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Yes, Diane Ravitch is Among My Heroes

John Merrow has taken an unusual step for a journalist. He has written a blog post that attempts to marginalize one of the central figures of our national discourse on education. The post is entitled "Do We Need More Heroes," and in it, he compares Diane Ravitch to far-right Senator Ted Cruz. He goes even farther, in characterizing those of us who admire Diane Ravitch:

 I am pretty certain that the same people who idolize Ted Cruz or Diane Ravitch are equally vehement in their disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with their hero (and them).  These people inhabit a comic book world without ambiguity where heroes require villains.  Our society makes it easy to live in a black-and-white world without nuances-you can watch either Fox or MSNBC, but not both!

He does not explain who "these people" are. But since I would count Diane Ravitch as one of my heroes, I guess I must be among these zealots. So I felt compelled to respond:

John,

You ask your reader for who their heroes might be. But then the thrust of your piece is to preemptively impugn anyone who might choose Diane Ravitch as their personal hero, by suggesting that "the same people who idolize Ted Cruz or Diane Ravitch are equally vehement in their disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with their hero (and them). "

So those of us who indeed do admire Diane Ravitch greatly must first fend off your assertions about our intolerance.

For the record, I would count Diane Ravitch as one of my heroes. She has had the strength of character to examine the evidence and reject prior beliefs. Other people have had changes of mind, but she has pursued the evidence to explore and uncover real deceptions that have been sown about our schools and the teaching profession.

There is a real battle taking place over the future of our schools. Great harm is being done to the institution of public education, as we see neighborhood schools closed, and the teaching profession mechanized and micromanaged through ever more frequent tests. Diane Ravitch has emerged as someone able to place this battle in the context of the last century of American education history, and provide a clear map as to what is happening, and who the players are working the levers of power.

The real people working in the "messy middle" are the teachers and students who have been the subjects of this unprecedented series of experiments in market based reforms. Teachers who have seen the standards and tests change on an almost yearly basis, and who now must be evaluated based on test scores. Students who are being tested to death, and face ever more difficult tests under the misguided notion that somehow failing more of them will enable more of them to succeed.

Teachers get to choose their own heroes, fortunately, and the thousands showing up to hear Diane Ravitch speak about her latest book in the weeks to come will no doubt make their own views heard.

Apparently I am not alone. In the past three hours, more than 40 readers have left comments on Merrow's blog, all but one lauding Ravitch. 

And this just in from Diane Ravitch herself. Her new book, Reign of Error, has debuted at #10 on the New York Times best seller's list.

(Note: I work with Diane Ravitch on a project called the Network for Public Education.)

What do you think? Are those of who admire Diane Ravitch guilty of intolerance -- zealotry even? Or is John Merrow attempting to marginalize Ravitch and her supporters? 

Continue the dialogue with Anthony on Twitter.

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