Archives for the month of: September, 2013

Reader Gordon Wilder wonders why we lost sight of the
purpose of education: “My view: People have forgotten what real
education is about, the search for ultimate values: good, truth,
beauty. To value integrity, love etc. It is searching out the best
ideas of humanities greatest minds, greatest teachers. It is NOT
about passing test scores. When this first came out – the “nation
at risk” era, we laughed. Pretty soon they will be having classes
on how to pass tests. That is not funny anymore. It is reality. Has
the era of corporate leadership which took us to the brink of
worldwide financial collapse, within hours, the panacea for our
problems. Is it that we are not producing enough scientists and
mathematicians or that 50% of marriages – when they occur – are
collapsing, that 23% of our children live in poverty, that our
health care is amongst the worst in the world, ad nauseum. How do
we view our children, as objects, widgets, into which we pour
government – corporate – approved facts or as human beings to reach
their highest potential as human beings? How do we define
education? Who defines it, scholars and educators or politicians?
What yardstick do we use to measure success, test scores, or lives
lived to their fullest?”

This is one of the
funniest satires of current education thinking
that I
have read in a long time. It was written by Russ Walsh of Rider
University. Russ describes the development of a new assessment
program for toddlers, to determine if they are career-and -college
ready The acronym for the new program is TIT for TAT. No experts in
early childhood education were involved in developing the new
assessments. They were annoying. They asked too many questions.
Read and enjoy!

Jersey Jazzman wonders why I have not been invited to appear on any of the national television shows, not only because I represent a challenge to the status quo but because my new book. Published September 17, will appear as #10 on the Néw Uork Times bestseller list next week.

The good news is that I received an invitation to appear on the Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show next Friday October 4.

Still hoping for an invitation to The Daily Show, as I love Jon Stewart.

Rachel Maddow is a puzzle.

The fact is that most Americans get their news from television.

I will keep hoping that the national media will give me a chance, not equal time, but a chance to refute the status quo that is harming our children and educators.

When the news gets out that the corporate reformers’
narrative and their signature line are false, their crusade to turn schooling
into a marketplace loses its rationale. Here is a review
of “Reign of Error” by columnist/editorial writer Robyn E. Blumner
of the Tampa Bay Times.
What if our schools aren’t
failing? What if Jeb Bush and his minions are wrong?

What if the cause of low test scores really is poverty?
Then the reformers’ pursuit of the “bad teacher” is a great distraction from the biggest problems of our day.

What if we require new thinking by those who have
economic, social, and political power? What if blaming teachers
hurts kids?

The tiny sound you just heard was another card dropping
out of the House of Cards. Maybe it was a card holding up the whole phony

Jonathan Lovell noticed that several critics of “Reign of Error” have attacked me, instead of engaging the issues I raise in the book. Jonathan teaches writing at San Jose State. He sent me this couplet, written by Alexander Pope:

“Yes, I am proud; I must be proud to see
Men, not afraid of God, afraid of me.”

After I met him in Berkeley on Saturday night, he wrote as follows:

“The Alexander Pope couplet is from the verse epistles he wrote in 1738 towards the end of his life, in imitation of Horace, and in which he positions himself as a voice of public consciousness–a voice that he felt was utterly lacking in the political figures of his day. His voice and stance reminded me so much of you! Here’s a sample of the lines leading up to that couplet:

Ask you what provocation I have had?
The strong antipathy of good to bad. 370
When Truth or Virtue an affront endures,
Th’ affront is mine, my friend, and should be yours.
Mine, as a foe profess’d to false pretense,
Who think a coxcomb’s honour like his sense;
Mine, as a friend to ev’ry worthy mind; 375
And mine as man, who feel for all mankind.
F. You ’re strangely proud.
P. So proud, I am no slave;
So impudent, I own myself no knave;
So odd, my country’s ruin makes me grave.
Yes, I am proud; I must be proud to see 380
Men, not afraid of God, afraid of me.

“I especially like the lines “When Truth or Virtue an affront endures,/Th’ affront is mine, my friend, and should be yours.” Those lines, as they say, have your name written all over them.”

Jonathan Lovell has his own blog.

This is an excerpt from one of his most popular posts:

“My point is to demonstrate that we can all deliberately and systematically draw on the various ways we know our kids are smart. That is, we can draw on their various talents as readers, listeners, responders to and shapers of their world. In doing so, we can not only speak out but “teach out” against practices and policies that we know are damaging our students, preventing them from experiencing themselves as the diversely talented group of individuals that, in our heart of hearts, we know them to be.

