Archives for category: Personal

Have a happy, HEALTHY New Year!

Get vaccinated if you haven’t already, although I can’t believe that any reader of this blog would not be double vaccinated and boosted by now. Wear an N95 or KN95 mask. (Here is advice from the New York Times about how to buy high-quality N95 masks online.) My friends tell me that this is the N95 mask used by nurses at Mt.Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has boasted that she is unvaccinated, but news came out last week that she owns stock in three of the four major vaccine manufacturers. At least we can be assured that she’s not fighting vaccines for her own financial benefit. Greene has repeatedly defied rules requiring masking when in the House of Representatives, and she’s so far racked up $80,000 in fines deducted from her salary for failing to wear a mask. She says the federal public health rules are “tyrannical,” “communist,” “authoritarian,” and “unconstitutional.”

This is the kind of ideological insanity that’s fueling the longevity of the pandemic. If you know people like her, avoid them until the danger is past.

Be careful.

You can’t be happy unless you are healthy.

Be healthy. Be happy.

I want you all with me in 2022.

Happy New Year!


It being New Year’s Eve, it is not a time for serious thinking.

Thus, I take this opportunity to offer my suggestions for good things to watch on television. Or, to put it another way, things that I really liked watching.

My favorite was the Belgian crime series called “Professor T.” on PBS. Do not mistakenly watch the British version. Professor T. is a highly intelligent, neurotic criminologist who solves difficult crimes. The series is urbane, witty, provocative, and sometimes zany. I enjoyed watching Professor T. think, and I liked his taste in music (mostly Bach.)

The best film I have seen lately is Don’t Look Up. It is a terrifying, sometimes hilarious metaphor for our times. It has a star-filled cast (Merryl Streep as a Trump-like President), Leonardo DiCaprio as a scientist at Michigan State, Jennifer Lawrence as a graduate student at MSU). And many more big names (Tyler Perry, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Ariana Grande).

The story, in brief, is that a grad student observes a giant comet headed directly for earth. A direct hit will extinguish all life on earth in a bit more than six months. She tells her professor and they contact federal authorities,who bring them to D.C. to meet with officials at NASA, the military, and the White House. The White House decides the story should be buried because it might have a negative effect on the midterm elections. They go to the media. The nation’s biggest talk show treats them as less important than a story about a singing star breaking up with her boyfriend. They get low ratings, and the news media decides their story is not interesting; it won’t sell papers. Basically, their warnings are discredited, and no one takes them seriously.

But the President calls them back, says their calculations have been verified by the scientific community, and she deploys plans to destroy the comet with massive strikes of nuclear missiles.

Then the plot changes as a tech genius convinces the President that the comet can be stopped without destroying it, and its minerals are worth trillions. The profit motive brings a sharp change of plans. I won’t tell you how it ends. You should see it. It captures the essence of our celebrity-driven, superficial mass culture, where power and greed outweigh common sense and integrity.

What are your favorites?

What are you thankful for today?

I’m thankful to be alive. Eight months ago, I had open heart surgery. I was sedated and intubated for five days and spent a total of two weeks in the intensive care unit.

I’m thankful that I have a loving family. Many people don’t, and I consider myself fortunate. My spouse, Mary, was at my side during my long convalescence and made sure that I walked 2-3 miles every day to regain my strength. My two sons and four grandsons give me joy, for which I am grateful.

I’m thankful that I have the means to live comfortably. Many people don’t, and I hate to think that one of the richest countries in the world is unable to reduce the dramatic income inequality and wealth inequality in our country. People should not go without health care because they can’t afford it. People should not go to bed hungry because they can’t afford food. People should not sleep in the streets or in shelters because they can’t afford housing. We see the gaps and the suffering around us, and we see billionaires flying to space in their own vehicles. Yet Congress is unwilling to tax billionaires. I’m not thankful for that. I’m outraged.

I’m thankful for the many essential workers, including teachers and school staff, who have worked with dedication to enable us to get through the pandemic.

I am thankful, as a woman and a Jew, to live in the USA at this time in history. I never forget that the extended families of both my parents were killed in Europe in the 1930s because of their religion. Sure, we live in perilous times, but I feel that I was born in the right place at the right time to make the most of my life.

I’m thankful for the free press and for journalists who shine light on abuses of power and protect our democracy.

I’m thankful to all those who struggle to improve our society, who fight injustice, who understand the need to safeguard our environment, and who are engaged in the political arena to demand a better, more equitable, peaceful future.

