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The Indignant Teacher Reviews “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools”

September 20, 2013


The “nation’s children are on a train that is headed for a cliff“.

This sentence, unobtrusively embedded in the middle of the first chapter of Reign of Error, effectively identifies the main idea of Diane Ravitch’s newest book. Like its prequel from 2010, The Death and Life of the Great American School SystemReign of Error serves to warn America of the reality of this 21st century ed reform movement.
Three years ago, Dr Diane Ravitch published TDALOTGASS after coming to realize the harm that No Child Left Behind was inflicting on public schools across America. She explained in detail the tragic misdirection of reform as initiated by NCLB – a policy she once staunchly supported herself. She warned the nation of the dire impact(s) this “privatization movement” would have if it continued to move in the direction it was going, as orchestrated by the “corporate reformers”.
America didn’t listen.
This past Tuesday, Dr. Ravitch released Reign of Error.
This time, America needs to listen.
Her message is more urgent. What has happened (& is happening) is even more alarming than what she had predicted three years ago. The destruction of public education is already palpable, and it’s becoming moreso as time goes on.
Everyone who reads this book must share Dr. Ravitch’s message with everyone they know, before the train reaches that cliff. At this point, the train is careening out of control at breakneck speed, and there is only one way to stop it…by educating oneself, and each other.
Every citizen in America must be told the “true story” of corporate reform, which Dr. Ravitch so eloquently and effectively shares in the first four chapters of Reign.
It is a story most of us would only believe to be fictional, created & developed by an insatiable hunger for power and riches that is infinitely more excessive than the average American could fathom.
Readers will close chapter four with a clear understanding that the “crisis” happening in the public schools isn’t a “crisis” at all – it’s nothing more than a fallacy resulting from “persistent, orchestrated attacks on [schools] and their teachers and principals” (xi).
They will have an accurate understanding of the history of the reform movement, as
(re-)directed by NCLB, and how it’s evolved in the dozen or so years since becoming law. They will have learned about the main characters in the story, including Bill Gates, The Waltons, Arne Duncan, President Obama, Michelle Rhee, and others. They will even learn a whole new vocabulary, as (re-)defined by the reformers, so as to “sell” their ideologies and philosophies to American voters….why?
Dr. Ravitch explains on pgs 35-36:
If the American public understood that reformers want to privatize their public schools and divert their taxes to pay profits to its investors, it would be hard to sell the idea of corporate reform. If parents understood that the reformers want to close down their community schools and require them to go shopping for schools, some far from home, that may or may not accept their children, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public understood that the very concept of education was being disfigured into a mechanism to apply standardized testing and sort their children into data points on a normal curve, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public understood that their children’s teachers will be judged by the same test scores that label their children as worthy or unworthy, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. If the American public knew how inaccurate and unreliable these methods are, both for children and for teachers, it would be hard to sell the corporate idea of reform. And that is why the reform message must be rebranded to make it palatable to the public.”
Once Dr. Ravitch tells the story in Chapters 1-4, she follows with a whopping 15 chapters, each citing a common “claim” made by corporate reformers (& exaggerated by mainstream media), followed with the realities of these claims.
The first claim Ravitch identifies is the one on which all the others rest; it is arguably the most important claim cited by the corporate reformers, as it alone is enough to push their agenda through:
     “Test scores are falling, and the educational system is broken and obsolete.” 
Without this being true, there would be no panacea. Without this being true, there would be no money to be made. Without this being true, there would be no entrepreneurial opportunities available to philanthropists and other societal “do-gooders”, like Pit Bull. Yes, I mean the rapper Pit Bull, who’s all over the charter influx in his hometown. This is the statement that society must believe if corporate reform is to continue to provide the uber-lucrative profit-earning “initiatives” they like to call “reform”; this is how they convince society that they have the answers to “fixing” the “broken schools”. This is how they get people to believe that public education is “broken”, or “in crisis”, or whatever choice of words is used to paint the status quo as they have.
