Friday, December 03, 2010

Here Comes Trouble

In a one-sided propaganda piece by Newsweek writer Jonathan Alter, rich guy/ education expert Bill Gates poses several questions about Diane Ravitch:

Does she like the status quo? 

Interesting that Gates can interpret ideas opposed by the US President, Andrew Cuomo, Oprah, Micheal Bloomberg, Whitney Tilson, and hedge fund magnates within US borders to be "status quo." Gates, perhaps, is unaware that historically the ideas of the rich and powerful are status quo.  The fact that teachers and grassroots groups tend to oppose such notions makes no difference whatsoever.  We're the minority, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are standing with us, for the most part.

Is Bill so sensitive that any idea that contradicts his must be ridiculed for no reason whatsoever? 

Is she sticking up for decline? 

I've read Diane's book, seen her speak, I follow her blog, and read everything of hers I find.  I've never seen her stick up for decline.  In fact, when Bill's ideas cause decline, failure, and confusion, she's among the first to stand up and say so.  When small schools and charters fail, when school closings decimate neighborhoods and communities, it's Diane who speaks truth to power.  Or truth to Bill.  Maybe that's why he doesn't like it.  Still, I doubt he's read her book.  It doesn't seem like he could tolerate that level of discomfort.  Fanatics don't much like contradiction.

Does she really like 400-page [union] contracts? 

I don't know.  But since Bill Gates is so prone to speak on topics about which he knows nothing, perhaps she, like me, thinks it would be a bad idea to have the jobs of so many middle-class teachers dependent upon his caprices.  Bill Gates talks about ridiculous clauses in contracts, like principals being forbidden to visit teachers in their classrooms.  I've never heard of such a contract.

More likely Bill doesn't like job security for working people.  He's got his, and everyone else can go to hell.

Does she think all those ‘dropout factories’ are lonely?

Curious he uses the same term as Geoffrey Canada. Wasn't he the guy who dumped an entire grade rather than risk bad statistics?  Is that how he keeps his schools from becoming "dropout factories?"  Do "reformers" share their talking points?  It certainly appears so, with both Gates and Arne Duncan coming out the same week for higher class sizes and no credit for teachers who get advanced education or more years on the job.   Interesting that government should get involved in this.  Has anyone noticed how legislators get jobs on committees?  Last I looked, it was by seniority.

If there’s some other magic way to reduce the dropout rate, we’re all ears.

Interesting he said some "other" way.  The connotation is Gates has a way, which he does not.  If you read about other "reformers," like Rod Paige, he reduced the dropout rate by falsifying statistics.  They called that the "Texas Miracle."  Do you believe in miracles?   Another way to get great stats is to dump the students who aren't headed where you want them.  That's what principal/ CNN education commentator Steve Perry did to get 100% of his students to 4-year colleges.  Never mind after he dumped 43% of them there were really only 57% left.

Either Gates relies too much on paid toadies for info, or he's too lazy to look it up.  I have a suggestion for either Gates or Alter--show the courage of your conviction and demand a public debate with Ravitch.  Find out once and for all whether your overabundance of dollars compensates for your lack of curiosity.

Picture by David Bellel

Update:  See Diane's firsthand responses right here.
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