does set higher standards for literacy skills and it acknowledges (at least this is my understanding) that such skills do arise within, and not independently of, a solid, content-rich core curriculum. However, in deference to America's state and local educational control it leaves the fashioning of common curricula and content to the states and instead focuses on a set of skills standards that can only be truly implemented if such a curriculum is in place.

Anyway, that's my understanding. I think where you and I disagree is in how serious a problem is what you call "the variation from one jurisdiction to another in the content of basic education." It is not just that the variation may require some extra remediation for students moving from one place to another. It is that unless a touch common core exists within schools and from grade to grade, deficits that cannot be remediated build up.

Can you explain what the benefits are to central co-ordination and control in the field of education? I am just not understanding the purpose of a 'common core'. I can conceive of standards which transcend particular labor markets for such things as occupational certifications; it renders the certificate more fungible and enhances transparency. When you are speaking of basic or liberal education, I fail to see the purpose. The impact of variation from one jurisdiction to another in the content of basic education can be identified by placement examinations. This will lead to some time lost by some students as they will need remedial instruction after moving from one place to another. How important is that problem in the scheme of things? As for liberal education, it is liberal education. It is not preparatory to any specific function, so variation in its content is to be expected. The problem only arises when jurisdiction x requires certain minima quite foreign to the experience of student y. There is a solution to that problem: replace the inane piece of sheepskin for school leavers with a book of certificates, so anyone curious will have a much more granular understanding of just what the person's accomplishments actually were.

I am not looking to get singled out here, but Tina's comments below have done that, so I think I ought to respond.

I said in my earlier post here that what I fail to see in this string of comments is any "substantive" criticism of Common Core. I hardly think the phrase Tina offers as an example, "Common Core: Orwellian Lessons," qualifies as substantive (perhaps this was a link to something, but if so it did not in fact link to anything.)

I will try to overlook the condescension dripping from her post ("I'm not going to waste my time holding his hand"). As to my "modus operandi," as she puts it, I did in fact in a different exchange with Tina in the comments to Ron Radish's article on this same topic, make very specific references to some Common Core standards and the History/Social Science variants of those that I am most familiar with. I also made a distinction between the CC standards, which I like, and the assessment process which I am concerned about in a way that E. D. Hirsch has put very well - in a blog posting here:

I also made the point, and do here as well, that it is odd to me that CC is seen as some evil corporate (or is it big government) conspiracy to crush local control and public education - given that the CC standards absolutely require vigorous state effort to fashion the content standards on which the CC standards depend and that the whole enterprise is being pushed hard by major portions of the public school enterprise ont he state level.

But Tina chose to ignore all that substance and instead engaged in the same sort of ad hominem nonsense she resorts to here. Well, so let me try again.

I defend the CC standards as a fairly significant effort to promote a more complex set of literacy skills and to stress a need for states to buttress those skills standards with the solid content-rich curricula on which they would have to be based to work well. In fact, the Common Core emphasizes an approach very much in line with E. D. Hirsch's ideas and with much of what the best conservative thinking in education has long stressed. It is this that makes the intemperate, populist and near paranoid-conspiratorial rightwing attack on Common Core so bizarre to me. For instance, take Tina's reference - "Common Core: Orwellian Lessons." It is nothing short of amazing to me. To label as "Orwellian" a set of standards that puts an enormous stress on promoting vigorous debate, evidence-based argument, and deep reading comprehension grounded in rigorous subject-area content, is itself Orwellian.
Thanks for these good words, Sol. As a one-time admirer of Ravitch, I'm thoroughly dismayed, but even more mystified, at what you rightly characterize as her "intellectual zigzagging."
Take a look here:

It is exceedingly imprudent to make vehement remarks about discrete personnel disputes with regard to which one lacks personal knowledge, most particularly with regard to posts which do not have robust operational measures of competence.

It is not that the 'old Ravitch' would not have done this. No adult past a certain age would do this unless they had an abiding problem with poor impulse control. The broad may have written the book, but she cannot read it anymore.
Seems to me Ravitch (the new Ravitch, that is) is right about a few things: (1) Standardized testing is not the answer. (Nor is Gates's pledge to give every kid a laptop.) (2) Neither merit pay nor draconic efforts to "get rid of the bad teachers" will do much good. The primary effect of each will be to further undermine teacher morale.

Whether or not 'standardized testing' is 'the answer' depends on what is the question. If you are looking for a cross-sectional assessment of student performance, it is the answer. If you are looking to measure year-to-year improvement, whether or not it is the answer depends on the talents of psychometricians. If you are looking to measure year-to-year improvement controlling for the g-profile of the school, that also depends on psychometricians' talents.

You cannot have any standards without metrics. The opponents of testing do not care for standards.
Jon Burack isn't "looking" very hard at all. Here is a criticism of the curricula: "Common Core: Orwellian Lessons." There are many others. I'm not going to waste my time holding his hand.

I'd also encourage him to try to defend these standards that he claims are bulletproof -- without, of course, offering any specific examples or evidence. Perhaps he could deign to practice what he demands of others. But in my experience, this guy's modus operandi is to pepper people with questions, then retreat.
Carlo Lancellotti October 09, 2013 at 5:31 AM
What strikes me in this debate is how both sides can be quite wrong if they push their point of view ideologically (which they often seem to be doing). The idea that public schools can be fixed with more money and the idea that they can be fixed with more testing and competition are actually not so different, in the sense that they are both mechanical/technocratic responses to a problem that is not ultimately technical. Education is based on human factors: loving families, committed teachers, a love for a tradition to be handed down, a passion for beauty and truth. Of all the things mentioned here the only attempt that comes close to embodying this values is Hirsch's work on a content rich curriculum, which I support. Everything else ON BOTH SIDES falls short.
Seems to me Ravitch (the new Ravitch, that is) is right about a few things: (1) Standardized testing is not the answer. (Nor is Gates's pledge to give every kid a laptop.) (2) Neither merit pay nor draconic efforts to "get rid of the bad teachers" will do much good. The primary effect of each will be to further undermine teacher morale.
My main objection to the new Ravitch is that she falls into the trap of blaming failing schools on "income inequality" and "segregation," which would seem to entail that reforms are hopeless until an egalitarian, post-racial utopia has been achieved. Good luck with that!
Morgan Reynolds, Jeffrey Hart, Iris Murdoch, Diane Ravitch..

