John Thompson says we used to disagree, but he has come around. My memory is not what it used to be, but I recall that he took issue with my use of the term “corporate reformers.” He used to think that the “reformers” were trying to help and just needed the hand of friendship extended to them. Now he thinks otherwise.

He knows that I tried to meet Bill Gates when I visited Seattle. My requests were always rebuffed. There are just so many times you can try without getting a message that the meeting will happen never.

He ponders in this post whether I hurt reformers’ feelings and whether I should care.

Ravitch acknowledged that “reformers say I am ‘mean’ or ‘harsh’ when I say that some ‘reformers’ have a profit motive or that their grand plans actually hurt poor minority children instead of helping them.” She had been told, “Bill Gates was very hurt by my comments about his effort to remake American education. He frankly could not understand how anyone could question his good intentions.” But Ravitch had never questioned his intentions, even though she “certainly question[s] his judgment and his certainty that he can ‘fix’ education by creating metrics to judge teachers.”

Ravitch confessed to being less worried about the Billionaires Boys Club’s feelings than their “constant repetition of the blatant lie that American public education is a failure.” She said, “Dear reformers, please know that I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just wanted to let you know that your efforts to create a dual system of publicly funded schools turns back the clock to the shameful era before the Brown decision.”

And Ravitch “wanted you to know that your reliance on standardized testing is a grand mistake.” She opposed reforms mostly based on the edu-philanthropists’ theories, and wanted them to realize “your speculative plans are not ‘hurting the feelings’ of teachers and principals, they are ruining their careers, ruining their reputations, doing real and tangible damage to the lives of real people.”

John comments with his own insights:

Communicating with representatives of the nation’s elites, I learned that most of the pro-reform experts realized that something had gone terribly wrong. Although few agreed the huge body of evidence showing that their movement had taken terrible inner city schools and made them worse, most admitted that it had not produced very many positive changes. Some of the poorest students had been helped and others had been hurt. And reformers often knew that they had had far more success driving veteran teachers out of schools than in finding replacements.

I was not completely wrong in believing we could start a dialogue. A bipartisan coalition was making Oklahoma one of the first states to undo the worst education policy of the era: the use of test scores in teacher evaluations. But I was mostly wrong and Ravitch was right. The Billionaires Boys Club merely adopted a kinder, gentler public relations spin. Then, schools were further undermined by budget cuts, and the exodus of experienced teachers, leaving public education even more vulnerable.

So, we need a new round of the type of conversations that I’ve tried, while heeding Ravitch’s hard-earned wisdom.