I have a lot to be thankful for. I hope you do too.

David Gamberg recently retired as Superintendent of two contiguous school districts on the North Fork of Long Island: the Southold district and the Greenport district. He first was appointed in Southold, where he was beloved for his devotion to the students; he is a child-centered educator, who encouraged the arts, developed a student-run garden (whose produce was used in the school cafeteria), and strengthened the school’s theatre program. When the Greenport schools needed a new superintendent, they invited Gamberg to split his time between the two districts.

Gamberg writes his story:

When I was young I never fully knew what my father did for a living. Eventually learning that he was a truck driver did not dissuade me from following in his footsteps. I never did pursue that line of work. Nor did I ultimately learn about the industry that he worked in throughout his entire life. Therefore I am not one to opine on how the supply chain and the trucking industry’s role in our economy is a major feature of what we are now experiencing in our country and throughout the world.

I was fortunate to grow up in the America of my youth. My father was a truck driver who did not go to college. I consider myself so fortunate. My mom worked as an aide in a nursing home. They worked hard, but I was also the beneficiary of a system that recognized a need to level the playing field for those among us who may not have been born into a privileged position in society.

It never occurred to me that my K-12 public education was ineffective or insufficient to prepare me to lead a fulfilling life. I didn’t go to private school, and the racially diverse schools that I attended were of great benefit to my understanding of the world around me. I resent the attacks on public schools that are playing out today.

At 59 years old I can remember a time when the United States government helped me to get a leg up in life. I went to Head Start, a pre-kindergarten program for children set up for the common good, to give opportunities for young people like me who did not come from wealth, or status in society that paved the way forward. I don’t know where I would have traveled in life if not for this early support, and therefore I can’t imagine why good early childhood education is not something that every American of any political persuasion should support. This was not the only benefit I received as a young citizen of our country.

Yes, I went to college, a public state university, paid in part because of the benefits I derived from my father’s lifelong contributions to the Social Security system. He was of age to receive social security when I went to school in the early 1980s. As a result of the structure of the Social Security benefit program at the time, as long as I was in college I would receive some measure of support to offset the cost of going to school. This and other safety net benefits including state and federal grants afforded me the opportunity for a good education, without having vast amounts of student debt hanging over my head upon graduation.

I raise these issues in the context of my childhood view of work and school, and my growing awareness over the years about the role that good government programs and support played in my life. It is not a matter of government entitlements. Rather, it is about the public trust that we place in our government to support fellow citizens. It is about the importance of a civil society, and how our governing polity should work.

The opportunities that should be afforded to every young American to have the ability to go to post secondary school to pursue their purpose in life if they choose to do so, or to dream of a career and living a life to the fullest should be the norm, and a common reality for all. This should not be dependent upon your station in life, where you were born, or your family situation.

I am not a foreign policy expert. Some who read this blog are experienced military veterans, and your views are far better informed than mine. I am sharing my personal opinion here. I welcome you to respond.

Trump made a deal with the Taliban to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by May 2020. Biden inherited that agreement and shifted the exit date to August 31, 2021. Knowing that we were leaving, the Taliban moved rapidly to regain control of the country, district by district.

Kori Schake, who worked for the George W. Bush administration in the State Department and the National Security Council, wrote in the New York Times that Trump’s deal with the Taliban was “disgraceful.”

She wrote that:

The problem was that the strongest state in the international order let itself be swindled by a terrorist organization. Because we so clearly wanted out of Afghanistan, we agreed to disreputable terms, and then proceeded to pretend that the Taliban were meeting even those.

Mr. Trump agreed to withdraw all coalition forces from Afghanistan in 14 months, end all military and contractor support to Afghan security forces and cease “intervening in its domestic affairs.” He forced the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban fighters and relax economic sanctions. He agreed that the Taliban could continue to commit violence against the government we were there to support, against innocent people and against those who’d assisted our efforts to keep Americans safe. All the Taliban had to do was say they would stop targeting U.S. or coalition forces, not permit Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations to use Afghan territory to threaten U.S. security and subsequently hold negotiations with the Afghan government.

Not only did the agreement have no inspection or enforcement mechanisms, but despite Mr. Trump’s claim that “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no one’s ever seen,” the administration made no attempt to enforce its terms. Trump’s own former national security adviser called it “a surrender agreement.”

Biden has accepted responsibility for the chaotic evacuation. He reset the exit date to August 31, and he rejected the pleas of our allies to push the date back a month or two to allow an orderly exit and save more lives. Consequently, an unknown number of American citizens will be left behind, as will many thousands of Afghans who helped us and whose lives (and those of their families) are now in danger.