Aging can be disagreeable for the old and those around them.
Sol Stern's mind is closed, and the fact that Ravitch opened hers and looked at the evidence apparently means he has to spin that into a negative.
What's amazing about some of the defenders of Diane Ravitch here is how incoherent the attacks are. (And mostly unrelated to anything she either once believed or now professes to believe.) The Koch brothers have inevitably made their appearance now, on the side of a Common Core reform movement that is largely under vicious attack by the portion of the right usually considered under the firm control of the Koch brothers. It is almost impressive (were it not so absurd) how people get Bill Ayres and Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Linda-Darling Hammond, the Kochs, Mellon-Scaife,and the precincts of the far right into one vast conspiracy to privatize and destroy the public schools while also enlisting their chief state school officers and most governors, as well as many state education departments, to push the Common Core standards for those same public schools they somehow also want to destroy.

Meanwhile, I have searched through these comments for one single substantive criticism of the actual Common Core standards and have not found it. I suggest to those posting these comments to recognize that their style of attack does not convince any who are not already true believers. You'd be better off by far discussing the actual Common Core standards for writing or for speaking and listening, since I think there is real need of some such guidance here. But from what I can see, not many have read a single one of them.
I would also ask if Mr. Stern will equally stand firm against the corruption of common core standards of knowledge and the rather troubling decision of state boards in Kansas and Texas to try and introduce "intelligent design" as a theory on par with that of natural selection. I quote the New York Times article of Sept. 28:

"In reviews of other textbooks, panel members disputed the scientific evidence, questioning, for example, whether the fossil record actually demonstrates a process of mutation and natural selection over billions of years. The fossil record can be interpreted in other ways than evolutionary with equal justification, one reviewer wrote. Among the anti-evolution panelists are Ide Trotter, a chemical engineer, and Raymond G. Bohlin, a biologist and fellow of the Discovery Institute.

"By questioning the science often getting down to very technical details the evolution challengers in Texas are following a strategy increasingly deployed by others around the country.

"There is little open talk of creationism. Instead they borrow buzzwords common in education, critical thinking, saying there is simply not enough evidence to prove evolution."

Here are the bedfellows of the ALEC-inspired privatization team.
Is Sol Stern seriously suggesting that Ravitch's advocacy for "smaller class sizes, universal prekindergarten, after-school programs, and comprehensive health and nutrition services" is a mistake? That not providing these and instead privatizing schools and feeding students a common core will then solve the education problem?

This strikes me as disingenuous in the extreme. Ravitch in the 1980s rightly sided with Hirsch's "common core" recommendations (which Hirsch himself amended later to incorporate a broader range of content). However, what she argues against is the same problem that has turned the Cato Institute into once proud libertarian proponent into a tool of the Koch brothers self-enrichment propaganda: the promotion of common core curriculum as only possible in a privatized approach to public education.

In Hirsch's original argument, there was no reason public schools couldn't implement the program with political will and change to basic standards. None of this was an argument for privatization or vouchers--neither of which has demonstrated improvement but both of which have definitely cost taxpayers more in terms of money, lost productivity, and especially lack of accountability.

"Evidence is building that some full-time charter schools charge state taxpayers big bucks for students who may only spend a few days or a few weeks in front of a computer before they decide that virtual education is not for them but the schools keep the cash anyway." PR Watch

"The founders of a San Fernando Valley charter school were sentenced Friday for the misappropriation of more than $200,000 in public funds in a case that could affect charter schools statewide" LA Times

"Options Public Charter School was founded to improve the fortunes of the Districts most troubled teens and students with disabilities, and the District government sent millions of taxpayer dollars to the school each year for their education and care. D.C. officials alleged in a lawsuit Tuesday that three former managers at the Northeast Washington school diverted at least $3 million of that money to enrich themselves, engaging in a pattern of self-dealing that was part of an elaborate contracting scam." Washington Post

I could go on and on here.
It is little ironic when Mr. Stern criticizes Ms. Ravitch for "ad hominem" attacks when the entire column really amounts to a guilt by association and ad hominem attack against Diane Ravitch. Also, he does not answer the basic thrust of her attack against the private charter school industry and siphoning of large amounts of money from taxpayers to private industry, creating an "educational" industrial complex in the same pattern, and the same unaccountable results as the "private prision - industrial complex" (which advocates for harsh criminal penalties for drug laws and undocumented aliens, thereby increasing the demand for their "product") and military-industrial complex. The Manhattan Institute is another Koch brothers, Mellon-Scaife, and Olin funded organization paid to turn out propaganda for wealthy elite. Therefore he ignores that the real opposition to the "Common Core" standards is not coming from the Left, but his friends on the political right: and
Your attempt to demonize the opponents of the "airplane" built while flying in mid-air as you people yourselves call school "reform", won't wash. It is a pig with lipstick. As bad as the Iraq war, and like that war, will fail of its own accord, taking millions of children and parents with it.

Next time, enlist the co-operation and input of the people who will be affected -- teachers and students -- before trying to foist your untested horrors on people.

From my and many other classroom teachers points of view Ravitch is speaking truth to power. While you say that reform was not designed to destroy the public schools it is gutting the depth and breadth of curriculum and teaching time so children are trained to take tests, not educated. And the poorest children without the benefit of the education that happens in middle class and upper class households are those most affected. Testing is not teaching and it certainly is not learning. These same philanthropists are cashing in with their technology, testing and test prep corporate profits and the people who work directly with the children both in and out of school no longer have a say about what benefits and what harms those children. It is a tragedy for our children and forthe remains of our democracy.
from a 25 year national board certified teacher's perspective.
All you need to know about the left when it comes to education is that we "aren't spending enough." But, no amount of money would ever be enough. Never.
I would like to pose a question to Mr. Stern and to everyone else commenting here: who is getting money or seeking/anticipating funding from the main Common Core advocates, or selling or developing to sell a product associated with Common Core?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the primary unelected, unaccountable source of funding for promoting Common Core, gave the Manhattan Institute at least $328,000 between 2002 and 2005 to explore "college readiness" -- the foundational problem argument being used to promote Common Core. It is unclear from their website and 990's available to date whether more has been given after 2011, but the Gates Foundation uses the MI's research findings from the grants described above heavily in their arguments, press releases, and data -- therefore, although the grants were made prior to CC bursting onto the public scene, they are a part of Gates' Common Core campaign.

