Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sean Ahern Critiques Ravitch, et al. on Broad

Sean writes a dynamic, pulsing piece here. My problem with it - it's about the past.

Diane Ravitch has enlisted in the NYC school wars - on the right side. While she focuses on BloomKlein, her nationally recognized voice is very welcome as a counter to the BloomKlein spin. As she continues to reexamine her positions I expect we will be hearing a lot more.

To whom should the NYC public schools be held accountable?

If not the Mayor and the corporate reformers, then who? The "experts" like Ms Ravitch? Ms Weingarten and the Unity Caucus? AIPAC or B'nai Brith? Daniel Pipes and the neo cons at the Sun? Maybe Albert Shanker's 'Tough" ghost?

'The time has come', the Walrus said, 'to talk of many things'.
Lewis Carroll The Walrus and the Carpenter.

Queen Ravitch mourns the wreakage of the NYC Public school bureaucracy but her questioning of 'first principles' does not go beyond the 'remembrance of things past'. This is nostalgia, not criticism. Subjects sit by the bedside of their queen looking for signs of life while the barbarians storm the gates. Citizens seek council among themselves, form alliances and organize for their own defense. Citizens or subjects, what are we?

What are Ravitch's "first principles" and why was a band of corporate takeover artists so successful in their enclosure of the public school "commons" in the first place?

How was it that the public school "commons" was so poorly defended from the corporate marauders? (Maybe this 'commons' was more of a feeding trough for the educracy?) More to the point, why did the putative 'Guardians' of the educracy invite the marauders in? Were the people encroaching upon the educrat turf? Such questions require a self critical lense which Ravitch et al have yet to locate. Suffice it to say, that they have forfeited their claim to leadership and it behooves us simple folk to decamp from the bedside of these fallen vassals and join with the poor.

Why were Ravitch and the other members of the educracy so easily outmanuevered by the corporate reform? Recall that Ravitch and the UFT endorsed the schools takeover which they now bemoan. Could it be that the educrats were promised a secure perch that has at least for the moment been pulled out from under them? Maybe they hitched their wagons to the wrong horse?

The corporate reformers are revolutionaries, they have dismantled the fiefdom of the educrats and put themselves at the helm. Sooner or later they will refashion a bureaucracy on a new foundation, much more in line with their own self image of the lean mean corporate machine, a totalitarian consciousness industry stripped of tenure, academic freedom, free speech.

Our new thinly veiled oligarchy, controlled from above through high stakes testing, a national curriculum, divide and conquer schemes, will include a refashioned somewhat diminished perch for a new generation of Ravitches and reborn Ciceros, modern day scholastics, who will quickly re feather their nest amidst a great cackle, furious pruning and plucking, huffing and puffing about pedagogical inanities.

The alternative to top down accountability is bottom up accountability. This is not a diminished professionalism or lowering of standards. This is what education in a democratic society is for; self rule, self determination, messy, disputatious but also creative, furiously productive and free.


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