It’s easy to second-guess the decisions of other people after the fact. But consider this article by Jonathan Guyer in The American Prospect about “The Unheeded Dissent Cable.”

It begins:

A month before the Taliban stormed Afghanistan’s capital, two dozen diplomats in the U.S. embassy in Kabul sent a memo to the State Department warning of imminent collapse. The July 13 dissent cable warned Secretary of State Tony Blinken that the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul would quickly follow a U.S. withdrawal. They said an urgent plan to evacuate Afghan partners was needed.

It was a message that never reached the White House and the National Security Council, which was coordinating President Biden’s directive to end the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

Indeed, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan only learned about the memo after it was reported in The Wall Street Journal, a month after it had been sent, according to three well-placed sources who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the dissent cable.

It’s a lapse that reflects how centralized power in Biden’s orbit has constrained necessary communication among the country’s top national-security leaders.

Beyond the poor communication, I wonder why Biden went along with Trump’s promise to the Taliban. He had already reversed others, like Trump’s absurd decision to leave the Paris climate accord. Biden could have left 5,000 troops in the country to maintain stability. We left many more troops in South Korea, Japan, and Germany, not to wage war but to support our allies in maintaining the peace.

But if we go back to the beginning, twenty years ago, we discover that this was a completely unnecessary war. At the time, the media reported that the Taliban offered to hand Osama bin Ladin over to a third country if only we would stop bombing them. But President George W. Bush and his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rejected the offer. They wanted war, not negotiations.

Alissa J. Rubin reported a few days ago in the New York Times, in an article titled “Did the Afghanistan War Have to Happen?”:

Taliban fighters brandished Kalashnikovs and shook their fists in the air after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, defying American warnings that if they did not hand over Osama Bin Laden, their country would be bombed to smithereens.

The bravado faded once American bombs began to fall. Within a few weeks, many of the Taliban had fled the Afghan capital, terrified by the low whine of approaching B-52 aircraft. Soon, they were a spent force, on the run across the arid mountain-scape of Afghanistan. As one of the journalists who covered them in the early days of the war, I saw their uncertainty and loss of control firsthand.

It was in the waning days of November 2001 that Taliban leaders began to reach out to Hamid Karzai, who would soon become the interim president of Afghanistan: They wanted to make a deal.The TalibanAnswers to questions about the militants who have seized control in Afghanistan again

“The Taliban were completely defeated, they had no demands, except amnesty,” recalled Barnett Rubin, who worked with the United Nations’ political team in Afghanistan at the time.

Messengers shuttled back and forth between Mr. Karzai and the headquarters of the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, in Kandahar. Mr. Karzai envisioned a Taliban surrender that would keep the militants from playing any significant role in the country’s future.

But Washington, confident that the Taliban would be wiped out forever, was in no mood for a deal.

“The United States is not inclined to negotiate surrenders,” Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a news conference at the time, adding that the Americans had no interest in leaving Mullah Omar to live out his days anywhere in Afghanistan. The United States wanted him captured or dead.

Had the Bush administration taken the deal, there would have been no war.

This was a tragedy: for the Afghan people, especially women and girls; for those Afghans who wanted to build a new society; and for the American service members who were maimed or lost their lives.

A former student who all’s him/herself “ArtTeacher” left the following moving tribute to our beloved friend and frequent contributor Dr. Laura Chapman. I wonder if she knew how many lives she influenced, how admired and respected she was? I learned from everything she wrote here.

ArtTeacher wrote:

I was an art education student of Dr. Chapman and her life partner, Patricia Renick from 1974-78 at the University of Cincinnati. We called Patricia “Pat,” and she was vivacious, loving, and upbeat. Her nickname was “Mother Art.” Even as adults, my classmates and I had difficulty dropping the “Dr.” because we held Laura in such high esteem.

I was the first Art Education major to graduate summa cum laude from the school of Design, Architecture and Art, and I still have her letter of recommendation that described me as one of the “brightest and best.” I felt as if I had failed them both when I quit teaching after being RIFed from 2 schools in 3 years.

