Saturday, March 06, 2010

Take the Responsibility and the Blame

I was very tempted to go to hear Diane Ravitch speak at an event here in Washington, so I could ask her what we, as a society, get now that she has seen the light. Public figures love to "take full responsibility" for misdeeds (when they get caught doing them), but accept none of the blame. Punishment? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education in the Bush (pére) Administration, was by her own admission a "conservative advocate of charters, merit pay and accountability." Now she claims to be a "skeptical independent," having hit upon the novel notion of checking the data.

A bit too late, she has discovered that the policies she shoved down everyone's throat haven't suceeded at anything good. In the interim, from the 1980s to today, millions of children were subjected to aggressive teach-to-the-test instruction and a corresponding number of teachers were forced to become automatons in the service of some wonk's slash and burn approach.

I myself discarded the briefly held idea of becoming a teacher once I was confronted with one public school system's "competency-based curriculum." This was essentially one of those unreadable educratic policy tomes in which everything is a three-word something (pencil = paper-oriented wordprocessor) and single syllable, Anglo-Saxon words are never used if a longer, Latinate one can be had.

So, yes, Ms. Ravitch, you and your fellow edufascists-in-arms chased me away, even though I could have made learning something so enjoyable students might pursue it on their own, outside school.

Worse, still, the kids didn't get any smarter under the No Child Left Behind regime your propaganda inspired. Even you admit it now. What was the ditty? Ah, yes: those who can't do, teach; those who can't teach, teach education.

In Ravitch's case, she's out to make money confessing her error in a new book. Borrow it from a library, if you must; just don't give her a dime she doesn't deserve.

How is it that all sorts of people can not only start wars, dumb-down schools, steal from the poor and give to the rich, steal from the rich and keep it, and -- only if caught! -- appear in public with crocodile tears about how terrible and wrong they were. They can even non-apologize "if" someone suffered as a result.

Then they get to rake in the real publicity and dough.

What ever happened to scarlet letters, stocks, public humiliation and taunting, drawing and quartering? Weren't these the preferred social catharses the uberconservatives loved? Or were those only for Galileo, English Jesuits and the victims of the unruly teenage girls of Salem?

I'd like to see some real, unremunerated effort to compensate society. Barring that, a good whipping would do.
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