This is not a balanced book full of facts and information to understand a complex problem - if you are a learner and want to understand a system, don'This is not a balanced book full of facts and information to understand a complex problem - if you are a learner and want to understand a system, don't read this book. If you are already a Ravitch supporter and just want to read something to confirm your views rather than to think critically about how to solve problems, you will enjoy this book very much. It is a narrow, one-sided view that makes leaping conclusions that you would expect from someone who is looking for data to support her pre-existing views. The education system is complex, and Diane Ravitch denies this complexity by narrowing every ed reform solution as clearly bad/evil/capitalist/anti-public. This is one of those books where even if you didn't know the complete facts about our education system, you would question the author's validity based on her oversimplification of a problem, her strong use of rhetoric, her staunch support of status quo, and her selective use of data. I can't remember a time where she showed any balanced views to demonstrate how some of the reforms being done is working, and what those successful schools have in common, and how to further support the growth of successful schooling models? She has nothing positive to say about the ed reformists, and this is a red flag for me. Reading her book made me want to rush to read an opposing view just to make sure I didn't internalize the one-sided conclusions and the selective data points.
Ravitch polarizes public education to make it about reformers-privatizers (because they are obviously in on it together in a plot to profit off poor children) vs. public schools. You will buy into this oversimplification if... a) this is the first book about public education you've read b) you don't try to think about opposing view points and buy into straw man arguments easily
A book like this is honestly damaging to the public because Ravitch's impressive credentials provide the facade of someone who is a critical thinker who puts students first. But Ravitch here is not a historian but a politician. I've seen failing public schools quote Ravitch to justify why high-performing charter schools with a track record of success shouldn't be allowed to open in their regions - because Ravitch says that charters are part of a "privatization movement" and are "capitalist" and don't care about poor kids. I'm confused why a publicly-funded non-profit school system (which many charters are) are labeled as part of a "privatization" movement, and Diane Ravitch doesn't really explain this either. Instead, by using privation early and often, she hopes that you internalize that anything that wants to disband teachers unions and lifetime tenure is anti-public. The problem is that too many people seem to believe that what Ravitch says is fact, despite any data showing that there are high-performing charters who focus exactly on students of low-income neighborhoods, who get the job done despite only having 75% of the funding that public schools receive, and do so with great political barriers that fight for their closure.
the review below summed the book up nicely better than I could explain, so I'm pasting it here. ++++
Public schools? They’re fine.
Teachers who can’t be fired? No problem at all.
Our international competitiveness in education? Nothing to worry about.
Too many kids dropping out of high school? It’s a myth. And anyway, some kids are just poor, hence doomed, so what are schools supposed to do about that?
Get ready for the world’s longest excuse note: Diane Ravitch’s new book “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to Public Schools.” Only this note is from the teachers’ unions (who have paid Ravitch for her flackery) to you.
The book veers between argument and rant. Ravitch seems scarcely able to stop sputtering out meaningless and irrelevant buzzwords that she hopes will inspire ill will towards school choice. Again and again — hundreds of times — she tosses out words meant to stir up irrational hatred. I refer to words like “privatization” (which no one is proposing), “entrepreneurs,” “corporations,” “profits” and (most hilariously) “creationism,” which she claims is one of the hidden agendas of school reformists.
A chapter on tenure is particularly instructive about Ravitch’s style. She says “tenure means due process. There is no ironclad tenure for teachers.”
Before the recent, mild tenure reforms in New York City, 97 percent of teachers were granted tenure in 2007. In the three years up to 2010, only 88 teachers out of about 80,000 city teachers were fired for any reason. That’s one-tenth of 1 percent. Sounds fairly ironclad to me, but Ravitch simply pretends such figures don’t exist. What other profession is so protective of poor performers?
Ravitch told The New Yorker that without tenure, “There will be huge parts of this country where evolution will never again be taught.”
Charter-school backers like Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the guy who directed “An Inconvenient Truth” — they’re all closet creationists using school choice as a Trojan Horse to sneak their evangelical Christian views inside the castle walls.
What would happen to all those charter students if Ravitch destroyed the charter movement in the name of “community,” i.e. local monopolies?
Answer: More fragmentation of the community. More separation of rich and poor, white and black. We already have “privatized” education in a sense: Your child’s education is simply part of the price of your home, which costs more in a good school district than it would in a neighboring one where the school is a dropout factory. Charters are severing that link between the value of your home and the value of your kid’s education.
Poor kids may never achieve at the level of rich kids, but poverty is no excuse for defending the status quo of terrible schools in the least affluent neighborhoods. Rich people already have school choice — they can move to another neighborhood — and the indigent ought to have more options than the citizens of some thug dictatorship where there’s only one name on the ballot.
Hess writes like an academic at times - his language may be a bit hard to get through, and he tends to cite examples after examples delving back intoHess writes like an academic at times - his language may be a bit hard to get through, and he tends to cite examples after examples delving back into history. This often cut the flow of reading for me and required more patience/ effort to understand his central takeaways. Overall though, he has some great ideas. He presents a very systemic take on education reform, and he does a good job of highlighting the problem of one-size-fits all tightly controlled bureaucracy; it is a problem with the design of the system and not a problem of having a lack of potential solutions. His emphasis on questioning the role of teacher unions, district monopolies, and schools being asked to do everything are meaningful arguments that are too often unquestioned in modern education debates. This book is well-researched and very thorough about education history....more
I appreciated reading about happiness from the Buddhist perspective, written by a Westerner from a scientific/intellectual background that can contrasI appreciated reading about happiness from the Buddhist perspective, written by a Westerner from a scientific/intellectual background that can contrast the definitions of happiness from his upbringing where he had everything vs. true happiness in his later days when he achieved deep joy without needing anything. A book about spiritual practice but written for logical and critical thinkers.
He covered a lot of ground here and my only complaint is that it could have explored some of the themes in much more depth (but I'm grateful he even touched on such a wide variety of them). I felt that he knew what questions I would have when making statements that sound more like fluff, and would address them in mini-chapters almost immediately to ground those claims. For example, he wrote about Buddhism applied in the world of ethics (where he brought up utilitarian philosophy and Rawls's focus on justice and how Buddhism fits into ethical frameworks). He had chapters focusing on envy, anger, idleness, illustration after illustration of different themes to help circle back to the central teaching that he introduces in the first few chapters.
This book worked for me because it wasn't just theory or words that sounded nice like 'wisdom" and "compassion" and "selflessness", but Ricard wants to make every claim understandable and applicable for the skeptic....more