In 2000 when I became an art teacher again, NCLB was in full force in Ohio, and I boldly phoned her to meet and catch up on current education trends. She laughed when I told her how she struck fear in our undergraduate hearts if we showed up unprepared for her class. She was interested in hearing that two of my 8th graders filled in their scan-tron sheets to create a smiley face and a penis. When I asked what on earth they were doing, one of them said that he was only there so he could attend the dance that Friday. “I happen to know this test doesn’t affect my GPA,” he told me, pointing a finger at my face, “It affects YOU, and I don’t care about you. You can make me come to school, but you can’t make me try.” I told Laura that surely the principals and superintendents would protest the obvious flaws in forcing a school in a rural, low-income area to improve scores on such a test each year, when students’ home lives were such a struggle. The next year I was hired by a surburban elementary school to teach art to over 600 fourth graders, many of whom became physically ill on testing days because they wanted so much to do well, the opposite of the other school.

In 2012 she sent an email asking me to describe how I’m evaluated, how many students I taught, budget, schedules, etc. for a research paper. She said, “The evaluation of teachers by standardized test scores and principal observations is going in the direction that hit the teacher at Oyler (a public school in a low-income area near U.C.). In fact, more standardized tests are in the works and scheduled for administration in 2014, grades 3-12, as a condition for schools receiving federal funds from the ESEA. New state mandates are getting on the books regardless of the governor’s political affiliation. Since 2009, Bill Gates who thinks he is qualified as an expert on education, had been funding many projects that converge on more data gathering and sruveillance of teachers and the overall performance of schools.” So you can see that even as a retired professor, Laura was right on top of everything that was happening, who was doing it, and why.

I started meeting her for breakfast every month or so, to fill her in on what was new at school, and she explained the agenda behind it all, and warn me about was was coming next. I used to awaken in the wee hours with the chlling thought that it was like the plot of a bad sci fi movie, where there seemed no way to effectively fight the evil forces that had taken over. I joined BATs about a month after it began, full of hope that all we had to do was reveal what we knew was going on, and our communities (and unions) would shut it right down. I had even greater hope listening live to the first NPE convention from my home as I prepared art lessons. I remember our union presidents promising Diane to stop accepting Gates’ money, then reneging on that promise three days later.

In 2014 Laura gave a lengthy slide presentation at the Ohio Art Education convention that was titled “The Circular Reasoning Theory of School Reform: Why it is Wrong,” explaining in part why SLOs and VAM were invalid measurements of learning. It was, as you can imagine, annotated like a Master’s Thesis. Her voice was weak because was suffering from COPD and recovering from a cold, but her presentation had an enormous impact. Immeditately afterward we art teachers attended a workshop by the Ohio Dept. of Education intended to train us to write SLOs for our K-12 art students. We nearly rioted. Yet, the following school year, I had to give a test to my fourth graders the first day of school over a list of art vocabulary words I was certain they would not already know. At the end of the year, I tested them on the same 15 words, and nearly every one of 850 students passed with flying colors. Yet most were upset to see their low scores from the beginning of the year. “I can’t believe I was that stupid,” one girl said. I told her that I had to show that she learned something from me, so she was supposed to fail the test the first time. “WHY would you DO that to us?” she gasped. Now we have opted for shared attribution, where 50% of my evaluattion as an art teacher is based on 4th grade math and reading scores.

My students look forward to art class, and I have lost no enthusiasm for teaching them. This is my 20th year at my school, and every year I have something new to try, something marvelous to experience with my students. I rarely miss a single day of teaching. My way of fighting back is to absolutely refuse to let anything dampen my love for teaching art. I actually feel lucky to be an insider during these years, to see and know that even with the most misguided of mandates, my colleagues and I show up every day for the children who come through our doors.

The last time I saw Laura was in late February 2020 when it was becoming obvious that teaching in a building with 2400 fourth, fifth and sixth grade students was putting me at risk for contracting COVID, and that our Saturday breakfasts must stop to protect Laura’s health. I held my breath and hugged her. My school shut down mid-March, and I was allowed to teach online from home last year — to about 900 students in grades 1-4. I sent long emails describing what that was like, and she was fascinated by my reports. She said she was picking up groceries, staying in her condo, and of course, continuing her research and advocacy. In the spring I asked if we could get together again, and although she didn’t say no, she closed by wishing me and my famliy good health and happy lives. I knew that it was her way of saying good-bye.

Laura H. Chapman was a devoted supporter of public education, the Network for Public Education, and this blog. I was honored to post her carefully researched and well documented comments on this blog. Although her health clearly was in decline, she faithfully attended every annual meeting of NPE.

Laura was a distinguished arts educator. Please read her obituary in The Cincinnati Enquirer. We have lost a treasured friend.