We all gotta eat. But it is very, very important to be transparent about who is feeding us, or promising us our next meal. I wouldn't dismiss somebody's arguments because he or she was receiving funding, but it is unethical to not disclose such facts when you step into the public arena to take a side.
You want better schools, then let's have separation of school and State. Nobody gets all riled about the state of religion in the US or how it should or shouldn't be "reformed." Why? Because I'm not forced to pay for it. The only church I go to is the chapel at Saint NFL. It's what I choose and I'm really happy with it.
I teach. And I have to add my bit to the discussion. Without parental support, schools are fighting the battle with one hand tied behind their backs. And as far as "College freshmen not knowing anything," consider the fact that sending students that couldn't get through high school to college because "Everyone should go" is insane. The public educational system needs to confront the social pathologies if they are going to have any chance to succeed.
Having just watched the kookie Ravitch promoting her book on CSpan and read through the comments here, I remain convinced the U.S. may be doomed as education with accountability has been reduced to the silly,ideological and exaggerated squabbling I saw there and read here.
Ms. Ravitch supported a sequential, knowledge-rich curriculum. What new evidence has she uncovered that led her to change her mind about national standards? Her only argument is that they are untested. What of a coherent literature curriculum that she once championed, is the curriculum she now recommends really looking at stars? What is her evidence that the CCSS are developmentally inappropriate and a circus trick, an effort to prove that a six-year-old can do mental gymnastics?
It is perfectly acceptable to change your mind when new evidence is brought to your attention but it is not acceptable to change it because your opinions clash with your political identity. What a shame, Ms Ravitch could have been a respected authoritative voice for, let us call it educational improvement so as not to insult anyone, but instead has lent it to a political agenda that has very little interest education.
I am glad to see there continues to be a passionate debate about the abysmal state of America's education system. Many of the comments contain only a kernel of truth about the root cause of the failure of the education system to educate young minds. How does Ms. Ravitch really intend to rectify to terrible social pathologies that exist in many low-income areas, where the absence of one or both parents is endemic, many students do not even speak English, and violence, obvious and otherwise, is ever present. Further, it is an undisputed fact that many people seek out the "education profession" because they are quite incapable of being successful in any other career path. I suspect if we tested most teachers, we would find most to not have a comprehensive understanding of most of the material they in fact teach. This is not to suggest some "teachers" aspire to educate our youth so they may go on to lead productive lives as contributing members of a free society. Having raised 4 children, I eventually realized that if I desired to insure my children were in fact educated, I would have to contribute both time and treasure, resulting in me sending them to private schools to see that they were actually exposed to a a rich curriculum that challenged them. It is something I wish was unnecessary, but having experienced the public schools, I was resolved to the real word fact that public schools are academies of mediocrity. Try to fire an incompetent teacher. It is a journey to hell. Look at the ranks of administrators making huge salaries, as well as the explosive growth in State and Federal spending on education. The results do not support the money. One other question I have about Ms. Ravitch; what is her real motivation? Does she desire a country where the low-class, and perhaps middle-class, aspire to a limited existence, where the will be ruled by the "intellectual elite", who do not subject their young to the vagaries of terrible schools? Perhaps, the goal is a collectivist nirvana of misery, where those of limited credentials are ruled by these "Educational Mandarins"? In another country, Bill Ayers, would be just anther arrogant punk, but for the good fortune if being born into a very rich family. I don't have the answers, but my real-life experience and my common sense suggests that such "educational activists" are not only wrong, but also wrong about how the real world works. The success of this country depends upon the people who work in productive industry, making money, so that it can be taxed and siphoned off to support these schools systems. God help us all.
If she still wants to turn all the old school buildings into musuems for the students (IF they ever return), take all the money to staff and maintain them out of HER paycheck
"The wise man doubts often and changes his mind; the fool is obstinate and doubts not."
Perhaps, Oscar Wilde was right when he said that "Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught".
Worried Realist

Your daughter is a hero. If she were to write about her efforts, I know she would inspire others.
Thank you, Mr. Stern, for elucidating the current politics of education and specifically what happened to Diane Ravitch. I am not in the education field, but, have read E.D. Hirsch and take an interest in the subject, and, I was mystified as to what was going on. I am also stunned by the heat of the discussion, e.g., the animus directed against Michelle Rhee. If I am mystified, what of the millions that may know something about debt, growth and foreign war controversies, but, little about the only real injustice in this safe, affluent society, cultural inequality.

At the risk of the charge of "silver bullet", I think it cannot be said often enough and, yet, is not said at all explicitly, as you did not, that so many of these questions would have a happier and more effective resolution, if the hiring, firing, assignment, etc of school teachers were taken off the bargaining table and given to the judgement of management. An example of how avoiding this distorts the discussion is the fact that criticism of Rhee focusses on her too great reliance on tests in evaluation when what she really wanted from the beginning was to be able to select who worked for her, the most important prerogative of the best managers. Now she dances around the union question, and, to take Ravitch's side in a fashion, privatization and charters are also an end-run around teacher selection. (Not a bad end-run if you ask the Swedes.)

Teacher selection like that of all professionals is in the end a judgement call. See Eric Hanushek and Malcolm Gladwell. Wouldn't we have a better idea of what curriculum produces an effective person connected with civilization as we know it if at the same time we were trying to figure this out, we were selecting and deselecting a workforce of the best teachers regardless of the educational path they have taken to get there?

David, I couldn't agree more about getting computers out of elementary schools, at least the early grades. Kids today get plenty of exposure to computers and mobile learning devices (MLD) such as iPads. Our elementary school now issues MLD's to the 5th graders. What a waste of money! I can guarantee you that these kids aren't learning anything new. They've been playing on computers and smart phones for years now. If you want to teach them technology, focus more on computer coding, programming, and repair.
Worried Realist, it sounds like the children in your daughter's inner-city school hit the lottery in getting a good and inspirational teacher. I had just such a teacher when I was in sixth-grade, only she came from the inner-city to teach at my middle class school. It's sad when kids right across the hall from each other can have a totally different educational experience. How can we encourage more teachers to be like your daughter and my teacher, Mrs. McBride? My aunt is a retired teacher, and her daughter has been teaching for about 10 years now. The daughter has never been allowed to create a curriculum for her class, which was what teachers did in my aunt's day. Would going back to that be the answer?

