Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America's Public Schools

Rate this book
From one of the foremost authorities on education and the history of education in the United States, "whistleblower extraordinaire" (The Wall Street Journal), former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, author of the best-selling Reign of Error ("fearless" --Jonathan Kozol, NYRB)--an impassioned, inspiring look at the ways in which parents, teachers, activists--citizens--are successfully fighting back to defeat the forces that are privatizing America's public schools.

Diane Ravitch writes of those who have privatized the schools, the Disrupters, who believe America's schools should be run like businesses, with teachers incentivized with threats and bonuses, and schools that need to enter into the age of the gig economy in which children are treated like customers or products. She writes of the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the Waltons (Walmart), Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg, and many others, on the right and the left, as well as corporations, foundations, etc., intent on promoting the privatization of one of our most valued public institutions.
Ravitch lays out, in extensive detail, the facts showing that the ideas put forth by school privateers have failed; that their promises of higher test scores have not come to pass; that the "great hope" of Common Core has been a dud.
Arrayed against these forces, Ravitch writes of the volunteer army--"the Resisters"--that has sprung up from Seattle, Austin, and Denver, to Detroit, New Orleans, and Buffalo--parents, teachers, grandparents, students, bloggers, religious leaders, brave individuals, who, spurred on by conviction, courage, determination, and the power of ideas and passion, are fighting back to successfully keep alive their public schools.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published January 21, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Diane Ravitch

42 books102 followers
Diane Ravitch is a Research Professor of Education at New York University, a historian of education, and a research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She is the Founder and President of the Network for Public Education.
She was U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education from 1991-93.
She was married to Richard Ravitch from 1960 until they divorced in 1986.
She married Mary Butz in 2012.
Aside from her many books on education history and policy, Ravitch writes for The New York Review of Books and maintains an influential blog on education.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
94 (30%)
4 stars
115 (36%)
3 stars
70 (22%)
2 stars
29 (9%)
1 star
5 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 60 reviews
Profile Image for DJ Williams.
129 reviews2 followers
April 27, 2020
Man, I don't know.

I do agree with all the main points of this book. The proliferation of charter schools is bad. Defunding public schools is bad. Common Core standards and yearly high-stakes testing are bad. Not paying teachers a livable wage is bad.

But I found the book's language to be highly simplistic and the style to be irritating (like a 300-page manifesto). There are so many lists that seem to go on for pages, and I don't really need to know exactly how many charter schools closed and open in 20 different states in order to understand the author's point. I also found the book to be highly repetitive, rehashing the same points and in some cases the same factoids over and over in different chapters.