Laura shared my dislike of billionaire reformers who didn’t know much about education but imagined they could solve its problems with Big Data. She was opposed to privatization of public funds. She opposed the substitution of technology for real teachers. She was a fierce and eloquent supporter of a rounded liberal arts education. she never failed to inspire me with her wisdom.

I received a notice a few days ago from a scholarly organization, informing me that Mike Rose had died. Mike was a beloved teacher, scholar, and author. He had keen empathy for working people. He taught at UCLA. I met him a decade ago, and we became friends. You may have met him through such books as Lives on the Boundary, or Why School?, or Possible Lives.

Other people knew Mike far better than I, and I invite you to read what they wrote about him.

His literary agent, Anna Sproul-Latimer, who worked with Mike on his latest book, wrote a deeply personal article about him.

She wrote, as part of a longer piece:

Five days ago, just hours before what was probably going to be the last of our four editor meetings, my beloved client Mike Rose dropped dead. He woke up at dawn, sent me a quick email, walked into his kitchen, and—bam, there went the cartoon anvil of fate. Spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage. He was 77.

Mike didn’t die right away. Or maybe he did? Depends on how you define it. When the cops broke down Mike’s door Friday morning, twenty-four-plus hours after he went down, he was still breathing, but most of him had already left. In the bloodbath of his brain, only the brainstem remained functional. It kept chugging away, obliging, with the breathing and the circulating, until Sunday night…

Dramatic irony: I knew something was wrong the instant Mike missed our Thursday afternoon editorial call. He was the most neurotic man I have ever met. He would never ever ever.

For some reason, though, I didn’t take the thought seriously. I told myself he probably just got confused by technical difficulties. That he was out of pocket. That he’d call later.

“Or maybe he’s DEAD!” The idea floated around like a diaphanous scarf, something designed for a witchy Instagram aesthetic and little else. I ran its weightless silk through my fingers. I emailed it to him, as a tease. “I’m beginning to worry you’re dead!”

When I woke up Friday morning, the scarf was strangling me…

I loved Mike Rose so, so much, even though he also might have been the single most aggravating client I’ve ever had. There was no way in hell any commission I’d ever receive on his book would financially justify the time demands of our relationship, let alone the exhaustion.

I stayed in the relationship anyway. Happily. It brought me so much joy.

Never in the depths of orgiastic moroseness could Charles Schulz have imagined a neurotic ruminator more determined to wrest disappointment from his every success than Mike Rose. Neither for all the wonder in Schulz’s childlike soul could he have dreamed up a character more warm, tender, careful, open-minded, sincere, brilliant, tenacious, and faithful.

You should read Mike Rose.

Read the last two entries on his blog. The last is called “The Desk,” and it’s the story of a magical desk he owned as a child that allowed him to imagine other worlds. Sproul-Latimer described it this: “It is a tender, quiet, devastating personal essay about growing up in squalor in South Central Los Angeles. He describes a childhood at once desperately lonely and overcrowded to the point of suffocation.”

Fred Klonsky blogged about the deaths of both Mike Rose and Bob Moses in recent weeks. Mike Rose’s next to last blog post was about Bob Moses, written last May, before Moses’ death.

Klonsky wrote:

When I was 34 and decided I wanted to teach I was introduced to a world of brilliant thinkers who were entirely new to me. Few were more brilliant than Mike Rose. Mike Rose touched me in a way few others did. His class roots. His understanding of students whose courageous struggle to learn got them labeled in the worst way. His respect for work and labor as an intellectual enterprise. His book, Lives on the Boundary, still has an honored spot in my collection.

Mike Rose had a unique voice. He was not in the thick of policy battles. He worked on a different level, seeking to understand people and their lives.

In 2011, I was interviewed by Terri Gross on “Fresh Air,” her NPR program. When my book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. When it was published, there was quite a lot of speculation about why I changed my views. Apparently, no one ever has a change of mind or heart. I have been consistent over the years in admitting that I was wrong when I supported charter schools, testing, and accountability. It was really hard for some people to accept the plain statement, “I was wrong.”

On the 10th anniversary of this interview, I post it now (I didn’t have a blog in 2011).

The book became a national bestseller, a first for me. (My next book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement, was also a national bestseller).

