Gary Rubinstein reviews Thomas Sowell’s recent book about charter schools and their enemies.

Thomas Sowell is an economist and a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution. He is African American and has long been highly critical of affirmative action and anything that smacks of lowered standards for black students. He is a hard-right libertarian. Many years ago, we were friends, and I invited him to lecture at Teachers College, where his views were not well received. He is 90 years old and still fighting, which I respect.

Rubinstein writes that the first four chapters of his six chapter book are a rehash of “Waiting for ‘Superman’” myths, such as the long discredited claim that the children in charters are precisely the same as those who are not in a charter. He loathes teachers’ unions and thinks that their opposition to charters is purely greed and self-interest. He identifies Mayor Bill DeBlasio as a fierce enemy of charters, which is absurd, since he gave up fighting them in 2014, after Governor Cuomo and the hedge funders defeated DeBlasio’s efforts to limit their expansion.

I gather from Gary’s review that Sowell singles me out as a critic, appropriately, but I have no idea what motive he attributes to me since I have no financial interest or self-interest in opposing charter growth.

After the first four chapters, he segues into a different mode, acknowledging that students who enter charters are more motivated than those who are not.

Gary concludes:

Chapter 6, the final chapter, is called ‘Dangers’ and it is about other ways that politicians and teacher’s unions undermine charter school growth. There are unfair charter caps. There are people who want charters to teach social justice to their students which he calls ‘indoctrination.’ He also does not like charters having to teach ‘sex education’ or ‘ethnic studies.’ Finally, he resents that some charter critics want the charters to have their meetings open to the public and to have their records open to public scrutiny. He says that this will make the board members targets of smear campaigns and have their homes vandalized.

All in all, this was quite a strange read. I don’t imagine that many reformers want to be identified with his arguments from the last two chapters and since the first four chapters have already been done in 2010 with “Waiting For Superman”, this book is not one that I imagine will be remembered for being very relevant.

Still it is interesting to see how little is left in the reform defender’s arsenal.

It is interesting too that this most recent defense of charter schools comes from an economist who has long been recognized as a hard-edged rightwinger.