Monday, December 20, 2010

Make Profit, Not War

Diane Ravitch just won the 2011 Daniel Patrick Moynihan prize for a lifetime dedicated to improving public policy. To celebrate this, Jay Matthews compared her to a guy who's bullish on companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald's, companies that make money by exploiting working people.

Jay Matthews calls hedge fund manager/ "reformer" Whitney Tilson "erudite." Here's a quote from Tilson:

In the article in my last email about Bill Perkins, he was quoted as saying that the rise of charter schools in Harlem has created a system that is “separate and unequal.”  He’s right, but it isn’t a bad thing (and he intends it), but rather a cause for celebration.

Tilson can certainly celebrate the fact that some charter schools get attention, money, smaller class sizes, and 100-million dollar buildings. And he can ignore the fact that other schools are neglected, closed, and vilified for the failure of their teachers.  He can ignore the fact that charter bosses like Geoffrey Canada pay themselves half-a-million bucks per year to work their "miracles" while dismissing entire cohorts that don't promise to raise their stats.

Tilson can do such things because he's a propagandist. As such, he gets access to people like Joel Klein that eludes public school principals and teachers. They can have private discussions about the "oppos" who stand up to them, and about "pushback" on the infrequent occasions the New York Times sees fit to print the truth about education.

But Jay Matthews, by comparing a brilliant researcher like Diane Ravitch to a self-serving money manager like Tilson, is a disgrace. Tilson does what he can to move working people back to the more profitable 19th century, while putting on a dog and pony show to convince the shills that charters are the answer. Even the propaganda-laden Waiting for Superman admits only 1 in 5 charters outperforms public schools (actually 17%).

Matthews writes books about KIPP, and certainly profits when people take demagogues like Tilson seriously. Diane Ravitch paints what she sees. What Matthews calls a plea for peace is a thinly disguised request for the foremost voice of reason in education to sit down and shut up.

At this point, there's no reason to regard Matthews as any more "erudite" than Tilson. I'd like to see either one of them try to debate Ravitch.  I suggest you sit while waiting for Matthews or Tilson to muster the courage for such an undertaking.
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