I had a wonderful appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart about Death and Life. When I heard I was invited on his show, I had never heard of it. I watched the day before I appeared. Stewart interviewed Caroline Kennedy, and my heart sank, thinking what a nerd I was. When I went on the show, the booker had me wait in the wings until he announced me. As he started to announce me, the audience began applauding loudly in anticipation of a celebrity, but the applause died down when they realized I was no celebrity, no big name. I hesitated behind the curtain, and the booker gave me a sharp shove that propelled me onto the stage. Jon Stewart was very kind to me, and I truly liked him. The next day, the book was the number one nonfiction book on Amazon. Seeing it rise to number one was one of the most thrilling moments of my professional life!

I appeared again on The Daily Show when Reign of Error was published.

Again, he was wonderful, and he helped propel the book to the bestseller list. No one was sadder when he retired than I.

When I served in the George H.W. Bush administration, I was Assistant Secretary for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

OERI, as it was then called, had almost no discretionary money. There was very little opportunity for any initiatives, which may have been a good thing at that time. I became very involved in advocacy for national standards, which I now regret. I also spoke up for the national goals (remember them?), most of which were out of reach (like, we will be first in the world in math and science by the year 2000). OERI has since been pretentiously renamed the “Institute for Education Sciences.”

However, there is one thing that I am very proud of. I initiated a statistical review of the history of American education and the best brains in the Office of Research gathered the data to show the progress of education. It was published in 1992.

It is called 120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait.

I still refer to it when writing essays that require historical information about education.

It should have been updated by now, but it has not been.

It is a wonderful resource for scholars and others engaged in research about education.

This is the introduction that I wrote in 1992:

Diane Ravitch Assistant Secretary

As an historian of education, I have been a regular consumer of education statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. For many years, I kept the Department’s telephone number in my address book and computer directory. It did not take long to discover there was one person to whom I should address all my queries: Vance Grant. In my many telephone calls for information, I discovered he is the man who knows what data and statistics have been gathered over the years by the Department of Education. No matter how exotic my question, Dr. Grant could always tell me, without delay, whether the information existed; usually, he produced it himself. When I asked a statistical question, I could often hear the whir of an adding machine in the back- ground, even after the advent of the electronic calculator.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, to find myself in the position of Assistant Secretary of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), the very home of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The latter agency is headed by Emerson Elliott, the first presidentially appointed Commissioner of Education Statistics. And imagine my delight when I encountered Vance Grant, face to face, for the first time. The voice on the telephone, always cheerful and confident, belonged to a man employed by the Department or Office of Education since 1955.

Vance Grant, a Senior Education Program Specialist, and Tom Snyder, NCES’ Chief of the Compilations and Special Studies Branch in the Data Development Division, prepared 120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait. They did so enthusiastically, because—like me—they knew it was needed. Historians of education customarily must consult multiple, often disparate, sources to find and collect the information in this one volume. They can never be sure if the data they locate are consistent and reliable. This compilation aggregates all relevant statistics about the history of our educational system in one convenient book. It will, I believe, become a classic, an indispensable volume in every library and on every education scholar’s bookshelf, one that will be periodically updated. Vance Grant’s and Tom Snyder’s careful preparation of this report substantially enriches our knowledge of American education. But collecting these historical data in one volume not only benefits professional historians. As a Nation, we need to develop an historical perspective in analyzing change. Too often, newspapers report important political, economic, or social events without supplying the necessary historical context. We are all now accustomed to reading headlines about the latest test scores. Whether up or down, they invariably overstate the meaning of a single year’s change. And the same short-sightedness often flaws journalistic reports of other major educational trends.

Historical Context

One does not need to be an historian to recognize the tremendous importance of historical context. Each of us should be able to assess events, ideas, and trends with reliable knowledge of what has hap- pened in the past. If we cannot, our ability to understand and make sense of events will be distorted. This volume would become a reference for all who wish to make informed judgments about American education. We must struggle mightily against the contemporary tendency towards presentism, the idea inspired by television journalism that today’s news has no precedent. As we struggle to preserve history, we preserve our human capacity to construct meaning and to reach independent judgment.

In an age when we are awash with information and instantaneous news, it is meaning, understanding, and judgment that are in short supply. This collection of historical statistics about American education provides its readers with the perspective they need to understand how far we have come in our national commitment to education and how far we must still go in pursuit of our ideals.

I especially thank Vance Grant and Tom Snyder for their untiring efforts in assembling this book. Without their dedication, and without Emerson Elliott’s support for the importance of this work, it would never have happened.

Emerson was the career civil servant who directed the National Center for Educational Statistics, which was the heart of the original Department of Education, created in 1867. As I mentioned, in the thirty years since this publication was issued, it has not been updated. What a shame.