Great Reads on Educational Reform Politics

Reigh of Error: A great book on ed reform politics

I’ve been slowly reading Diane Ravitch’s latest book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.  The more I read, the more disturbed I am about the total disregard of truth that pervades those who crusade against public education.  In chapter after chapter Ravitch shows the pervasive distortions of what Bruce Baker calls ‘the reformy movement.’  Ravitch’s end notes are extensive:She backs up her claims about how public education has come under attack from the right, demonstrates how free market philosophies of competition are being proposed as the solution to every educational ill, and notes how corporations are working hard to grab for the profits that can be make from new curriculum and textbooks, from increased testing, from online alternative programs, from vouchers and charter operations.  She also notes that many on the left have bought into the reformy movement’s belief that only good can come from competition and from trying Jack Welch style aggressive number crunching to measure the success of schools, teachers and students.  Her logic is well-supported and written in clear, precise language, and she effectively offers arguments against the reform policies of  Arne Duncan and the Feds, misguided idealists like Bill and Melinda Gates, paid shills of profiteers like Michelle Rhee, free market activists, and conservative think tanks and foundations which appear dedicated to privatizing every public service in the nation.

Reforms are scamming the public

Everyone who cares about quality education, the single most democratizing force in American history, should buy this book.  It’s discounted on Amazon, of course, and is available as a Kindle eBook to download for just $11.99.  I think it’s the best book so far on the outrageous attacks on public education, and it includes some very clear examples of the mediocrity or failures of the majority of the programs that are being touted as school improvement solutions.  The cures aren’t working, are getting more and more funding, are being extended by politicians despite clear evidence that they generally cost more per students and aren’t working better than the public programs they are displacing.  America is being scammed by those who are profiting financially and politically, and we are letting this happen.

50 Myths and Lies ….  will be the next great book on reform hoax

Ravitch’s book is about to face what I expect to be a major challenger to my best book rating.  David Berliner and Gene Glass are about to have their latest book, 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education, to be published by Teachers College Press this month.  I’ve been a fan of Berliner’s work for many years since I taught some basic educational research courses years ago and recommended a few of his books to my students.  And Gene Glass, professor emeritus from Arizona State University, is known among statisticians as the father of meta-analysis.  This is a powerful pair of researchers, and their words will be backed up by data of the highest quality.

Years of attacks on education are willful lies

Berliner and Bruce Biddle wrote the 1996 book The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools.  It debunked attacks on public schools by highlighting, among other useful topics, what data really said about the performance of American students.  They couldn’t stop the attacks then, but they were voices largely calling out in a wilderness of silence by other academics who might have done us all a great public service by speaking up alongside these truth-tellers.  I think it was from this book that I developed some classroom activities in which, inspired by Berliner and Biddle, I had students learn how it could be that every subgroup of students in America could be gaining in average SAT scores while the collective SAT average scores declined.  It’s a lesson worth paying attention to as the ‘reformy movement’ distorts student performance and misuses test scores to falsely justify their attacks on public education.

Most of the public remains unaware of the falsehoods being spread on ill-informed media outlets (or willful participants in big-money free market attempts to privatize education), and too many politicians are themselves free market ideologues, misled do-gooders, non-users of data, or bought and paid hacks.  Independent researchers are at last finding their voice as they study and report on the results of reform policies across the nation, and the results are amazingly clear.  As currently being forced on schools across the nation, today’s reforms are neither a silver bullet nor a panacea to the challenges of improving the performance of low performing students. Order 50 Myths and Lies from Amazon or check out the preview here.

You won’t yet find the Berliner and Glass book available in an electronic version yet, but I’m sure if you buy 100 copies of either book to give to all your colleagues and friends you can get a substantial discount.  Read these two books and let me know if you can decide which is the best. And what else should we all be reading?

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