On Feb. 5, blogger Marc Dean Millot apparently committed the equivalent of heresy by questioning the integrity of the Race to the Top. In a post on Alexander Russo’s “This Week in Education, Millot wrote:
I have now heard the same thing from three independent credible sources -- the fix is in on the U.S. Department of Education's competitive grants, in particular Race to the Top (RTTT) and Investing in Innovation (I3). Secretary Duncan needs to head this off now, by admitting that he and his team have potential conflicts of interests with regard to their roles in grant making, recognizing that those conflicts are widely perceived by potential grantees, and explaining how grant decisions will be insulated from interference by the department's political appointees.
Russo pulled the post, apparently after a complaint was lodged by Andy Rotherham, which can be seen on his blog, Eduwonk:
Scholastic, a serious publisher in the education space (that produces some good products, for instance Read 180) is now allowing its bloggers to call out senior government officials as corrupt on the basis of anonymous third party hearsay and no evidence. We've crossed into a strange new - and unfortunate - world if this is the new norm or somehow even remotely acceptable.
In his responses, Millot offers a lawyerly defense of his original post, and effectively refutes the charges Rotherham makes, pointing out that his post did not accuse officials of corruption, but warned that there was a growing perception of this danger.
The whole incident is remarkable on several levels. First of all, it reminds us of the futility of censorship. Millot’s original post has been reproduced and read far more than if it had been ignored by those who were offended. Second, the defensive reaction shows the explosive nature of the questions he raises. We are dealing with billions of dollars of public funds, and the future of an entire generation. The stakes could hardly be higher.
Historian and blogger Diane Ravitch does a great job of putting this all into perspective in her post last Tuesday. She ends with a rather dire warning:
When someday we trace back how large segments of our public school system were privatized and how so many millions of public dollars ended up in the pockets of high-flying speculators instead of being used to reduce class size, repair buildings, and improve teacher quality, we will look to the origins of the Race to the Top and to the interlocking group of foundations, politicians, and entrepreneurs who created it.
In recent weeks, I have tried to be optimistic about statements Duncan and Obama have made that indicate their willingness to depart substantially from the test mania that has driven us for the past decade. However, this incident raises a host of questions that need to be explored much more deeply.
What do you think about this imbroglio? Was Millot’s original post hearsay or heresy? How about the warning from Ravitch?
(Hat tip to David Cohen over at Accomplished California Teachers for flagging this.)
The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.