Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Most Important Book for Educators and Parents

The latest book by Diane Ravitch is now available for purchase from all major book sellers, and it is a must read for all who believe that a good public education system is critical to our country's future.

The book is titled Reign of Error; The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. This is a link to an excerpt from the book reprinted in Salon.com.

In this, her latest meticulously researched book, Ravitch describes the myths upon which the current corporate reform of our education system is based. This expert historian of education carefully discredits the assumptions upon which the current education reform movement is based, and explains how extremely harmful much of the reform movement can be to our education system.

The first chapter of Reign of Error is titled: Our Schools Are at Risk. The author explains how major power brokers including some of the richest persons on the planet are proposing radical changes to our system of public education based on a manufactured crisis in student achievement. These influential power brokers propose to magically cure the ills of our education system with various forms of privatization. Ravitch explains chapter by chapter how the cure is much worse than the alleged illness. Many of these ill conceived proposals have already been adopted by Louisiana's legislature and our state has become a leader in the corporate reform movement.

Dr Ravitch exposes the charlatans of the education reform movement for what they really are; non educators who have figured out how to make a buck on education by scaring the American public into believing that our present public education system is sub-standard in comparison to that of other industrialized countries. The so called “reformers” would have the American public believe that professional educators are really just a bunch of slackers protected by powerful unions who care little about preparing our children to be high achievers in the world education competition.

Their solution is to destroy the teacher unions, do away with teacher job protections and fire teachers who are not able or willing to raise student test scores in the very limited curriculum which they have chosen to emphasize in our schools. At the same time, the corporate reformers propose to transform education in our country into a system of autonomous schools often run by private groups or entrepreneurs who compete for students and taxpayer funding. Public school parents are to be given the right to select any school they feel best meet their child's needs. Somehow this competitive environment with achievement results measured by expensive and oppressive government imposed testing in a few preferred skills will transform our entire educational system into one of the best in the world. Ravitch shows that none of this transformation is based on scientific principles of education practice. It is all based upon mostly dis-proven tactics such as merit pay, virtual Internet instruction, vouchers, and a depressingly restricted curriculum.

The danger to our education system Ravitch points out, is the opportunity and incentive for corruption, cheating, and extreme profiteering by large corporations as well as numerous small time “rainmakers”. Entrepreneurs will use our schools to pocket our tax dollars while transforming our schools into dreary test-prep factories treating all children like identical raw materials instead of the wonderfully complex individuals they are. Meanwhile the teaching profession will be demoralized, and replaced by low paid "test teachers" who will no longer stimulate the creativity in our young people, a trait that has made our country a world leader in innovation.

Here in Louisiana we have already seen a major demoralization of our teaching profession exemplified by increased early retirements of some our most respected teachers. The diversion of public funds to vouchers, charters and course choice and the exemption of the privatizers' employees from the Louisiana retirement system is already causing serious damage to our public education system.

The latter part of the book proposes real solutions to closing the student achievement gap and for truly improving and enhancing our educational system based upon sound principals of economic, social and educational practice.

If this book had been written specifically to address the challenges educators now face in Louisiana it could not have been a more perfect guide. I strongly recommend this book to all my readers, educators and parents who want to be accurately informed about the real threats to our education system. It is definitely not too late to change the course of this education “deform” movement, but we must begin now to properly arm ourselves with the facts and join this battle for our schools and the teaching profession.