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[Susan notes: This is the first acknowledgment I've seen that Ravitch's revelations about marketplace ideologies that dominate school reform have been discussed and analyzed by the educational left for years. Rejoice in Ravitch's change of mind, but many traced the corporate takeover of school reform years ago. ]

Published in New York Times Sunday Book Review
06/06/2010

To the editor

The NY Times Sunday Book Review doesn't put letters online.

June 6, 2010
A Tardy Education

To the Editor:

Alan Wolfe's review of Diane Ravitch's "Death and Life of the Great American School System" (May 16) was complacent at best, misleading at worst. Although I welcome Ravitch's change of mind about the impact of choice, high-stakes testing and data-driven decision-making on public education, there is little in her book that anyone who has kept up with the critical literature on education policy would find new or surprising.

For well over a decade, many writers and scholars on the educational left have pointed out that the implementation of market-oriented reforms like choice and accountability were more likely to erode support for the public foundations of education than to equalize educational opportunity or lead to gains in educational achievement, yet for years Ravitch blithely ignored them.

Rather than praise Ravitch for having the courage ot change her mind, therefore, Wolfe would have done better to ask why she became such an enthusiastic proponent of these reforms in the first place and why she turned a deaf ear for so long to those voices that recognized their potentially deleterious effects on the nation's commitment to schooling for all. That he did not speaks more to how marginalized views from the left of center that challenge currently popular assumptions about what counts as "real" educational reform have become in mainstream public discourse than to anything particularly novel that Ravitch now has to say.


The writer is Chairman of the Department of Education, Culture and Society, University of Utah.

Harvey Kantor


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