I will say most of the stuff you listed that your daughter does is what my kids did in elementary school in Katy, TX - timed math; rote memory drills in addition, subtraction, and multiplication (we call them fast facts); putting kids in small groups based on reading level; having lots of different reading level books in the classroom.

I love the idea of a class BBQ. What a clever way to get to know the parents. Perhaps her BBQ was better attended because it was on a weekend or during a time when more people could attend instead of having to go to work?
Eight years as an elementary teacher, twenty six as a building principal, twenty four in one building. Our school spent in the in the bottom ten percent of the state and achieved in the top five to ten percent according to state test results. How? In a nutshell, hire great teachers of any age, then trust them, talk to them and block for them. I suppose that seems radical, but it is not. We were a school family and we invited the families of our students. It is true that we live in a great place and our Free & Red. #s were about 25%. Do not kid yourself, that helps a lot.
Ms. Ravitch is not all wrong or right, nor am I. Her wishes for greater resources should not be viewed as, "pie in the sky." I believe she is seeing things much more clearly now than two decades ago.
Interesting perspective. Stern is right about one thing: Ms. Ravitch seems angry, as she should be. Every American should be angry. The reason our college freshmen are deemed "dumb" is because they are products of an environment that rewards short-term memory and test-taking skills. If an American student becomes impassioned by a topic, there is no time to study further or contemplate because he must move through the curriculum to prepare for the next test. Students are not motivated to learn; they are encouraged to upload and download facts. The closing of public schools and the attacks on school personnel are shameful. Wasting the potential of our youth with conformity is dangerous and heartbreaking. So, yes, maybe Ms. Ravitch seems angry. I'm mad as hell and applaud her for speaking up and speaking out.
>Thomas Sowell, in his Book 'Education in America", pointed out that teachers overwhelmingly came from the bottom QUINTILE (1/5th) of their undergraduate classes.

Teachers used to come from a broader spectrum of the education curve, because of gender discrimination in the labor market. Until 50 years ago, becoming a teacher was the epitome of professional aspiration for half the population. When those people started becoming doctors, lawyers and MBA's, the quality of teachers began to drop.
If teachers were allowed to be professionals and could teach their students as they were taught to teach during their college preparation, our children would do just fine. Currently, by following a program that has been touted as the miracle cure, we are setting up our students and teachers for failure. They are being sold inferior products with tests that are poorly written. Most of all, valuable teaching time is being taken up by too many tests.

Think of Common Core as a "new and improved" detergent. You're told that if you use a certain kind of soap, your laundry will be cleaner. The thing is, the soap is much more expensive. You spend more on the soap with all its promises (unproven promises) and don't have money for maintenance if the washing machine and new clothes. Also, it seems like might be getting some clothes clean, but others might need another solution. And what about those hand washables. You call the company for help and they tell you that they know best. You should buy and use more soap. Trust them. All clothes will be the same and when washed will be ready to wear out to a fancy dinner. Doesn't everyone want the same thing???

But what happens is your clothes are washed, and because you do it all the same, they're clean, but in fact look dull. You're spending more money and now your machine isn't working. But guess what? They have a better machine for you, but you can no longer run the machine yourself because you didn't use it right and it's your fault it isn't working. They will run the machine for you now and it will cost even more.

It doesn't make sense. They are setting us up for failure by telling us to do something that we know isn't right for kids, and WE PAY them fir that advice. They are judging us with their faulty tests that WE PAY them for. They will come in and tell us we are doing it wrong, then they will come in and WE WILL PAY them to run schools in which they will first pay themselves, then they will hire US, THE FAILURES, to teach. Finally if the scores are not high enough, they will have the secretary if education (like Tony Bennett) change the scores OR they will change the test to make it look like it's working.

Don't let them do this people. Diane is right!!!!!
"The problem is that Ravitchs civil rights analogy is misplaced; her new ideological allies have proved themselves utterly incapable of raising the educational achievement of poor minority kids."

Just one thing Sol. These people have not CONTROLLED anything. For example, in NYS under the campaign for educational equity, spending for the NYC public schools has gone from about 12 to about 22 billion dollars per year. The results have been absolutely dismal. Standards and curricula in every subject have been dumbed down to the level of moronic stupidity. And 70% of the "students" still can't pass the tests and are unprepared for college.
The common core standards are more big government crap. It should work fine. Just like the other parts of big government.
By the way, this is your cousin Bill Saffern. And, as you know, I was a high school teacher in the NYC school system for over 25 years.
To Peter (and others of similar temperament),I find the charge of some corporate desire to defund and dismantle the schools totally unconvincing.

I would love to see even an atom of evidence any corporation thinks it will get more money if tax dollars to schools are reduced. If taxes for schools go down, taxpayers will have a bit more money to spend and schools a bit less. Total spending on things that corporations sell will stay steady. As to corporate taxes, specifically, they are unlikely to be affected at all, since most school money comes from local property taxes and other state taxes.

Of course, this assumes the corporations are in fact pushing policies that will reduce taxes and spending on schools. As far as Common Core is concerned, it is a very complex and expensive movement. Schools are under pressure to toughen up the curriculum (whether in good ways or bad, we can argue). Either way it will cost more money, not less. As to charter schools, vouchers, etc., they too cost money. Again, we are talking about a redirection of funds from one set of schools to another. They all have to buy books, pay teachers, and provide heat and light. Zero sum as far as corporations go, unless you think the marginal savings on cheaper charter schools might go to corporations, but then I do not see how given the tax structure of school finance. (I suppose textbook companies could benefit from Common Core -- Pearson, etc., but they already benefit mightily from the system we have. In either case, they want schools to have MORE money, not less.)

As much as your theory gives both right and left the same thrill of standing up to the powers that be, I cannot see a bit of sense in it. I can see why corporations very much want to see a better educated workforce. And not out of the goodness of their hearts. Is there something wrong with that?

Finally, I have to compliment you on nicely summing up what seems to be the argumentation style of our age - Stern is either stupid or venal. That's convincing.
Thomas Sowell, in his Book 'Education in America", pointed out that teachers overwhelmingly came from the bottom QUINTILE (1/5th) of their undergraduate classes.

That's more and more evident every day.

