Ravitch rallies hundreds to defend public education

With a rousing defense of public education and a scathing critique of those who seek to privatize it, Diane Ravitch drew a diverse audience of 800 to Harvard’s Memorial Church on October 24th. Citizens for Public Schools sponsored the event as part of its Mary Ann Hardenbergh annual lecture series.

Ravitch, a historian and former U.S. assistant secretary of education, pulled no punches when explaining what corporate-driven “reform” means for public education: budget cuts, elimination of jobs, harming of children, and turning over schools to hedge fund managers.

Diane Ravitch at Memorial Church

Diane Ravitch at Memorial Church

Using arguments from her new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, Ravitch described and dismantled the hoaxes perpetrated by the “reformers”: that American schools are failing, that mediocre teachers are responsible, that high-stakes testing will force them to improve, that competition fostered by charter schools and vouchers will save our education system.

But the worst hoax of all, she noted, is the refusal to acknowledge or address the problem of child poverty as an education issue. “Poverty hurts kids,” she said. “Being hungry hurts kids. Being sick hurts kids. Living in violent neighborhoods hurts kids…Saying that this is just an excuse is cruel and inhumane.”

Ravitch laid out an alternative, evidence-based vision of to help children learn and grow: high-quality pre-natal care; pre-kindergarten classes; small classrooms; age-appropriate goals; a rich and balanced curriculum that includes science and history, arts and music, physical education every day; testing for diagnostic purposes; decent facilities; high standards and supports to build a strong education profession; and an end to racial segregation and inequality.

Look for the upcoming issue of the CPS newsletter, The Backpack, for a full report on the Diane Ravitch lecture.

Thanks to our generous co-sponsoring organizations and individuals, including: AFT Massachusetts, Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts, Boston Teachers Union, Brookline Educators Union, Center for Collaborative Education, Center for Law and Education, Educators for a Democratic Union, Educators for Social Responsibility, Harvard Students for Education Reform (SFER), Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Massachusetts Teachers Association, METCO, National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), Save Our Schools, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Barbara Corey, Chandler Creedon Jr., Clarke Fowler, Dan French, Thomas Gosnell, Joann Greenwood, Sharon Guzik, Vicki Halal, Karen Kast-McBride, Elizabeth Keefe, Jonathan & Jacqueline King, Diane Levin, James McDermott, Deborah Meier, Monty Neill, Barbara Pallazzo, Ruth Rodriguez, Camelia Rosca, Norma Shapiro, Judith Smith. Special thanks to Jennifer Berkshire (a k a “EduShyster” for her support and help).

 –by Jackie King