Accountability Opinion

Birthday Thoughts

By Diane Ravitch — July 02, 2008 2 min read
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Dear Deborah,

Well, we have been blogging for more than a year now, and there was bound to be a screw-up sooner or later. The only question was: who would be first to do it, you or me? The answer is in (drum roll): It is me. My previous post (“Reports, Reform, and Hype,” June 24) was actually a response to your last post (“Blaming Teachers,” June 30). I think this happened because you were so energetic that you replied to me so fast, at lightning speed, leading me to answer an unpublished post of yours.

So, I can’t reply to your blog of June 30 because I already responded to it on June 24!

Let me take a few moments to reflect and lead us in a different direction, perhaps.

Yesterday (July 1) was a milestone birthday for me (thank you for your birthday greetings, blog partner!). I turned 70. I still don’t believe the number because I feel a lot younger; I know my mother and my grandmother were much less active when they reached that age. I still feel ready to go into the ring and take on all comers for 15 rounds. At least I feel that way in the mornings! I invited my seven siblings for a celebration of the fact that we are all still here, and all but one (who was ill) traveled across the country to join me.

Turning to our present matters, I have been struck by the fact that our blog has created a community of readers. Many of our readers comment on almost every post. They frequently communicate with one another on our site. They take ideas very seriously, as we do.

Why do we keep this conversation going? For me, there is a certain satisfaction in bouncing ideas around; in knowing that there are others out there who want to stop and think, who are willing to think with us and argue with us, who don’t assume that the powers-that-be must know best. I think where you and I often agree is that we assume that the powers-that-be need critics, and we are ready to give them the skeptical commentary that they need.

Sometimes I worry that we are too parochial, as we are both focused on New York City, and everyone knows that NYC is not the world. Yet, I see the developments in NYC replicated in cities around the nation. I see them as a mirror image of No Child Left Behind. I see school districts around the nation embracing privatization, outsourcing of central office responsibility, merit pay, incentivization, and other aspects of “the business model.” I see a steady dismantling of public education, not only in NYC, but in many school districts, especially in urban centers, and I know that the things that worry us are not New York-centric.

American education has always had problems and crises, but I can’t recall a time when some of the wealthiest people in the nation were putting serious money into a campaign to privatize public education.

The raison d’etre of our blog, I believe, is to look more deeply into education issues than others do. Our responsibility is to raise the questions and issues that other commentators have not even considered. Our role is to rip to shreds the phony consensus that encourages so many school districts to accept shallow and harmful “reforms.”


The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences 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.