Folks such as Peggy Anderson are a good example, albeit it doesn't mean much anymore with grade inflation.
As a retired educator, I would assume that Ms. Ravitch's opinion changed as the education climate in our country changed. What is happening to public education today is very different from when I began teaching in 1974. I, too, am appalled by the corporate takeover of public education, and there are tens of thousands of educators who agree with me. I applaud Ms. Ravitch for being willing to raise the alarm before it is too late for this generation of students. Parents need to know what is really going on and why, and books like hers will help get that word out.
Anybody who thinks current education "reform" has anything to do with left or right, liberal or conservative, is either a fool, or selling something.

The current reform movement is about dismantling public education so that tax dollars can be redirected from public schools to private corporations. Ravitch gets that. Stern either doesn't get it, or would prefer that other people don't catch on.
well, it is clear where the author's loyalties are rooted...."school choice" equals privatization, and the destruction the our schools, and the profession of teaching....follow the money, follow the history of authors before you believe anything they say....
I'm shocked at your slim knowledge of the CC curricula. The early grade social studies curriculum Ravitch ranted about is actually spot on. It's asinine. Have you even perused it? Tell me the last time you has a meaningful tete a tete with a six year old over the importance of canals to Mesopotamia's economy, or the value of ziggurats and the nuances of the Code of Hamurabbi.
Do yourself some good ... peruse the new CC mathematics. Tell me in all honesty if YOU can even follow the mathematical swerves second and third graders are to master? These jewels were devised by out-of-classroom wish-thinkers who are so disconnected from classroom reality that I'm at a loss to even explain.
Have you even bothered to question master teachers about such developments? It seems you're most confutable quacking from a perch far away from the reality of a classroom. Educate yourself first. Good things will follow.
"how, exactly, the adoption of standards benefits privatization remains fuzzy"

A saleswoman for Pearson spoke at our school district to tell us about the ELA curriculum our district had just purchased. One of the authors of the Common Core State Standards had helped design the Pearson product.

The adoption of the CCSS helped benefit Pearson.

See Alan Singer's article, "Pearson Rakes in the Profit," Huffington Post, March 19, 2013.

Diane has moved into the easier, softer way of thinking and acting. Considering the left control the educational system she has found a willing audience of mindless, low information folks willing to drink her Kool-Aide. Ask any family that attends KIPP, Green-Dot or other charter schools and tell them it doesn't work. Diane and totally forgotten what Third Ward and Sunnyside areas of Houston are like.

Jimmy Kilpatrick
What I find most perplexing about Diane Ravitch's changes of mind is not the changes themselves. People do change their views. And it is not as if Chester Finn, Fordham, Bill Gates or Arne Duncan are always right - or that she was herself, in her very long conservative phase. It's that these are clearly decent, thoughtful people, as she was. Yet she now appears profoundly angry and contemptuous of them, depicting them (every time I have seen, in any case) as dupes or malevolent advocates of a reactionary corporate-controlled drive to destroy public education. Which means to some degree she has to be contemptuous of herself as well. And of her readers - given what a public leadership role she has played. It is very unfortunate that she does not seem to feel some obligation to account for her own past views to people who took her seriously and were guided by her insights. Instead, her bitterness toward her long-time past allies and now opponents seems palpable(apparently she has tweeted on this piece "Sol was a friend but paid by rightwing belief tank to attack me.")

Aside from any personal reasons for her bitterness, which I can't even speculate about, it also seems to be of a piece with the sort of paranoid ranting now all too common not only on the left where she appears now to reside, but on the right as well. To take one example, among her new allies in her contempt for the Common Core is the apoplectic Glen Beck, whose contempt for those with whom he disagrees knows no bounds at all. For him, Common Core is a communist plot designed by intentionally deceptive and evil people, and no nuance tempers that view at all. From what I have seen and in this article by Stern, Ravitch seems to mimic this same ranting style. I think Diane Ravitch owes it to herself to reconcile these two at-war phases of herself. If she won't do that in a spirit of respect and empathy, she will be ending her career in a very bad way - for herself and for us all, even for her new "friends" who are so ready to embrace her and use her.
Let's be real here. There's nothing inherently wrong with the public schools for the majority of Americans. White and Asian Americans score competitively against their foreign peers.

The "problem" with public schools is with the herculean efforts expended to bring Blacks and Hispanics to some level of competitiveness with Whites and Asians.

I think Diane realizes this and is right to object to people throwing around money, theories and policies that threaten public education. Teachers aren't the problem. School competition won't miraculously raise Black test scores on average.

The main difference between public and private schools is that private schools aren't forced to educate incorrigible students.
It is interesting to see the progression of a historian and a movement. Ravitch began as a decent , well-meaning critic of education and its problems and published some of her best work in he 80's and 90's, she was critical of both the structure of schooling (a massive impediment to school change) and its continual reform after reform after reform. What has happened I think is two things: (1) the U.S. school system has not been amenable to the sort of easy-going change Ravitch has described, and in most cases, change at all has been blocked by the unions and their allies. There has also not been the kind of increases in achievement scores that were predicted as a result of reform.

Thus there has a risen movements outside of teacher/union control that are determined one way or another to alter the dynamic in schools. This is why teachers nowadays (and Ravitch) sound so defensive and angry- they are up against a wall).
Politicians want to change things but the teachers don't want to give up any perks or benefits-witness this summer's Chicago school strike.
To admit that maybe some of the idea that you suggested (and I have read her Teachers College Press material) did not adequately address the problem, and to boot, made no difference in how the U.S. school system developed is one thing... but her anger can only be understood as anger at other kinds of school reform that are not Progressive in a political nature. This in turn, reflects one of the fundamental flaws of the U.S. school system- its inability to break free from the political system that in turn defines it.
Ravitch is a good example of that-from a Progressive point of view.
What about the fact that the single greatest predictor of a child's sucess in school is how many books the family owns. But of course why would anyone want to make a child's family responsible. Just keep throwing money at the problem and come up with new programs that don't work and nobody understands. Seems to have worked great so far.
Education policy lurches left and right, and up and down, and circles back on itself. Over my 35 years as a teacher, the students did not benefit from fads and curriculum rewrites, but from talented, committed, well-trained, experienced teachers, and suffered at the hands of hucksters, administration ladder-climbers, fakes, and incompetents who stand in front of to many classrooms.
PS - Thank John Dewey and Horace Mann for the current state of public education in America.
"The United States already ranks first in the world in K12 education spending." The city of Atlanta outspends President Obama's private school in Hawaii on a per student basis with mortifying results. Enough said.
We are seeing "privatization" of Special Education schools here in New Jersey.

