May 10, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
Diane Ravitch wrote a great piece today in Education Week titled “Why Won’t ‘Reformers’ Listen?”. She ends with a quote from the late President of the University of Chicago, Robert Maynard Hutchins, who said “”The only political dogma in America is that discussion leads to progress, that every man is entitled to his own opinions, and that we have to learn to live with those whose opinions differ from our own. After all, they may turn out to be right.”
Listening to those with a different perspective and recognizing that no one has a monopoly on the truth is an important element of effective community organizing. In the high-stakes world of school reform and education, clearly advocates on all sides, including me, have been guilty of not being the greatest listeners at times.
However, it seems pretty clear to me that over the years many who have pushed for issues like using standardized test results as the main measure of teacher effectiveness; trying to dramatically expand the role of charters from being teaching and learning “labs” to using them as weapons to attack public education; and wanting public schools to act more and more like “businesses,” have tended to be the ones most self-righteous in the certainty of their cause, and the ones more likely to dismiss those who feel differently as just “defenders of the status quo.”
In addition to Diane’s article, I thought I’d share a number of posts that touch on this issue. Since this has been an issue of particular concern to me because of my nineteen year community organizing career, I’m including a number of my own posts. I hope that others can contribute more.
Here are my picks for The Best Posts Discussing Arrogance, School Reform & Other Education Issues:
What Would it Take to Change Your Mind? was written by David B. Cohen at the InterACT blog.
I wrote The importance of being unprincipled, and it appeared on The Washington Post’s website.
Five Quotes That All Of Us (Including Self-Righteous School Reformers) Should Keep In Mind appeared in this blog.
The Art & Importance Of Compromise is a post I wrote last year.
Let’s Do Less ‘Fire, Ready, Aim’ is a piece I wrote for The Huffington Post.
If you think I’m being unfair in my critique of the attitude held by many “school reformers,” here is a series of posts that highlight some of their recent actions. I think they explain why I think they tend to be the ones less interested in listening:
“Parent Trigger Supporters Attack PTA, Compare Schools To Batterers”
What A Terrible Video About Parents & Schools With A Terrible Message
The Arrogance Of Bill Gates
The Arrogance Of Bill Gates — Part Two
The Arrogance Of Bill Gates — Part Three
The Best Posts Responding To Bill Gates’ Appallingly Clueless Op-Ed Piece
Michelle Rhee Ups Her Arrogance Level
Today, A Reporter Asked Me What I Thought Of Michelle Rhee. This Is What I Told Him…
And, to touch upon this topic of arrogance in a way that is related to education, though not necessarily always connected to school reform, you might be interested in:
Private Foundations Have A Place (And Have To Be Kept In Their Place)
Don’t Believe Critics, Education Reform Works by Jonathan Alter is an absolutely awful column — it’s more of a rant than a column, and it’s targeting Diane Ravitch. It’s examples of arrogance are too numerous to mention, but the column, and responses to it, just have to be added to this list. They quickly closed-off comments on the site itself, but you can read several excellent early ones there. In addition, you can read Alice Mercer’s With due respect, your argument is moronic…, along with a piece from Salon questioning Alter’s conflict of interest in writing it.
Character Education is by Matthew Di Carlo at The Shanker Blog
Arrogance, The Gates Foundation & The “Remembering Self”
Quote Of The Day: “Are There Lessons from the History of School Reform?”
Feedback is welcome.
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You might also want to explore the over 675 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.