In the past, we have had pendulum swings about pedagogical methods or educational philosophy, but never a full-fledged, well-funded effort to replace public schools with private management and never a full-throated effort to hold public school teachers accountable for the ills of society.
What is happening now has no precedent in the past. For the first time in our history, there is a concerted attempt, led by powerful people, to undermine the very idea of public schooling and to de-professionalize those who work in this sector. Sure, there were always fringe groups and erratic individuals who hated the public schools and who disparaged credentials and degrees as unimportant.But these were considered extremist views. No one took them seriously.
David Horowitz, who was the point person for a well-funded attack on college professors over the early years of the century, has drifted to the media background recently, as the attack has shifted from his risible attempts to paint faculty members as unregenerate leftists trying to subvert a generation of Americans to a much more sophisticated strategy aiming to undermine the credibility of that much larger group of professionals, public-school teachers.
When you manage to rope in Bill Gates, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and a whole raft of governors and school-board members, you don’t need bomb throwers of the Horowitz sort any longer.
But what’s going on now has no more legitimacy than Horowitz’s campaign did.
One day, one of us out here will manage to unscramble the hidden machinations behind both the Horowitz test and the current “real thing.” But that is going to have to wait until the hope Ravitch sees comes to fruition. The battle has to be won before the history can be written.