The big impact is that cost/year/pupil goes from $43,000 up to $95,000 for essentially the same level of service.

It's a scam. The "privatized" operations will take the extra money from the school boards while public schools that have served for decades are shut down. We expect the school buildings to be sold off to insiders for peanuts.

If the scamsters could sell the teachers and aides off into slavery, why not?
destructive radicals of the education Left!
who has created schools with no recess, high stakes testing for six and seven year olds,
hours of homework for kids...none of which have moved the needle on achievement anyway.
Its disgusting that corporate interests hide behind the rhetoric of "improving' "failing' schools and all that blather. Schools fail because communities are failing and families are dysfunctional and the problems are complex. But bringing in for-profit education and corporations is only going to make things worse. Bravo Diane!
There could never be a group of wealthy individuals motivated to control the educational system for their own benefit and desires. There is not benefit in selling chapter books rather than the whole novel is there or crafting the thinking of your future market? Next you'll be casting doubt on the medical and pharmaceutical industries.
Public schools are a joke. High school graduates don't know in what century our civil war was fought, can't find Miami on a map, and wouldn't know Pythagoras's theorem from a Big Mac.

Teachers vary in their abilities, but, because the teacher-certification process relies on stylized praxis rather than actual grasp of subject matter, relatively few have first-hand knowledge of the subjects they teach. (Imagine someone who has read up on Obamacare as the basis for their alleged proficiency, then performing brain surgery.)

The system is cemented in place by hare-brained education doctrines initiated by Dewey, the Roosevelts, and others who essentially did not want an educated electorate. They have gotten their wish, even as teachers, administrators, and the all-powerful federal government, which now dictates education policy down to the school-board level, continue to "dumb down" the curriculum. ("Common Core" has its centerpiece math theories which are nothing short of bizarre, and "cursive" is about to be eliminated altogether so that pupils can only communicate vocally or through a keyboard!)

1984 is truly at hand. And I think it's too late to change course.
Another screwball who doesn't understand that the key to a good education is two involved parents...period. If people don't like the school system they can home school -in the mean time how about expaining how it is that parents from cultures that stress staying together and education do well no matter how much money is spent and in all curcumstances?

All people like this do is distract from the real problem with education - the cultural forces that lead to children growing up withoutfathers, in families where there is little or no stress on education. No amount of money is going to improve schools in a neighborhood full of single moms, where education isn't a high priority, or where mothers simply can't compete against cultural forces, in the media or elsewhere, that go against getting an education. And when will people realize that children aren't helped by early education so much as they are destroyed by high schools where the peer pressure is to fail, not succeed?

Jeez, those like Ravitch drive me crazy - they think they have all the answers but are just blind to relaity. Did this woman even raise children? It is mazing that someone who purports to know so much knows so little!

Of all the stupidity in the world nothing is more frustrating than the refusal to see that education begins and ends with parents, that they are the basis of the educational system. Isn't anyone even curious as to why children raised in Asian families (and formely in Jewsih families) do well? And that children raised by singlemothers don't? Isn't that worth an examination, and support for the methods used?

Foolish foolish woman!
Forget the politics and get down to reality... My daughter has a Masters degree and has done doctoral work from a top ranked university. She left a very lucrative career in Autism research to teach in a 3rd grade inner city class of 100% minority children who all receive free and reduced lunch. Their scores at the beginning of this year were extremely low - most were not reading at a 1st grade level and most could not add single digits without drawing out figures - very sad... Most of these children have extremely difficult home lives and do not come to school fed or ready to learn. The task she has been given is almost insurmountable... Against the current curriculum design and wishes of her administration, she has gone back to basic rote teaching in reading and math. Her students are doing rote memory drills of single digit adding, subtraction, and multiplication tables. She gives timed math tests every morning. She is teaching carrying and borrowing for addition and subtraction which is also counter to her curriculum. Over the past month, her students have improved dramatically in math. She tells me English and vocabulary skills are much more difficult to teach. She has a 2 hour block of reading and writing every day and has grouped her children into leveled reading groups which is also not politically correct. She has set up a library system in her room with hundreds of paperback books she bought at Thrift stores. Each book is leveled so that students can move up levels as they progress. She requires 2 book reports per week from her students. She tutors her lowest performing children 3 times a week after school for 2 hours in groups of 5. It is brutal work and requires high intelligence, creativity, and perseverance to teach in an inner city school. She has 18 children in her class and 0nly one parent came to open house so she invited the entire class and their parents to a BBQ at her home. Thirteen families came and stayed for 4 hours. She was reprimanded by her administration for hosting this BBQ because of school district insurance liability... She tells me that many of the teachers in her school cannot even model proper English for their students and most of the teachers leave by 3:30 p.m. My daughter works 14-16 hours per day. She feels guilty that she has not done much teaching of science and history, but she tells me that if her kids can't read, write, and do basic math, that they'll end up in prison...The situation in inner city schools is dire....My daughter is paid $38,000 per year....
Intriguing article, well argued and persuasive. Must have read a different essay than most of the rest of the posters.
Why would big money and corporate America need to destroy the public schools when the Teachers, teacher colleges, and the government have done such a fine job of destroying them?
The Manhattan Institute doesn't like people that disagree with the Manhattan Institute. News at 11.

This attack's presumptions are amazing both about education and how the economy works. Pathetic.
Greg Z's most articulate post below demonstrates the passions involved in this fight. Progressives have worked avidly to control the American education system for two generations, much to the detriment of those generations. The right has finally responded. We are now in an existential battle.

As a teacher in NC, there is nothing positive I can say about how the right-wing reforms are being carried out--the GOP assembly is fighting a bogey-man that does not exist in this state, as there is no teachers' union here and we are among the lowest paid teachers in the country.

That said, the author's obvious support for the Hirsch curriculum is well placed, as is his scorn for Ms. Ravitch's turn-about.

