Against Ravitch

by Rich Gibson, March 2010


Perhaps it is because she floats around in the really thin air that is the field of education that the vacillating reactionary, Diane Ravitch, gets cheers from those who condemned her in her No Child Left Behind days. I have to remind myself that there are also bad historians at Harvard.

What makes Ravitch consistent, and consistently reactionary, is her dishonest rejection of the social context of the NCLB and its monster sibling, The Race to the Top (Ratt), that is, her utter failure to locate these regimented education moves with the continuing crises of the system of capital, today losing wars and forging booming inequality.

That then allows Ravitch to appear to shift sides, when her real side is simple to see: class rule. At issue is the method, form, which seems to fascinate and distract education workers. Will it be the iron fist or velvet glove, ensuring oppression one way or another?

If the problem is poverty, as Ravitch says, where does poverty come from? Who gains?

Beyond that, what Ravitch dodges in the Huffington piece below is the fact that the union representing the fired Rhode Island teachers, the American Federation of Teachers, was, along with the National Education Association, absolutely pivotal in creating the NCLB, then electing the demoagogue, Obama. That laid the ground to fire the teachers. Those who did not see merit pay and dismissals lurking right behind high-stakes tests (pushed by Ravitch not long ago), cannot connect cause and effect.

Ravitch is a patriot, promoting the false notion that "we are all in this together for good education," when every signal from daily life says this is an international war of the rich on the poor with children of the poor, everywhere, fighting and dying on behalf of the rich in their homelands, while their parents fall deeper and deeper into poverty. Those children of the poor need to be drilled with the nationalism Ravitch backs, or they will not go fight, and their parents won't accept the poverty that Ravitch complains about.

The last thing that the reactionary patriot Ravitch (and the NEA and AFT mis-leaders) wants to see rising up is exactly what is beginning to rise up, a mass base of class conscious activists willing to take direct action to transform the system of capital, and its schools.

Here is some more pap from a reviewer, praising Ravitch:

From the dripping conclusion quoting Ravitch: "…we must preserve American public education, because it is so intimately connected to our concepts of citizenship and democracy and to the promise of American life. In view of the money and power now arrayed on behalf of the ideas and programs that I will criticize, I hope it is not too late. (p. 14) "

The reviewer claims that even within the Bush administration, "she was never a Republican. She was a Democrat, now she is an independent." Proof twice: little difference between Republicans and Democrats; not independent of, but enamored by, capitalism.

Ravitch, however, witlessly claims she’s not on any side. She is: Exploitation.

Democracy? It's becoming the new religion. Myth. Take this from three easy angles. The $12.9 trillion that Obama gave to the banks in the most grotesque transfer of public to private wealth since the oligarchs stole Russia (Stiglitz) was opposed by 2/3 of people in the US. That's sheer class rule, power. So are the two wars. opposed. yet endless: imperialism on its relentless search for cheap labor, raw materials, markets, and regional control.

From another angle: how many Rhode Island education workers are there? How many people fired them? It looks to me like the educators outnumber their enemies by 10-1, maybe more. Democracy does not apply at work, the place where most people set up nearly everything in their lives.


Third: massive demonstrations of students, school workers, and community people on March 4th show, we think, terrific unrest. But those participants represent less that 1/4 of the combined student/faculty bodies. A meeting of about 800 people decided on March 4th, the demands, and the substance of the demonstrations, declaring itself “democratic.” True? In a sense, yes, in much the same way that about 1/3 of the people in the American colonies sided with the 1776 revolutionaries. Democracy is a problem.


Public Schooling? Another myth. Education in the US has never been truly public, but fully segregated by class and race. Kids from different social classes get taught differing fact, under varying methods–mis-education fashioned through a tax system that favors the wealthy. The point is not to preserve public education but to rescue education from the ruling classes, to truly transform education.

I suspect there will be those who say that we need to have the Ravitch's to lead people, by baby steps, to new conclusions. There is no evidence that people learn that way, and, incidentally, events show that time is short.

The corporate state is here. Whether or not 2000 small bank failures, caused by the collapse of commercial real estate, will mean yet another collapse is unclear, but the deepening of financial, military, and social crises should be obvious---as should be carrot and stick methods of hegemony.

People can be told what is up and why things are as they are. That is happening. We don't need to applaud disingenuous second-tier analysis from people whose history suggests they may be on the other side at any moment.

March 4th was terrific. Can it stem the tide of reaction, fascism as a mass popular movement? We shall see.

Not-so loyal and disobedient citizens, marching off with mass demonstrations, seizing buildings, mutinying, striking, fighting back with direct action, the "promise of American life," being overrun by people who are learning why things are as they are.

And good luck to us, every one