Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Reign of Error: My New Activist Handbook

I am currently reading Diane Ravitch's new book, The Reign of Error. Simply put, it is excellent.

Diane has covered all aspects of the privatization of public schools – she clearly articulates how the corporate reformers’ ideas don’t work - while offering research-based solutions which indeed DO work. 

I began reading the book during a four hour hiatus last weekend when my husband and two boys took off for the afternoon to run errands. For four hours I sat reading Diane’s book, nodding my head, underlining quotes I can use to educate when I speak or when I write. I placed notes in the margins. I became hopeful, once again. In the quiet solitude of my house, normally filled with the loudness of boys who wrestle, throw, yell, and more or less keep me incredibly busy during my off hours - I took a deep breath. It is rare that I am alone and able to stop, and think in silence. I know that many of you reading this can relate.

But during that moment, in that silence, I reflected on how much our world has changed in the last few years. I reflected on how much my own life has changed, and how Diane’s book confirmed for me, that I am on the right path.

Our work as activists is huge. It is all encompassing. My mother said to me on the phone yesterday, “I don’t know how you can keep up this pace.” Well, I thought this over, and it occurred to me that teachers – all of us – keep up an incredibly fast pace in all that we do. Being a teacher requires us to think fast, to observe and understand human relationships quickly, to be continually present as we listen and evaluate student strengths, attempts and needs – we do all of this while also keeping the big picture in mind – that of supporting life-long learners who will be future citizens of our democracy. Our work and our responsibility as teachers is huge. It is also, all encompassing.  

Diane's book gives credit to our very important work as educators. She explains how competition and choice are destroying our public schools. She shares solutions that work: prenatal care, early childhood education, a balanced curriculum, small class size, a ban on for-profit charters, a demand for wraparound services, an end to high stakes standardized testing and a return to authentic assessment, demand that all teachers, principals and superintendents must be professional educators, demand elected school boards, implement strategies to reduce racial segregation and poverty, and finally, recognize public education as a public responsibility - NOT a consumer good. 

In her first chapter she writes: If you want  a society organized to promote the survival of the fittest and the triumph of the most advantaged, then you will prefer the current course of action, where children and teachers and schools are "racing to the top."  But if you believe the goal of our society should be equality of opportunity for all children and that we should seek to reduce the alarming inequalities children now experience, then my program should win your support.

As I said, our work as activists is huge. But teacher as activist is really a good fit. I believe we are cut out for the job. So, I embrace this role, once again, taking a deep breath, and diving in. 

This time, I will have Diane’s book by my side. It is clear, concise, and to the point - it is not filled with academic jargon which can alienate many readers - readers we need awake and taking action! The chapters are short and can be referenced quickly. As an activist I find myself continually filing away research, quotes and sound bytes in my head;  the Reign of Error has all of these things to support citizens in educating their communities.  I can use the Reign of Error to make my message clear and support others in creating action. It is my new Activist Handbook.

I am not done reading the book. My life right now is very busy with coaching at my elementary school, raising a family, and supporting parents in opting out/refusing the test through my work at United Opt Out National. I am going to continue to read the book with my Opt Out family at our Facebook page, OPT OUT OF THE STATE TEST: The National Movement. We are beginning our book club on September 17th, this Tuesday, when Diane’s book is finally available to the public! I hope you will join us – everyone – parents, students, teachers, community members – join us to read the Reign of Error and further develop our ability to create a clear message that encourages action and allows us to reclaim our public schools. Thank you Diane.


1 comment:

  1. As a retired teacher, I still feel all you have to say. As a public education activist myself, I respect every word of Diane's superb book. You have said all there is to say regarding Reign of Error.
    - Ken Previti