It is a shame because I once considered myself among her followers.
I appreciated your overview of the person and of the issues. Previously, When I heard Diane ravitch on a local radio station, and did not know who she was, I assumed she was hired by the teacher's union to advance their cause. The issues are far more complicated than she argues for, and we must try new approaches to improve our educational system. The current system is placing the students and our country at a competitive disadvantage
What Tina Trent said. Although I'd add that it is a tragedy that the children of the US are caught in a power struggle between people like Diane Ravitch and Sol Stern who want to destroy their futures with their plans, neither of which have any chance of succeeding. Shame on both of them.
Capitalist-type reforms don't work well for people who aren't good at capitalism. The children who would benefit from choice already have parents who voted with their feet to live where the schools are good. Schools are declining for s simple reason -- the inverse correlation between women's educational attainment and fecundity. The bad schools are the ones whose parents' wouldn't help by getting more involved.
There was a less critical piece on Ravitch's change in position in The Atlantic recently. The key point I took from it, though the article didn't emphasize it as heavily as I thought it warranted, was that Ravitch has mainly realized the basic fact of American education: middle class students are doing pretty well, but there's basically nothing the education system can do to fix the problems which make many inner city kids basically uneducatable. Charter schools (aside from the profit/non-profit controversy) mainly just remove from the public schools the kids in those areas for whom there's any hope, and make the situation in the public schools that much more impossible.
Or to look at it another way it depends what you mean by 'education reform'. To a lot of people that really means reducing the big achievement gap between black/Hispanic students on one hand and white/Asian on the other. But that problem doesn't necessarily have a solution.
To most average people OTOH, 'education reform' means better education for *their* kids. But those people are in general now and always have been talking past professional education reformers who are mainly concerned with the first problem.
Education today is all about power-unions,tenure,cental govt control,diversity-(read division),and creating voters fo dependence-type rule. CHECK THE NUMBERS OF ADMINISTRATIVE JOBS IN OUR UNIVERSITIES. Sadly and almost criminally,our minority children,esp black students--suffer the most. Pardon my mistakes, am trying to be brief. Lets avoid personal attacks; look at policy and results.
Crucial products and services do not spring fully formed from the brilliance of an academic or commission. They come from hundreds of small innovations contributed by hundreds of players over many years. The market is needed to apolitically sort through all the hucksterism and hype and reward the the bundles of technique and capital that truly work.

And this is why vouchers are a flawed reform:
there is no cost to consumers. People behave very differently when they get something free. They demand frills, they don't shop around as much and they don't look for cheaper substitutes. Markets with no cost at the point of consumption drive massive waste and inflation. This is why our largely if sloppily "voucherized" college market has seen fourfold cost increases for no gains in attainment.

Free education or healthcare or food or Mighty Morphin Power Rangers lead inevitably to unaffordable education, food, etc. We need to build a real education market where the consumers confront real costs (and price competition at the point of consumption.
Brilliant. Vintage Sol Stern. She has really disappointed me.

Bill Donohue
Catholic League
nothing prevents a mentally ill woman from her loony brand of advocacy. never mind that the only real sufferers are the children, doomed to an incompetent education, poor skills, poor employment prospects, a poor life. but as long as ravitch and her progressive loons are proud of themselves, that's what's really important, isn't it?
"the nations public schools, the indispensable institution that has held our republic together for more than two centuries."

Yes, who could doubt the indispensable nature of the public education system? After all, every last signatory to the Declaration of Independence was a product of the public education system so this nation wouldn't exist without the bountiful benefits of a political institution that preceded the existence of the political system that spawned it.

Mr.Stern, if you're going to make up facts to suit your politics please have the good sense to bury those manufactured facts somewhere deep in the article. The public education system's hardly indispensable to the maintenance of the republic since we didn't have a public education system in its current form, as the political victor over other ideas, until the late nineteenth century. The republic got on pretty well without the indispensable public education system for the first century and the nation emerged and was established without that indispensable institution.

As for Ravitch, her notoriety springs less from worthwhile ideas then from an iconoclasm that at the time was quite thrilling and even required a bit of courage. She's coasting on the momentum she established hawking her iconoclasm and wouldn't have much input to the current debate without her historical criticism of the public education system. That's what makes her attractive to those dependent on the current system.

But that iconoclasm is a wasting asset and as Ms. Ravitch's contentless and borderline vulgar defense of the current system calls attention to her interchangeability with every other contentless and borderline vulgar defender of the current system her stock will drop. Ms. Ravitch is simply getting while the getting's good.
Thank you very much for this educational expose about the struggle for control of public school education.

I would like to point out, however, that your paragraph about whether or not poor families could find solace in Ravitch's desire to have poetry read to her grandchildren or looking at the stars, being nice to one another and to animals, makes any sense.

Also, you make reference to disadvantaged children in your penultimate paragraph.

I think, if you wanted to make a point about money, that poor people could benefit more from the Common Core program, do so without making it a side issue.

Additionally, I think that the national government has absolutely no place whatsoever in the education of the individual resident of any state. I do not think there need be any financial support for any school anywhere by the national government in these United States.

In my mind, education of the citizenry is the civic duty of every community, and the curriculum of reading, writing and arithmetic should be the purview of said local communities.

All this chatter about core curriculum and education spending is a red herring, the central issue being who controls what is taught to the children in the schools, what the subject actually is, how much money there will be to spread around, and who controls that money.

Abe Lincoln was well educated, reading by candlelight, what books? Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Euclid, Virgil, Plutarch, and so on. So what if these are the "dead white males?" Probably not white, either, for that part.

To say teaching from that group is white supremacist, ie racist, is idiotic! Who cares where the foundation for some of the greatest thinking recorded by man, still extant, came from? Add the teachings of the American Indian, thinkers from the Indian Subcontinent of Asia, from China, all human thought is important to learn from.

But start simple, with paper and pencils, and get the computers out of elementary school classrooms and libraries. Just think of all the money that could be saved! It is a fact that reading and writing are the true harbingers of a literate society. An educated society.

But, whatever one's position, it seems that what is simple and better is not synonymous with the fight for control of today's classrooms in the United States of America, where ideology and money seem to be the prevailing issues.
Mitchell McConnell October 03, 2013 at 2:58 AM
As the saying goes "cherchez la monnaie". That is all the myriad struggles around education are about.
The amusing thing is that the proof is always in the pudding. If one claims to be able to teach, but everyone can see that the children are not learning the basics, then the taxpayers are going to demand standardized testing to find out which teachers cannot do *what they claim to be able to do*!