And in light of what is sure to be a tidal wave of curriculum materials purporting to “raise students’ scores” on the 2015 CCS assessments, I propose the adoption of the following resolution:

WHEREAS every large scale study over the past 30 years of income level in relation to student achievement has shown a compelling correlation between the two, and

WHEREAS the percentage of students in poverty in our nation’s schools has grown steadily and persistently over the past 39 years, and

WHEREAS the present levels of income inequality in our nation can be related directly to conscious public policy,


That the Common Core Standards; individual schools that “beat the odds”; Teach for America Interns whose students “outperform” those of traditionally credentialed teachers; and all such apparent instances of an anticipated “Revolution in American Education”

Be understood for what they are: seductive distractions from the ONE ISSUE we must face as a nation if “school improvement” is to be anything more than an instance of sentimental romanticism–the shameful growth in income disparity between our poorest and wealthiest citizens.”

After an internal investigation raised questions about the actions of Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles, the school board will have a closed meeting on September 30 to decide whether to discipline him. Miles is a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. Stay tuned.

This is a stirring, eloquent poem at a
slam in Boston, by a young man whose sister teaches new immigrant
children. After one year in a new country, they must take
standardized tests in English. If they fail, their teachers fail.
This is madness. Listen for three minutes and hear his vivid
imagery of cruel Federsl policy

Some governors and legislatures look on Teach for America
as a way to save money, because most leave after two or three years
at the bottom of the salary structure and never collect a pension.

This teacher has a suggestion for them:

“Governors who feel 1 and 2 year turnover of Teach for America teachers is the way to
excellence should resign after 2 years to let someone else take over.”

Jeff Bryant locates
Reign of Error within the context
of a coming “education
spring,” a growing grassroots rebellion against a failing corporate
reform movement. Parents, students, educators, and citizens are
fighting back and winning, often in unexpected places, like Texas.
The mask is falling away from the faux “reform” movement, whose
main effect has been to demoralize teachers and impose a regime of
oppressive testing on children that has no purpose other than to
grade their teachers. The public is beginning to see the light. The
reformers’ house of cards is looking shaky. Yes, spring is coming,
and not a moment to soon. Bryant writes: Ravitch dispels
bromides of the reform movement – that public education is a
systemic failure, that American schools have made little progress
over the years, and that market-based approaches relying on test
scores will save the day – with fact-based
But it would be a mistake to
discount Ravitch as a purveyor of negativism. Like the voices from
the masses behind the Education Spring, Ravitch makes a clear call
for expanding opportunities in areas that really matter for schools
and students.
Her eleven “solutions” for real
school improvement derive from what we already know works: better
care and education in the early years, essentials such as a
well-rounded curriculum and small class sizes, attention to
non-academic needs of students, and policies that support teachers
and schools and unite communities, students, and parents behind
education as a common good.
No doubt Ravitch’s
words will become part of the rallying cries of people everywhere
who continue to call for the schools our students deserve. And the
Education Spring – a movement that truly is for all seasons – will
not stop.


I thought you might find these back-to-back interviews interesting. I am wearing the same clothes because the tapings occurred only minutes apart. The other thing you might notice if you see my lectures or appearances on YouTube is that I am almost always wearing the same jacket but usually in different colors. When I find something I like, I stick with it. I will never make the list of America’s Best Dressed Women. You may notice that this is a title I do not covet. I want to be comfortable. My favorite outfit consists of jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers, but that is not appropriate for television or lectures. So ignore the outfit and listen to the conversation.

A very wise scholar of American media and politics, Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution, once told me an axiom that I have cherished for 25 years: “On radio, no one knows what you wore, on television no one knows what you said.” I don’t know if that is true but I admit that it is irksome when someone says after a TV appearance: “I can’t believe you wore those shoes” or “your lipstick was not the right color” or “not that jacket again!”

Proving Steve Hess was right.

So here is my interview with the great Errol Louis. We talked about the book and also the implications of the recent mayoral election for education in New York City.

And this interview with veteran New York Times writer Sam Roberts was interesting for a different reason, having nothing to do with my green jacket. Sam, whom I respect for his wisdom and experience, had in his hand a not-yet-available copy of New York Times Book Review containing the review of my book. Not even my editor had seen it. I had no idea who would be assigned to review the book. I hoped for the best and expected the worst. When Sam told me on air that the book was reviewed by Jonathan Kozol. I almost fell off my chair. I haven’t watched the interview yet, I hardly ever do (I don’t want to start critiquing my hair, my posture, my lipstick, etc.), but I want to see this one to see the look on my face. I know how I was feeling.(Wow! Wow! Just wow!)