By Anthony Cody.
This week there has been another round of mean spirited divisiveness aired in the education movement, this time directed at Diane Ravitch. Diane posted a link to an article in Inside Philanthropy that described a corporate foundation that was donating to public schools instead of trying to undermine them, as most philanthropies have been doing.
In the comments on this post her readers raised some concerns – the emphasis on STEM and other aspects of the funding. But a couple of people on another site went farther, and accused Diane of shilling for the company in part because her son has invested in it. Diane responded in the comments on her post:
I was sitting in the park yesterday when I read the Inside Philanthropy article, and immediately posted it because I was astonished to discover a company that gives money to the local public schools.
I knew nothing about the company other than what was in the article.
I had no idea that my son’s company had invested in it.
If I had known, I would not have posted the article.
In any event, he won’t make money as a result of my posting the reference.
This was a very low blow.
I will never understand why people who are critics of the same things that I am have the desire to disparage me and find some nefarious motive (I am not trying to enrich my son, he is doing quite well on his own with no help from me).
Why don’t they go after our common enemies, the people who want to destroy public schools, unions, and the teaching profession?
Those of us who are regular readers of Diane’s blog know that she posts five or ten times a day. A lot of her posts are not investigative pieces. They are off the cuff sharing of things she finds useful or interesting.
Some people have said “This is just asking questions.” Diane is one of the most available public figures in the nation. She reads every single comment posted to her blog, and often responds to comments and questions there. If someone simply had a question to ask, they could have done so there. This was an attack, and a baseless one.
There has also been a suggestion that Diane is insufficiently critical of Competency Based Education – and there is an implication that this means that those who follow her are being duped into accepting CBE in one form or another. This is nonsense. Diane is 78 years of age, and while she blogs with remarkable alacrity, she is no techno-whiz. Nor does she work on the front lines of education – so much of the latest wave of ed-tech crap hitting the schools is not immediately visible to her. Nonetheless, her blog has indeed carried numerous posts describing the dangers of Competency Based Education. On one she wrote:
So here we go again, but this time with the technology leading the way. This is the breakthrough that equity investors have been waiting for.
Don’t fall for it. Empower teachers, not computers, to assess their students.
Stop the financialization and monetization of public education. Don’t be fooled.
That summarizes Diane’s message quite well. And if you cannot find common ground with her there, then perhaps you are not looking for it.
This latest barrage fits into a pattern among some activists that is quite destructive to the movement. A strong social movement is marked by respect among activists for one another. We go out of our way to lend support to one another’s work. Diane does this every day through her blog – where she brings to light the writing and events of many others – including some of those now attacking her. If we have differences, we can highlight our views in our posts. If we have serious concerns, we can communicate directly, and do our best to express them. We save our fire for those trying to destroy public schools, those promoting segregation and busting our unions. That is how we build solidarity and trust, the two things that are indispensible to any strong movement.
This sort of thing can be disheartening. It seems strange that the Waltons can spend millions paying bloggers to attack our movement, but more damage may actually be done by “allies”. But we should remember that the most valuable work is often that which is the least visible. The relationships we build with one another that sustain us, the knowledge we have of the impact we have made on our own students over the years. Most of us are not doing this for any sort of personal glory, much less to make profits for our children’s investments. So as this school year begins, let’s remember to appreciate one another, and support one another’s efforts as best we can. That is what will build our movement and model the sort of schools and society we want for everyone.