This feels like one that would have been better presented as a long op-ed or blog post than a book.
Profile Image for Erica.
779 reviews12 followers
March 14, 2020
4.5 stars. This book is a scathing takedown of all of the politicians and billionaires that have tried to standardize and privatize public education in the past 20 years. It made me viscerally angry, and I frequently wanted to punch people in the face. However, Ravitch passionately tells the stories of the grassroots organizers out there fighting to stop this onslaught. There's not a lot of room for the morally gray in this book- (she spends two chapters specifically devoted to calling out the names of anyone who has ever funded or voted against public schools and everyone fighting to preserve it). But I think in this case, it works. She is biased, yes, but only because she has fought so hard and invested so much. If she had attempted to come at this from a journalistic perspective, this book would not have been as impactful.
Profile Image for Robert.
1,174 reviews2 followers
January 27, 2020
I'm glad to see that Ravitch saw the light, after being one of the strongest proponents of school privatization under Bush. It is still difficult for me to trust her. Her enlightenment comes late. The capitalist shits have already captured the Supreme Court, the Congress and the Presidency. They will continue to view the world through dollar signs, because they don't yet have all the money. The fake ed reform movements were, and are, solely about money, not education.
Ravitch lists, for the first 20% of the book, the many people and anti-democratic organizations pushing the voucher and charter school movement. They are all anti-democratic, anti-equality, racist organizations. Betsy DeVos is right up there with the Bill Gates and the Waltons billionaires with no education experience and no concern for real students. Ravitch drops back into list mode requently in the rest of the book.
Charter schools, at best, do no better than public schools at educating students. That's true even though they hand pick their students, rejecting students that public schools have always served: students with disabilities, English language learners, students with behavioral problems, students from poor homes. Charter school cants about improving education for those populations are all lies.
Read this, and her earlier book, Reign of Error, to see how she documents the failure of those schools and the cynical bastards behind them. Betsy DeVos, with her 'deer in the headlights' vacuous smile and zero education knowledge, should join DumptyTrumpty in jail.
Profile Image for Lianna Bessette.
78 reviews17 followers
March 5, 2020
3.5 stars. While I really appreciate and agree with Ravitch's message, this book felt too long and much more repetitive than her previous books. If you don't know a lot about the education "reform" movement, including charter schools and voucher programs, I definitely recommend reading this book to gain a better understanding of the challenges teachers have been facing over the past decade or so. Since I already knew quite a bit about this topic, I found the book somewhat tedious but still valuable.
Profile Image for sepehrdad.
231 reviews55 followers
June 3, 2022
از منظر مبارزه مدنی و این‌که یک جامعه چطور در برابر تغییرات منفی می‌تواند ایستادگی کند فوق‌العاده بود این کتاب. برای من ایرانی شاید نمادهای تکنولوژی مثل خودرو و ساختمان‌سازی و... نشان پیشرفت کشورهای تراز اول باشد. ولی حقیقت این است که یک جامعه‌ی مدنی پیگیر و قدرتمند است که آن کشورها را برای زیست آدمی مناسب کرده و پیشرفت‌های تکنولوژیکال در برابر این حجم از مسئولیت‌پذیری و پیگیری مدنی تقریبا اهمیتی ندارد.

ولی خود کتاب واقعا سخت‌خوان بود. بیش از حد اطناب و تکرار و پرگویی و گزافه‌گویی داشت. به راحتی می‌توانست حجمش ۱۰۰ صفحه باشد و تمام هیجان یک مبارزه‌ی مدنی چند دهه‌ای علیه خصوصی سازی مدارس در آمریکا را در شکلی موجزتر و جذاب‌تر روایت کند. خیلی از فصل‌ها تکراری و خسته‌کننده می‌شدند واقعا. ولی در مجموع برای من این گونه مبارزه‌ی مدنی آن هم در مهد سرمایه‌داری اعجاب‌برانگیز و ستودنی بود...
Profile Image for Lynn.
3,192 reviews55 followers
May 22, 2020
When this book was written teachers were protesting and public education seemed to be Gettleman big stronger than it has been in years. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m not so sure how public education will survive but it’s important that they do. Diane Ravich teaches me a lot that I didn’t know, especially who Disrupters and Resisters are. Disrupters are the people who promoted the idea that public education was in trouble and not good. The created a way of promoting their beliefs using FUD (fear, uncertain, and doubt). They want to close public schools and privatize them often for profit. The Resisters are teachers, school administrators, parents and members of the community who want to keep schools under local control. I could say more but I’d recommend the book. Important to read who understands both sides.
Profile Image for Denny.
322 reviews26 followers
February 26, 2020
Slaying Goliath is an excellent and timely exposé of the network of billionaires, think tanks, policy institutes, and politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, who have sought for the past 30 years to de-fund, demean, and eventually destroy American public education and replace it with a variety of unaccountable, unaccredited, and opaque taxpayer funded(!) private, charter, and religious schools.

Ravitch is a relentless sleuth and has done a meticulous job of researching the issues in order to expose the corruption, nepotism, double-dealing, and theft of public monies that is endemic to the privatization movement. She shows how, in state after state after state, efforts to replace public schools have been characterized again and again by short-lived, failing private charters and religious schools that often end up closing after a few short years and having served no other purpose than illicitly, often illegally, to enrich their owners at the expense of the public and especially of the children and families they were supposed to have helped.

