Diane Ravitch’s new education book — an excerpt

Sep 18, 2013 by

Education historian and activist Diane Ravitch’s new book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” just went on sale and it’s bound to be the biggest — and most controversial — education book of the year.

“Reign of Error” is the natural followup to her 2010 best-selling book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” which revealed that she had abandoned long-held views about how to improve public education. Since that book was published, she has emerged as the leader of the growing movement against corporate-influenced reform that has at its core standardized test-based accountability systems, charter schools and other “choice” initiatives, and the Common Core State Standards.

Once an assistant education secretary in the administration of president George H.W. Bush and a supporter of the No Child Left Behind law, Ravitch began looking at how reform was affecting schools and saw that the evidence clearly showed that the  test-based accountability movement was hurting, not helping schools, by turning them into test-prep factories.

The title of her new book leaves no doubt about where she stands in the current reform debate. She blasts the Obama administration for reform initiatives she says have abandoned the goal of educational equity, and worries that education policy is being driven by vastly wealthy private citizens, such as Bill Gates, who use their personal fortunes to fund reforms of their choosing. In Reign of Error, Ravitch argues that reformers who say that public education is in crisis have actually created that crisis with their reforms, and that the popular idea of running the public education system as if it were a business is dangerous. She offers an alternative reform program that includes early childhood education and addressing the consequences of living in poverty that many children face when they are in school.

Ravitch inspires strong feelings among both her critics and her supporters. Well before it was published this week, the book had already been attacked by critics who can’t stand her and supporters who see her as pivotal to their movement.

I will be posting a review of the book as well an interview with Ravitch this week. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 2 of “Reign of Error,” with permission of Knopf, a division of Random House.

Diane Ravitch’s new education book — an excerpt.

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