Diane Ravitch is an honest and thoughtful person. After decades of advocating the official bi-party line on “educational reform,” Ravitch has examined the evidence and concluded that testing, school choice, and “race to the top” are not just bogus, but harmful.
Well, of course. Who in their right mind believes that our overclass actually wants the most educated possible population? Quite the contrary, for the all-too-obvious reason.
In fact, Ravitch herself provides a useful lens for seeing exactly how screwed up our elite schooling is. At age 72, Ravitch, a Wellesley graduate, is just now thinking her way through the very first tuft of weeds stymieing acknowledgment that excessive public knowledge is seen as a grave danger by the primary beneficiaries of our market-totalitarian society. Ravitch now writes like my Sociology 101 students, or like a 6th grader would in a society that actually took these words seriously, rather than as window dressing:
Without knowledge and understanding, one tends to become a passive spectator, rather than an active participant in the great decisions of our time. A democratic society cannot long sustain itself if its citizens are uninformed and indifferent about its history, its government, and the workings of its economy.
That an Ivy-educated professional school-policy expert is, at the end of her career, just beginning to ponder what this really means speaks volumes about what passes for the top in our educational efforts.
And, despite her bravery in coming out against the status quo and its cynical trickery, Ravitch remains importantly wrong in at least one core area. She complains that the teaching of history and literature are “so frequently politicized.”
Well, once again, duh. They are politicized by structure and design, for the same all-too-obvious reason. The real history of the United States and the world radicalizes most people who learn it. Hence, it is forbidden. The best you get in K-12 is distant hints.
This systemic ban on truth-telling is why my 14-year-old son, presently a student in one of the richest and most liberal-minded of the nation’s public school districts, while studying for his 8th grade social studies final, asked me, thinking I wouldn’t know, “Who founded the NAACP?” When I told him it was W.E. B. DuBois, he said, “Oh, yeah.” When I added that DuBois was a socialist, my son was floored that that fact was absent from his lessons. This, despite the undeniable fact that DuBois himself would have insisted being a socialist was the #1 fact of his own life, the very first thing later people ought to remember about him.
The day we become serious about education (a day that will probably never arrive, given the continuing dictatorial power of our business elite and their ongoing breakneck squandering of the planet’s resources) will be the day we mandate that our spending on schools must always equal or exceed the sums corporate stockholders spend on commercial indoctrination, a.k.a. big business marketing. At present, that latter sum is probably more than $2 trillion a year in the USA alone.