If you ever had, will have, or currently have children or dependents in America's public schools, please read Slaying Goliath. Get outraged. Take action.
2,327 reviews90 followers
January 29, 2020
I thought this was a great book. I was very lucky to have had a wonderful public education with very skilled teachers. They prepared me for college just great. Now in this year it is much harder to get a good public education, resources are limited and books are hard to come by. This writer wants to preserve public education and not let the schools all become private. The promise of higher scores did not pan out like the private schools had hoped for.
Profile Image for Katie Rybakova.
221 reviews2 followers
April 26, 2021
If you haven't read Ravitch, this is a good one for you, as it essentially encompasses all of her past books plus the most up to date politics in 2020, including DeVos and company. If you've already read her first two books, this is a rehashing of them, hence the 3 stars. Still brilliant, but this one in particular came off slightly manic to me. Perhaps for good reason?
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,346 reviews67 followers
January 27, 2020
Fine synopsis of where we are now, in the fight to preserve America’s best idea, a free, high-quality, fully public education for every child in America. Ravitch offers some hope that the public has tired of disruption and Big Sexy ideas that don’t work.

Fast-paced and well-written. This year’s must-read for education policy junkies.
Profile Image for Lindsey Hirsch.
26 reviews
January 23, 2023
3.5. First part was boring af. Too many random lists of info. Once we get into it, great content. I underlined most of it! She shreds federal intervention in the education system but laying out fact after fact. Every policy has failed to move the needle. She’s not without solutions either!
Profile Image for Emily.
395 reviews3 followers
September 13, 2020
Good review of the disruptive ed reform movement, especially the charter school boom taking money from public schools & the over-reliance on standardized testing of the last 2 decades. But writing style was distracting—so repetitive & ranting.
Profile Image for Marks54.
1,319 reviews1,152 followers
February 14, 2020
This a wonderful, wise, and passionate book about the success of teachers and other opponents of ‘reform’ in fighting the assembled billions of the charter/ voucher/ privatization ‘movement’ that seemed to occur against all odds.

I admire DR as a scholar, administrator, pundit, public intellectual, and all who is unafraid to change her position but also to take a position and fight. So the book is not a cool and reflective assessment, but more a victory lap of a leader who has earned a victory lap. I am not concerned about her opponents and their sensitivities. They are grown ups and have spared no quarter to their opponents

The shallowness and cynical nature of the corporate education lobby has been clear for a while. Dems as well as republicans have been sullied. Ravitch brings the fight up to date and clarifies many of the key issues. If you follow her blog or read her other works, you will not be surprised. I am glad to follow along.
Profile Image for KT.
22 reviews
March 23, 2020
Disclosure: I'm a proud public school teacher.

Diane Ravitch is considered a darling of the movement for anti-privatization of education. In reality, we simply don't have a lot of figures as widely recognized as she is. Public school teachers are busy working with children, organizing, speaking out in their own communities. The communities that are most affected by privatization are the poorest, have the least job security, encounter the most barriers in speaking out.

I appreciate her role in this movement and have read all her books. Her books often read more like a speech than an academic text. For that I think it's good for outsiders and teachers who have recently pieced together that charter schools are (often) a zero sum game of investors. The language around school privatization in her books is often sensational, with sweeping generalizations, small attempt to document statistical evidence.

Here's an example of her powerful yet crude statements, not accounting for societal changes, technological advances at the time, economy, or basic history:

"While Detroit continued to manufacture fas-guzzling automobiles, the Japanese built fuel-efficient cars that the public wanted at a time of rising fuel prices. The economy was in the doldrums, and it was easy to blame the schools for the outsourcing of industries to other nations even though doing so was nonsensical. When the economy improved, no one thanks the schools or apologized for slandering them."

Diane Ravitch is a former US Secretary of Education, and the role she played, policy she enacted - has already left a lasting effect on school privatization. She continually apologizes for this, only realizing later how wrong she was. But the damage is done. Writing books is her comfortable way of making amends. I don't think it's enough.

