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Topic: Re: _LEFT BACK Review - selective editing
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Posts: 21
Registered: 12/4/04
Re: _LEFT BACK Review - selective editing
Posted: Aug 28, 2000 11:09 AM
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Im not surprised that the folks who quoted the review focused on that
paragraph. What they conveniently left off was "the rest of the story"

(continued from Sara Mosle's review)
"...As a matter of practice, however, Ravitch is on less secure ground.
As she concedes, parents and teachers have always rejected reformers
wackier notions..." (A couple of paragraphs later) "..Its also a little
unfair to pin anti-intellectualism in the schools on a small band of
theorists enscounced at Teachers college. Anti intellectualism has always
been a feature of American life, arguably more prevalent on the right
than on the left. Its best representative at the moment is probably
Governer Bush who calls for improving schools even as he all but brags
that he is stupider than his pointy-headed opponent Al Gore. And the
religious right has done far more, in the name of "creationism," to
retard the teaching of science in this country than progressive
curriculum. Similarly women blacks and immigrants werent "left back"
educationally in the first half of this century solely because a few
progressive theorist argued for a dversified curriculum!

Ravitch's sheer animus against the progressive tradition whose very
real contributions to education she mentions in passinbg but never quite
acknowledges - may baffle lay readers. Her book is best understood as a
scathing indictment of the ed-school "in" crowd where an atmosphere of
what Orwell once called "orthodoxy-sniffing" - "sniff, sniff, are you a
good progressive educator?" - has predominated. If Ravitch is too
pessimistic, its perhaps she has spent too much time in this dispiriting


Ihor Charischak
Stevens Institute of Technology
Castle Point
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(w) 201-216-5076
(fax) 708-570-1301

>on 8/27/00 12:08 PM, RayM at wrote:

>> Diane Ravitch's new book
>> _LEFT BACK: A Century of Failed School Reforms._
>> 555 pp. Simon and Schuster, $30
>> is reviewed in today's NY Times Book review by Sara Mosle:
>> '.......As a matter of theory, Ravitch's case against the progressives is
>> persuasive. "Time and again," she writes, " experts urged the schools to
>> de-emphasize reading, writing, history, mathematics, and science; to drop
>> foreign languages; to replace history with social studies; to eliminate
>> high-quality literature and substitute for it uninspired scraps from
>> textbooks; and to teach only what was useful and immediately functional."
>> Her method is hang prominent theorists with their own words - often citing
>> excessively long passages from their writings (to avoid I suspect, charges
>> of quoting out of context) - as they describe, in sometimes shockingly
>> undemocratic terms, how the country's "army of incapables" can't be
>> expected to achieve even basic literacy or numeracy. Those most hurt by
>> these ideas, she argues, were disadvantaged children who had "the greatest
>> need for intellectual stimulation that schools were supposed to provide."
>> As a matter of practice, however, Ravitch is on shakier ground. As she
>> concedes, parents and teachers have always rejected reformers' whackier
>> notions. Periods of innovation have invariably been followed by
>> back-to-basics retrenchment......'
>> My order for the book goes in today.

>The assumption that reform is wacky or has "wackier notions" while
>'back-to-basics" is somehow both safe and sensible reveals both the biases
>of the author and the reviewer. As an antidote to Ms. Ravitch, I recommend
>Alfie Kohn's THE SCHOOLS OUR CHILDREN DESERVE: Moving Beyond Traditional
>Classrooms and "Tougher Standards." Mr. Kohn seems to have made an accurate,
>scholarly study of both the general struggle between traditionalism and
>reform in education and the specific one in mathematics education. His
>analysis of how the back-to-basics, traditionalist forces consistently
>misrepresent the extent to which reform is actually implemented and the
>nature of such reforms unmasks the master traditionalist blueprint for the
>anti-reform propaganda we have been subjected to in this and other forums
>for the past six years or so. If one can dare to read Ravitch, certainly one
>should read Kohn, who is easily her equal as a scholar and thinker.

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