I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Miss Laura Gets The Vapors Again!

Why, I do declare! It's time to get the fainting couch again for Miss Laura Waters!
Last week in this space, I wrote a rebuttal to Dr. Diane Ravitch's response to N.J. Education Commissioner Chris Cerf's charter school editorial. Dr. Ravitch, the leading conservative spokesperson in education today, contended that New Jersey is "beginning to revolt" against charters "because the state is trying to push them into suburbs that have great public schools and don't want them."
I tried to temper that argument, reinforce Comm. Cerf's definition of charters as "public schools, with public school students and public school teachers, funded with public dollars," and inject a little sanity into a debate that seems to polarize many people who otherwise share a passion for public education.
While I received some very supportive emails, the post ignited a host of negative comments, which leads to the next question: Why do charter schools in New Jersey generate so much heat?
Yeah, uh, no: that is definitely NOT what happened. Here's what really happened: ACTING* NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf quoted the teachers union leader Albert Shanker to imply he would favor Cerf's push for charter schools. Diane Ravitch, who knows more about this subject than just about anyone on the planet, told him clearly and firmly he was wrong.

That's when you, Laura, attempted to ride to Cerf's rescue:
Here's a fact.
If Albert Shanker was alive today he'd still be an education reformer and would support NJ's efforts to expand school choice for poor urban students. Here's another fact: he wouldn't have given this answer to a parent's query, which appears in the comment section of Dr. Ravitch's blog.
It didn't help that you said about Diane's post:
On Tuesday morning, NJ Spotlight published an editorial by Education Commissioner Chris Cerf's on charter schools. That afternoon, the renowned education historian, Dr. Diane Ravitch, posted anangry rebuttal (currently going viral). Why all the fuss? What could incite a famous international scholar to respond to a simple and factual description of a tiny subset of New Jersey's public school system?
Diane's post was anything but angry; it also had the added benefit of being correct. And that was confirmed first by Darcie Cimarusti, who quoted Shanker's widow on his true beliefs, but also by Shanker's daughter in Waters's own comments section!
Your appreciation for my father's work and vision was lovely to read. But your stance on this issue is diametrically opposed to his values and intent, and you are dead wrong to shame Diane Ravitch for her position. Indeed, if you consider your thinking to be in line with my father's, I recommend that you champion her work, as my family does. If anyone can speak for my father in this day and age, the person who should be most trusted is Dr. Ravitch.
It's unfortunate that many people who read your article will not see this comment. I would like to respectfully request that you reconsider further publicizing your characterizatio n of my father's position on this topic. From what is in evidence in this article, despite your love for the man, you are in no position to speak for him. -Jennie Shanker
So let's be clear: it wasn't that charter schools were "generating so much heat" - it was Waters's mendacious use of Shanker's words to justify her own reformy positions.

You owed the Shanker family an apology, Laura (and Ravitch as well). Instead, you now pretend that you didn't misrepresent Shanker's views, and that the subsequent uproar was really about something else.

Nice try.

Heavens! When will these unseemly perturbations end?

ADDING: Since when is Diane Ravitch "the leading conservative spokesperson in education today"? I suppose it's all in how you define "conservative," but that's still probably the oddest description of Ravitch I've seen.

* Time to retire that joke, I guess. Sigh...


Unknown said...

Before she underwent a transformation of her thinking during the time she started co-blogging with Deborah Meier, Diane served in the US DOE under Bush I and Clinton and was generally viewed as conservative. She was a strong supporter of high stakes tests, accountability, raising the bar, and other NCLB precepts.

And then, she wasn't. So she is an ex-conservative historian of education. She's now quite progressive. It didn't happen instantly, but someone would have to have been hiding under a rock to not have heard about her transformation. Sounds like Ms. Scarlet was too busy with Rhett.

Duke said...

I thought maybe Waters meant she is anti-reformy: "conservative" in the sense that she doesn't want these radical merit pay and testing and charter school changes.

But I think your theory is better: Waters has been hiding under a rock.

Deb said...

Kind of wish she would go back under and stay there.....