Arguments about the curriculum are also fake. While there are many things that the modern world requires knowledge of that are new (computers and technology), it seems like the things most people are concerned about (reading, writing, and arithmetic) have *not* changed. Look at what children were able to accomplish in terms of those subjects 100 years ago versus today.

It is too bad that Ms. Ravitch has succumbed to the pressure, but I am sure it is tremendous in her field. Humans literally cannot stand to be put outside the camp, so they will bend, change, and prevaricate to stay in the in-group.
No matter what her changes of mind, she always seems to end up on top.
As a teacher of special Ed urban low income family students, I cannot find ONE thing about the lofty common core standards that does not setup most of my students to fail. it takes a village to raise a child, but what happens when a majority of the village are children themselves and cannot take care of themselves let alone the latest newcomer? Ravitch is not in denial about this, unlike the author of this piece
While it is true that smaller class size, after-school programs, school health and nutrition programs, and pre-kindergarten would cost billions, it is ridiculous to label this as pie-in-the sky. This is the nearly the education system that we boomers grew up with. We had small class size, health and nutrition programs, and a vast array of after school programs (sports, theater, debate, student congress,...). Furthermore, the public resources are there. The overall US government's military-related budget is now between $1 - 1.2 trillion/year. Why not transfer 10 percent of this treasure to the Department of Education to fund these no-so-pie-in-the-sky educational enhancements?
Diane Ravitch seems to be typical of a sort of liberal experimenter who follows trends closely enough to almost be a part of them. Our educational system fell apart in the 60's when social experimentation took the helm and steered us away from seriously educating and preparing children in our public schools. My brother was a victim of Denver busing is an example. The emphasis has been on equality including mainstreaming special needs childen into regular class rooms with teacher's who already are pressed to teach the healthy one. American children in fourth grade cannot read a fourth grade primer used in the 1800's. Teacher's now are products of these systems. Home schooling and alternative public schools have proven to be
successful and are the bane of Ravitch and her sort who believe that competing successful systems undermine their dubious experiments.
This article exhibits close-mindedness, not Diane Ravitch. In contrast, Ravitch consistently has shown open-mindedness in her willingness to be part of natural experiments and in her ability to reject or accept hypotheses as the data reveal.

More importantly, Ravitch has consistently promoted better education for all students. And while promoting better education certainly presents opportunities for the private sector, it is not just another market to conquer and exploit.
Diane Ravitch has always been motivated by her concern for kids. Whether you agree with her or not you have to give her credit for the sincerity of her convictions. I have always been skeptical of the privatization of our public schools and the charter school movement. I have intimate first hand knowledge as to how some charter schools operate, how they mistreat and exploit young teachers , how they treat at risk students like hot potatoes so they can "cook the books" to appear more effective than they are. Ravitch as showed that most Charter schools are not better than public schools and many are worse. There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical of school reform imposed from without on state and local governments. Perhaps Ravitch sees something that others do not. Perhaps talking to thousands of classroom teachers has made her change her mind.
Have Common Core and Core Knowledge officially replaced union busting as the can't-miss educational reform that all sensible people must agree with?

P.S. Those Captcha's are really hard to read.
Looks like the posters got this one right. The author above is close-minded. Diane Ravitch is open-minded. Signed, a Texas conservative.
Sorry, your hit piece isn't going to work. The evidence Ravitch presents is overwhelming and devastating, and the corporate "reforms" associated with Race to the Flop are such complete failures that this type of propaganda cannot strike a nerve with anyone who has even passing acquaintance of her.

And changing one's position in the face of new information evinces an active mind, not a closed mind.
I have no brief for fellow-travellers of the terrorist Ayers.

But Stern's contempt for anyone who opposes the Common Core program is no different in tone from the Ravitch arguments (blog posts, really?) he condemns.

Sol Stern also seem naive -- willfully or not -- to the bedrock political reality grounding Common Core: it is an illicit transfer of power from the states to the federal Department of Education. Worse, this takeover is being enacted deceptively. Claims about "testing not curriculum" being the only federal bailiwick are disingenuous: the DOE is already channeling curriculum materials to the states (not the Hirsch curriculum), and at every step, the mechanisms of decision-making are being removed from local control and transferred to unelected, unaccountable private foundations, centrally Gates'.

Stern is demanding that we accept the intentions of the DOE based on a book he once wrote about traditional education. I am a proponent of traditional education, but that is not what Common Core has morphed into already, with its massive tracking protocols, "emotional intelligence" emphasis, "student centered learning," and every other creepy leftist re-education invention piled in. In fact, it resembles nothing so much as the "school reforms" of the leftist/Maoist radicals he denounces here.

While well-connected intellectuals like Stern may feel that they can control the implementation of the program in their own cities, that in no way legitimates the power transfer itself there or elsewhere -- and what Stern imagines he is implementing in New York will likely be hollowed out and replaced with the same claptrap being imposed elsewhere as soon as the power transfer is complete. That's the realpolitik of such things.

And given what we've seen of the standards to date, I do not comprehend how Mr. Stern can continue to claim that the Hirsch curriculum is what is being implemented in the name of Common Core anywhere but in his own backyard.

So let's start having a real conversation about the politics of Common Core, instead of imagining that good arguments for "strong content knowledge" will prevail over political realities -- realities such as the fact that the DOE is in the hands of people who strongly share and whole cloth endorse Bill Ayers' vision of education reform, namely Obama and Arne Duncan.

If Stern wants to implement change in New York City schools, good luck to him. That doesn't justify imposing a radical power transfer elsewhere. Nor does it justify brushing off legitimate criticisms instead of addressing them ("valid criticisms have been made"), or pooh-pooing them because of the source ("angry insurgent army" etc.). We are far beyond Stern's vision of a content-rich traditional curriculum. He needs to open his eyes or explain why, precisely, he is choosing to keep them squeezed shut.

So to the author, an expert whose views on her life's work have evolved based on decades of experience is closed-minded. A closed-minded person is someone who changes her positions based on new information.

That about right?
What I miss in this piece is the voice of Diane Ravitch herself. A intellectual, a teaching and researching professor who changed her opinions in the course of events or through changing insights. Who better then Ravitch herself would be able to explain her motives? To be honest, I cannot consider a written portrait of this length that does not have the intention to discuss Ravitch's opinions but to only criticize her without offering the possibility to defend herself as a form of journalism that fits your magazine.