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Matt Damon Joins Diane Ravitch Tour

Matt Damon Diane Ravitch book tour Reign of ErrorAfter a stop in Sacramento last week where she shared the stage with CTA Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki , Diane Ravitch continued her tour promoting her new book Reign of Error Wednesday Night at CSU Northridge. Matt Damon, whose educator mother was in the audience, brought some Hollywood star power to the event, introducing Ravitch and lauding her stands on major education issues.

Ravitch wasted no time in her hour-long presentation, exposing what she calls hoaxes being perpetrated on the public and on the education community, largely by corporate and billionaire so-called reformers. "America is not falling behind," noted Ravitch, sharing recent data that ties the US with Finland, a nation often ranked at the top in education. Among her other targets:

  • No Child Left Behind:  Ravitch said her former boss Lamar Alexander admitted that NCLB’s target of 100% of US children being proficient by 2014 wasn’t possible to reach, but that it was “good to have a goal.” Ravitch rightly pointed out that thousands of American schools were being called “failures” and people were getting fired for not reaching that “good” goal.
  • Charter schools: While acknowledging there are excellent charters, Ravictch deplored the “risk management” strategy of some that cherry-pick higher achieving students. She had especially harsh words for online charter schools raking in millions of tax dollars with little overhead to spend it on, and pointed out that on average charters do just about as well as traditional public schools.
  • Abolishing tenure: Ravitch defended tenure laws, saying that all they do is allow teachers due process and to be heard if they are dismissed. Ravitch attacked the whole “get rid of bad teachers” strategy as a ridiculous way to improve schools. Quoting Linda Darling-Hammond, she observed, “You can’t fire your way to Finland.”
  • Parent Trigger laws: Ravitch sees them as a way to trick parents into turning public institutions over to private profiteers. She compared such efforts to a group of unhappy public bus passengers seizing the bus and giving it a private bus company. Citing such public entities as belong to the entire community whether they have children or ride the bus, she said of those who try to seize control, “It’s not their bus and it’s not their school,” she said.
  • Attacks on teacher unions: Ravitch pointed out that the same people who want to evaluate teachers on test scores are usually the same people who attack unions. She said those same people find it hard to reconcile that the nation’s top achieving states have unionized teachers.

Reign of Error is available in stores and online. Be sure to follow Diane Ravitch for her latest posts and commentary on the education reform landscape.

Photo credit: John Saringo-Rodriguez / Daily Sundial

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