This book mentions a vast array of teacher and community groups who are fighting back against privatization. She mentions blogs, Tweets, art, films - made as a response to injustices in education. Many of the recommendations she make are worth checking out. Films like School (PBS), A Backpack Full of Cash, Education Inc., Killing Ed, The Inconvenient Truth Behind 'Waiting for Superman', or Rise Above the Mark are all good starting points in understanding charter schools.

I guess my main critique of Diane Ravitch is that after all her work and research, she still believes in means testing public education. She hasn't "radicalized" like many public school teachers have, especially in the wake of the 2018-2019 teacher union strikes and 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign. She is the foremost "expert" on the harm the school reform movement have caused and still believes:

“A democratic society needs a strong public sector and a strong private sector. The public sector exists to serve the needs of the commonwealth. It belongs to all of us. The public sector includes not only public schools, but police, firefighters, hospitals, libraries, highways, beaches, parks, transit, and the oversight of the air and water. Depending on the state and community, the public sector may address more or fewer of those needs."
Profile Image for Brenden Gallagher.
283 reviews16 followers
January 8, 2023
This is the second in a number of books I plan on reading for research on a project I am working on set in a public school. If I wasn't reading this for research, I am not sure if I would have finished it, but that isn't to take away from what Diane Ravitch has achieved with "Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America's Public Schools."

With this book, Ravitch offers a fairly complete picture of the struggle between the forces of school privatization, led by a handful of billionaire "philanthrocapitalists," and the various efforts by teachers' unions and their allies to protect public education. Only those most dedicated to learning about the issues in American education will likely have an appetite for such a complete look at the last several decades of the public vs. private fight, but that doesn't make this book inessential or unimportant.

This book is packed with information about both sides of the education fight, and you will learn a lot about the nuances of the charter vs. public battle if you can get through the whole thing. Some takeaways for me were that charters don't outperform public schools even though they get to stack the deck by picking their students, Bill Gates doesn't know anything about anything but computers, and teachers' unions have done some amazing crazy shit across the country in the face of insane financial and political attacks. And I'm sure as I chew on this book, I'll have new takeaways.

While "Slaying Goliath" may not be for everyone, I think those who are looking for a book like this will really appreciate it.

Profile Image for David.
130 reviews5 followers
February 3, 2020
I thought I would love this book, so the fact that it's one of the worst and uninteresting books I've read in the past year is disappointing. I'll start with giving the credit where it's due: great message and the anger is well intended. Diane Ravitch is absolutely and 100% correct in her disappointment and fear of the private sector's growing influence of public sector education. I don't disagree at all with most of what she's saying, especially when she digs into who funds these for-profit educational systems. However, the book lacks in style and understanding the origins of where this stems from. Yes, she discussed that anger towards education has always been prevalent and she makes a great point that it has always been a popular scapegoat among politicians, but the book reads like a repetitive campaign ad. I read this book with the hopes of learning, and I did, but I also hoped I would enjoy reading it. This book was difficult to finish, as it read as repetitive, dry, and heavy on rhetoric but low on an ability to persuade most audiences I believe would be most in need of understanding what's at stake. It was informative, but when I read a book I want it to be eye-opening; not make it hard to keep my eyes open. I'll try again with other books about how to fight privatized education.
Profile Image for Carolyn Fitzpatrick.
735 reviews19 followers
August 1, 2021
This book is a fabulous take down of the "disrupters" who want to privatize education. It is a history book more than a call to arms. Diane Ravitch tells the history of both sides - those who want an education system that uses intrinsic motivation for holistic self-improvement and citizenship preparation, and those who want a school system that uses cheap untrained labor and a carrot and stick approach to force students to meet benchmarks that were not developed by anyone with the best interest of students at heart. There is a fantastic outing of people and organizations who support privatization, including all those rich non-educator philanthropists who throw money at charter schools and get tax breaks for it.

