deathandlifeI once listened to a radio show which featured reading just the first page of a book to the listeners. The intention was to entice the listener to get the book and read it. This book has received a lot of press recently, and Diane Ravitch will be a guest at the NEA Rep Assembly in New Orleans this July. Here is the first page of the book. Maybe it will appeal to you! - Bev Schaefer


THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT AMERICAN School System

By Diane Ravitch


Chapter One


What I Learned About School Reform


In the fall of 2007, I reluctantly decided to have my office repainted. It was inconvenient. I work at home, on the top floor of a nineteenth century brownstone in Brooklyn. Not only did I have to stop working for three weeks, but I had the additional burden of packing up and removing everything in my office. I had to relocate fifty boxes of books and files to other rooms in the house until the painting job was complete.


After the patching, plastering, and painting was done, I began unpacking twenty years of papers and books, discarding those I no longer wanted, and placing articles into scrapbooks. You may wonder what all this mundane stuff has to do with my life in the education field. I found that the chore of reorganizing the artifacts of my professional life was pleasantly ruminative. It had a tonic effect, because it allowed me to reflect on the changes in my views over the years.


At the very time that I was packing up my books and belongings, I was going through an intellectual crisis. I was aware that I had undergone a wrenching transformation in my perspective on school reform. Where once I had been hopeful, even enthusiastic, about the potential benefits of testing, accountability, choice, and markets, I now found myself experiencing profound doubts about these same ideas. I was trying to sort through the evidence about what was working and what was not. I was trying to understand why I was increasingly skeptical about these reforms, reforms that I had supported enthusiastically. I was trying to see my way through the blinding assumptions of ideology and politics, including my own.


I kept asking myself why I was losing confidence in these reforms. My answer: I have a right to change my mind. Fair enough. Buy why, I kept wondering, why had I changed my mind? What was the compelling evidence that prompted me to reevaluate the policies I had endorsed many times over the previous decade? Why did I now doubt ideas I once had advocated?


(Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York, NY: Ba-sic Books, 2010)
Used by permission. Copyright © 2010 by Diane Ravitch
Published by Basic Books, A Member of the Perseus Books Group
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be re-produced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address Basic Books, 387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-8810