You know that our traditional system of education is truly messed when even the edu-pundits don’t know how to think. Diane Ravitch has changed her mind. Nothing wrong with that by itself – we make mistakes, learn more, get better information… the right thing to do is revisit opinions and positions. Ravitch, a one-time supporter of testing and school choice has decided that both are worthy of the trash heap now. She just doesn’t know how to think about them, though.
She dumps school choice because vouchers and charter schools are not consistently proving to be better than regular public systems. While the recent results here are true, it is partly because the choice model is not being implemented fairly and fully. It’s more that can be delved into here, but the whole charter system in many states is quite, shall we say, “unclean”. The main point, though, isn’t whether they are showing better results, the main point about school choice is that IT’S THE MORAL THING TO DO. Parents should be able to send their children to the school of their choice because it is their tax dollars that are supporting the system. Don’t take away choice because some schools aren’t performing well… they will improve if there’s a need to. Remember: NOT having choice didn’t give us quality schools in the first place.
Plus, how can Ravitch attack choice on practical grounds when the measure of quality is testing. Reports tell us that the “scores” are inconsistent and at times no better, or worse, than some regular public schools. But wait, Ravitch is against testing too. She doesn’t think that it accurately tells us what we need to know about student knowledge and progress. How can you use a measuring stick that you say doesn’t measure? Is this very simple flaw in her thinking so difficult to see? And SHE’S got a national voice in the education reform conversation? Where’s the hope?
Sure testing is not the best approach. We know that. But Ravitch’s about-face isn’t based on a proper understanding of what learning is and how it happens, its’ just a backlash to the “teaching to the test” result of a test-centric climate that has evolved after NCLB (which she supported, before). Her criticism is that all this testing focus has taken us away from delivering a full and proper curriculum. Oh? Right? Like the really good system that was in place before NCLB? Look, Ms. Ravitch, it was the terribly poor system that you railed against in supporting NCLB that you are now saying we need to reinstate.
Such a muddle. Is she really interested in what’s best for students? Does she have a clue as to what that is? It’s muddled thinking like hers that is the biggest problem with traditional education: too many people are NOT learning how to think, because traditional education is not, was never, focused on developing thinking.
All together now: this is why we need to change the education conversation! It’s the conversation that is wrong, not the details of it (they are irrelevant). Shades of Marshall McLuhan.
book review here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/books/review/Wolfe-t.html?scp=2&sq=diane%20ravitch&st=cse
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