I will confess that I skimmed quite a bit of this book, already knowing quite a bit about this movement. What was most encouraging was Ravitch's conclusion that the tide has turned on the privatization movement. But who is to say what will take its place? I would love for it to be equitably funded public schools with decent pay for long-term teachers, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
Profile Image for Gillian.
31 reviews
November 9, 2022
Another great book from Diane Ravitch. I am definitely a fan of hers, as I’ve now read 3 of her books over the past few months and have loved all of them. She is great at thoroughly explaining issues in American education and the evidence that backs up her assertions. I have learned so much about the American education system, the charter school movement, the teacher evaluation movement and Common Core, and about how all of this is part of the over-arching issue of enormous wealth inequality that is threatening our democracy and so many people’s lives. I hope that Diane will write another book about education issues since the pandemic, because so much has happened. I would love to read her thoughts about teachers’ experiences during online learning, the post-pandemic teacher shortages and further deprofessionalization of teaching, and the further demonizing of teachers due to the attacks on “critical race theory.” There is so much to talk about and I think Diane does an excellent job of making it understandable and showing us where we should be focusing our attention. Thank you so much for your books, Diane!
Profile Image for Patrick.
1,027 reviews24 followers
Shelved as 'partially-read'
February 3, 2020
"...the Disruption movement is imploding. None of its ideas have been successful. Every promise it made has gone unfulfilled. Every initiative it has launched has failed. Its victories are ephemeral. Most are fanciful triumphs of public relations and marketing. ... Most of its followers are paid employees. ... They have an inordinate influence on public decision making because of their great wealth. ... But their transactions cannot be confused with a social movement." (pgs. 49-51)

I'm working my way slowly through this. It's an accurate and powerful recounting of how we got to where we are in public discourse. Hundreds of thousands of students in entire districts have paid a price, subjected to radical experimentation with non-accountable schools making money for investors. The PR touts the districts without touting the results, and Betsy DeVos tries to move the goalposts that success doesn't matter because destroying public education in favor of a "marketplace of choice" is desirable.

My Goodreads friends should try this one.
Profile Image for Meepspeeps.
635 reviews
January 2, 2021
I’m not sure why this message is in book form. I appreciated the author’s own epiphany about avoiding Federal standardization in public K-12 education and the anecdotes about committed people resisting attempts to privatize public education through charter schools and vouchers. There was also some good data about fraud in the charter school industry. Maybe I missed it because I started skimming all the repetitive paragraphs, but did she attempt to interview “the Disrupters”? If not, how does she know they “don’t care about growing racial segregation...they remain willfully ignorant of research that demonstrates the value of integrated schools,” which, while an important societal issue, seems tangential to her main point of a few rich people imposing their ideas about privatization and standardization in order to reduce their own taxes and make more money. This may be more persuasive as (a) a much shorter opinion piece, or (b) a well-researched book with a better mix of infographics and anecdotes.
Profile Image for Juan M. Romero.
28 reviews
September 6, 2020
Enjoyed the well researched book although some of the points are restated over and over again.

One of the points that resonated with me dealt with the disconnect between the “reformers” and their ideas of how a school should be run, while at the same time their greed and corruption continue to strip away money from local public schools.

On a personal note, the book is frustrating to read at times because like almost anything else in our political system, it seems like a daunting tasks to compete with the money. Our teachers and families are competing against “disrupters” who have too much money to burn. (Personal frustration)

