Forgive a moment of exultation. That’s the moment when the first hardcover copy of your book arrives, and you know it is real. And it has a beautiful handwritten note from a great editor.
The editor for “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” was Victoria Wilson. She is probably, no, certainly, the best editor in American publishing today. She has been an editor at Knopf for more than 40 years. She bought the book for Knopf, and she oversaw every detail of its production, including the typeface and the jacket design. She is a product of public education, and she immediately understood the importance of the subject.
I am more than thrilled that Knopf is publishing the book. It published the books of my mentor Lawrence A. Cremin, the great historian of American education, as well as the classic works of Richard Hofstadter. Knopf also published my 2003 book, “The Language Police.”
The cover is a vivid orange. As I put it on my bookshelf, where my books are arranged in chronological order, I noticed something amusing. My very first book, “The Great School Wars: New York City, 1805-1973,” used orange on the jacket also, but not as a background color. Beginning and end.
What I try to do in this book is to set the record straight about the condition of American education. i have chapters and graphs presenting the evidence about test scores, high school graduation rates, college graduation rates, and international test scores, as well as chapters on the nature of the privatization movement, the rhetoric it uses, and its goals. I go beyond the delineation of the false narrative of decline to offer a full palate of research-based, evidence-based proposals to improve schools and the conditions in which children grow up. School and society are intertwined. I do not claim, as some critics allege, that poverty is the sole cause of poor test scores. I believe we must improve schools and do lots more to improve the lives of children and families. If we ignore poverty, all our school reform efforts will fail.
If I am an optimist, it is because I believe in the promise of America. I believe that Ponzi schemes and scare tactics ultimately fail. Bad ideas fail and fail, and at some point their failure becomes too obvious to ignore. I trust in the common sense of the American people. They will not knowingly abandon their public schools to the whims and follies of the market. The market goes up, the market goes down. The market has winners and losers. The principle of American education is equality of educational opportunity, not a market that practices risk management and sheds the losers from its portfolio.
It is my goal to provide people with the knowledge they need to support the children, the families, and the schools of their community.