Except they’re lying. That statement in indisputably false, as is the status quo. The reality of things – or the adaequatio intellectus et rei – is:
     “Test scores are at their highest point ever recorded.”
Yes, I know that’s hard to believe. Yes, I know you aren’t sure if that’s right. But it is. And if you read Chapter 5, you’ll come to understand that we have only one authoritative measure of academic performance over time, and that is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as NAEP. You’ll also come to understand that NAEP scores – based on a “no-stakes” test – only ever contradict the “falling test scores” theory. You will come to understand these and more, not because Dr. Ravitch says so, but because she backs this up with fact after fact after fact. Like she does in every chapter.
Reading on, you will come to understand the myths about not just test scores, but also about The Achievement Gap, international test scores, high school and college graduation rates, poverty and academic achievement, teachers and test scores, merit pay, Teach for America, tenure and seniority, charter schools, virtual schools, parent “trigger” legislation, vouchers, and school closings. You will realize that everything you thought you understood about these topics is blatantly false.
You will learn about the “Mystery of Michelle Rhee”, the woman who is the face of corporate reform, who starred in Waiting for Superman and graced the cover of Time Magazine thanks to the miracles she performed as Chancellor of DC public schools in regards to their test scores. You will come to understand that it didn’t matter that her “miracles” were, in fact, fabricated by staff members erasing wrong answers and bubbling in the correct ones on their high stakes tests back when she was in charge. You will ask yourself why she continues to rake in millions – if not more – to push her “solutions” on the country. You will wonder why her scandals and corruption haven’t made headlines – if news at all – like her miracles did.
Michelle Rhee doesn’t have the solutions. She has already proven that beyond any possibility of dispute, and time and again, too.
Diane Ravitch does. And after telling the corporate reform horror story, and explaining it’s mistruths, she offers these solutions. Ten chapters providing ten clearly identified strategies – also supported with an abundance of facts – turn Reign of Error from an academic publication designed for mainstream America to become self-educated, into a blueprint for political leaders who wish to make an authentic, beneficial change in the public schools.
This is why America must read this book. This is why Dr. Ravitch’s message needs to get out there. Mainstream media will not send it. Not as long as the same people directing corporate reform also direct today’s “News”. It’s time for our country to realize the purpose of Social Media; it’s time for us to see what power it holds. It’s time to tell America the story of the Reign of Error, before the train really does careen off that cliff. Please read the book, and share it’s message, before it’s too late.
{& for the staunchest corporate reform-believers, the final section of the book includes 75 pages of charts, graphs, tables, and notes to support every word written. You can’t argue with these kinds of facts, because they’re the only ones that exist. Everything else – everything the media inundates us with – are lies. Read the book and see for yourselves…it’ll be the best education you’ve ever received…& it’s contained between the covers of a single book}.

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  1. econdemocracy permalink

    Well worded article in Australia’s ABC with some points we in the US could learn from on how to phrase things:
    “Why the work of great teachers is hard to quantify” subheading: “A good percentage of ‘good teaching’ goes unnoticed and unheralded. Teachers get that. So do their principals” and a great opener: “Teaching is not an Olympic event where judges hold up score cards for performance. We must find new ways of appreciating and understanding what it is that good teachers do”

    See url for full.

    (I have other comments to make as a strong supporter of Ravitch and as someone who has worked with k12 teacher as a college professor..but that will need to wait until I have a block of time to put together my thoughts..glad I found your blog..will return to share those thoughts, meanwhile, wanted to share this ABC Australia essay 🙂

  2. It’s like social media karma: the more you give, the more you get back.
    Our world class team of social media engineers knows the truth and the secret to
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    social image. Her Facebook cover was a poignant family photo of the movie star and the girl seated side by side staring at
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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Indignant Teacher Reviews “Reign of Error” | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. The Indignant Teacher Reviews “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” | Public Ed. 101
  3. The Indignant Teacher Reviews Reign of Error |

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