Thank you Dr. Ravitch for putting this research and info together. You’re definitely an ally and a leader in fighting against the enemies of our children and educators.
Profile Image for Marleen.
435 reviews2 followers
May 19, 2021
Ravitch makes the case for the failure of the "reform" movement which has advocated for standardized testing of students, evaluating teachers based on test score performance and school choice. The reformers have blamed poor teachers on the low performance of students..not taking into account that most of this can be attributed to poverty. Charter schools have not been found to be better performing than public schools. They do not have to take all students and do not have to have certified educators. More than 90% of American children attend public schools. We should not be taking away tax dollars to fund private education. All our children should have access to a well funded, well rounded public education. To truly impact a child's life, you need to develop a trusting relationship and much of the magic of education is in that relationship.
Profile Image for Haylee Anderson.
281 reviews
September 27, 2020
I really enjoyed enlightening myself on the history and issues in education. However, the tone and themes of this entire book are nagging, whiny, and so redundant that I found myself giving up on this boon halfway through. There were absolutely no practical solutions for change aside from a few minuscule examples included of The Resistance to be The Disrupters of education. In my opinion, the work is abysmal, and the tone is dismal with jo true outlook of hope and change. It seems like there is no hope for public education because we are up against the powerful elite of the world. It wasn't until the very last chapter that Ravitch even offers any practical solutions of how public Resistance members can eventually defeat the private Disrupters of education.
Profile Image for Eric.
3,473 reviews21 followers
May 4, 2020
The last time I read Ravitch was quite some time ago, and I remember enjoying her assessment of the problems deeply entrenched in the public school system. This time around she still writes well enough, but she is quite strident in placing blame on the "disrupters" (her name for reformers of the last thirty or so years), and has become a defender of the "resisters" (her name for teachers, their unions, and activist parents). It seems to me that the problems remain and that the corrections are to be made in local schoolhouse. It's likely the next step will have to be elimination of the US Dept of Education - oh, wait, you mean we tried that??? Well, Reagan talked it up, but sadly, no.
238 reviews
February 16, 2021
Learned a lot about how those pushing charter schools did what they did, and how damaging it has been for the American school system. I was disappointed in how some of the Disrupters (Gates in particular) didn't learn from the process as they went.

The almost endless lists Ravitch uses do drive the point home and show how the Disrupters just don't learn, or how they're determined to gain at the public's expense. So even they there were hard to read, and I did find myself skimming them after a certain point, they were useful.

I recommend these to anyone who thinks charter schools are the ultimate solution to what ails American schoolkids.
Profile Image for Aubrey Anderson.
80 reviews
June 20, 2020
I fundamentally agree with Ravitch, yet this book was simply unpalatable.

It read more like an acrid diatribe with overtones of a personal vendetta against the campaigns she formerly supported. We understand, Diane, you are a reformed Reformer. Personal attacks do not strengthen arguments no matter how verbose the attack nor how worthy the target.

The material presented in this book might have been more easily understood as a series of case studies rather than a narrative. So much data and so many lists are more easily invested as graphs and lists.
Profile Image for Amelia.
82 reviews2 followers
September 27, 2020
I can't count the number of times I've brought this book up or its contents in conversations in the last few weeks. Diane Ravitch writes a deep dive into the causes, effects, and reactions to the privatization, standardization, and accountability movement in US public schools. If you are an educator, you need to read this book now. Even if you are not directly connected to education I highly recommend this book as an example of how private billionaires have huge impacts on local politics that affect real people's lives.
Profile Image for Amanda Sanders.
582 reviews2 followers
March 9, 2020
Fantastic and hopeful book on the attacks on public education and teachers, in particular. It debunks the theories that ed reform is best for students. It gives me hope after leaving public education in despair. Teacher strikes and teachers running for office are making an impact on our education system that was under attack by billionaires that don't want to pay their fair share of taxes to support education.
91 reviews
March 15, 2020
This great book which will offend and annoy many readers. I'm a public school teacher, so it just made me angry since I've seen a lot of this happening. Diane Ravitch calls it as she sees it sometimes the truth hurts. Here's a little spoiler alert: I think Bill Gates is a wonderful human being, but what the heck were those educational impositions? C'mon Bill, you're a really smart guy, did you think any of that would help?
9 reviews
September 28, 2020
Couldn't make it past Chapter 2. I think I misunderstood the title or the purpose of this book. I expected a well researched book where the author would make a decent case with solid arguments against the privatization of public schools. I read two chapters with long lists of names of "disrupters" a derogatory name for those opposing public education, alongside with how these "disrupters" made their money.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 60 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.