Ravitch's cultural chauvinism finds its way to Minnesota / by Christopher Stewart

Diane Ravitch, the ever-tireless defender of the public education status quo, continues to outdo herself. Like Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, or Dick Morris, we know she profits from who and what she is against rather than from any positive vision for change. There is no sincere commitment to honest argument, shared understandings, or pursuit of the common good. It's a zero sum game and facts are a liability.

Her usual schtick came local with a blog post about Minnesota's charter schools. Two weeks after Gloria Romero detailed an example of Ravitch's trademark cultural chauvinism (what is it with politicos from Houston?), we get another dose of it. Ravitch says she's disturbed by the level of "segregation" in schools with afrocentric programming or German immersion theming. Without getting to deep in it herself, she lazily points to an article in Bloomberg news by John Hechinger. Here is the quote she pointed to:

Six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, segregation is growing because of charter schools, privately run public schools that educate 1.8 million U.S. children. While charter-school leaders say programs targeting ethnic groups enrich education, they are isolating low-achievers and damaging diversity, said Myron Orfield, a lawyer and demographer.

I responded to her post (see below) knowing that it would only be a matter of minutes before some local failing teacher looking for national affirmation re-posts Ravitch's 9 millionth baseless slam on non-traditional (e.g. non-unionized) public schools.

Having mentally envisioned her as the Coutler of teacher unionism, I've escaped the need to seriously detail Ravitch's numerous points of academic dishonesty. There's a point at which you can no longer keep up with the argumentative double-standards, omitted information, thin citations, wrestling with straw men, and enemy imaging. In my final analysis Ravitch is accountable for nothing. She doesn't run a school that is beating the odds. She doesn't have any children of color that she is desperately trying to educate. She really has more arguments about what she doesn't like than any solutions (besides going back to some undetermined magical point in history when all kids were above average, all teachers needed not evaluations because they were invariably good, and reform was necessary).

Luckily, there are people willing to expose her flawed, and some times bizarre, way of arguing.

In reviewing her book, Jay P. Greene lists her sins this way:

The book’s faults fall into five general categories, each of which will be the subject of a blog post this week:

  1. Ignoring or selectively citing scholarly literature;
  2. Misinterpreting the scholarly literature that she does cite;
  3. Caricaturing her opponents in terms of strawman arguments, rather than taking the best arguments head-on;
  4. Tendering logical fallacies; and
  5. Engaging in a double standard, such as holding a disfavored position to a high burden of proof while blithely accepting more problematic evidence that supports one’s own position (or not looking for evidence at all).

Here is my response to Ravitch's blog post about Minnesota charter schools:

Hechinger, Orfield, and Ravitch should all know the difference in context between state-forced or sanctioned “segregation” and the desperate choices that lead people of color to self-select smaller, more culturally affirming schools. After 400 years of not being able to have much of a choice, you’d think white anti-reformers would see the cultural chauvinism in their criticism of the choices parents of color make.

The irony is that as they pretend to care about “segregation” (a concept they seem to not understand), they fail to address the one thing that causes it most: white flight. Why assail the choices of people of color but not that of the majority who – through their choices – cause the problem?

Indeed, to see the level of hypocrisy, just witness the fact that Myron Orfield writes often about the “segregation” of charter schools, yet, in a district where 70% of the kids are of color, and 65% are in poverty, he sends his own child to Lake Harriet school, a school so exclusive it is on Fordham’s list of “private public schools” (http://edexcellencemedia.net/publications/2010/201002_Private_Public_Schools/2010_PrivatePublicSchools_Minneapolis.pdf)

This is the classic case of white liberals knowing what is best for us, even as they make other choices for their own children. While they criticize the choices parents of color make to escape defunct public schools that white parents abandoned years ago, they select for themselves public schools made exclusive by economics and history.

It is interesting that nowhere in this blog post is there a mention that Minnesota has one of the most racially predictable education systems in the country. Yet, 9 out of 10 schools beating the odds with black children are charter schools. In fact, the schools doing the absolute best with kids of color are charter schools. And, those schools are homegrown from members of the community.

In a time where it is often said that communities of color need to be more “involved” in education, and that the outcomes depend on it; consider this the way we want to be “involved” – by trying new things and have more power to determine for ourselves what an education should be.

The bottom line is that people of color have been exceedingly faithful supporters of traditional public education, even as our history has provided us very little opportunity to determine “what is education for our kids.” As the national debate is loud with the voices of that talk about us in the abstract, and assign all of our efforts for change to masters on a right-wing plantation, we have the right to seek alternatives for our kids.

Instead of producing supercilious screeds to tell us what is best for us, why not put your own children and grandchildren into the worst performing schools in America? That would be the most affirmative step toward desegregating traditional public schools; surely it would be more effective than going after charter schools, which only serve about 4 to 5% of students.