The blog of The Assailed Teacher offers one of the best,
thoughtful reviews
of the book I have read. The
writer is a history teacher and demonstrates the care and concern for context
that typifies the best historical thinking. First, he describes the books I wrote previous to “Reign of Error” and previous to my abandonment of the nostrums of the right.

Thankfully, he recognizes that my historical works prior to 2010 were not political tracts. “The
Great School Wars” (1974) was a history of the great controversies
that shaped the New York City public schools. “Left Back” ((2000)
was a history of battles over the curriculum. He doesn’t mention
it, but my 2003 book, “The Language Police” was an analysis of the
way that pressure groups of the left and the right were censoring
tests and textbooks. Although I was part of rightwing think tanks
at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in D.C. and the Hoover
Institution in California, my books were nonpartisan.

The Assailed Teacher then analyzes some of the unfriendly reviews of the book
and shows how they distort my plain language in “Reign of Error.”

He concludes:

“What Diane Ravitch has accomplished in Reign of
Error is a distillation of everything that is wrong with what has
been dubbed education reform. All of the facts and arguments are
laid out in plain language backed up with compelling evidence, or
“data”, as the reformers love to say. She has hoist the reformers
with their own petard by measuring their failures with the same
yardstick with which they have been measuring public schools: test
scores. In 100 or 200 years, Reign of Error will be an invaluable
primary source about this episode in America’s educational history.
She has rolled up into one convenient book the spirit of our
educational times. This is why the criticisms of Reign of Error
that have been proffered impotently melt away when one starts
analyzing them. Their view is to push a narrow agenda now. Ravitch
obviously wrote this book with one eye on the long view of things,
both the history of the past and the history of now that has yet to
be written.

“Just like Diane Ravitch helped me construct my view of
American schooling almost 10 years ago, she has helped deconstruct
what education reform is about. Moreover, she has pointed the way
towards how to reconstruct our public schools.”

If any self-dubbed reformer tries to get under my skin with barbed words, I will
reread the Assailed Teacher and remind myself that historians write
for the long term, not the moment. They deconstruct the issues of
the day and try to put them into context. If they succeed, their
words survive. If they don’t, they are soon forgotten. The virtue
of studying history is that we are constantly reminded that history
does not move in a straight line. Bad ideas are found out and fall
away. Good ideas don’t always triumph, but we must never abandon
our quest to figure out how to improve our society. We must believe
that expanding our democracy is a goal worth pursuing. And in
believing it, we can make it happen. Thanks, Assailed Teacher.

Please feel appreciated, not assailed, today.