Over the past few years, Dropout Nation has had plenty to say about once-respectable education historian Diane Ravitch. From pointing out the factual inaccuracies and logical misfires in her sophistry, to spotlighting the fact that she discredits herself with every tweet and blog post, there has been more than enough evidence to show that the Camille Paglia wannabe doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously by anyone. So it isn’t shocking that Ravitch debases herself further with a piece on her eponymous site on last week’s massacre of 26 teachers and children in Newtown, Conn., that shows her to be the kind of intellectual opportunist that would take advantage of tragedy to score points.
Instead of simply reflecting on the heroism of teachers and school leaders such as Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung (who was slain while protecting a child from the murderous rampage of Adam Lanza), Ravitch decided to spend much of the piece defending tradtitionalist thinking, as well as arguing against Nutmeg State Gov. Dan Malloy’s school reform efforts (including the expansion of charter schools, Ravitch’s bogeyman of late). Declares Ravitch: “Let us hope Governor Malloy learned something these past few days about the role of public schools in their communities. Newtown does not need a charter school. What it needs now is healing. Not competition, not division, but a community coming together to help one another. Together. Not competing.”
Wow. Just wow. Declares Jacob Waters in a recent tweet, Ravitch’s piece counters: “any doubt that [Ravitch] is the [Rush Limbaugh] of education policy.” Or as the inestimable Terry Stoops of the John Locke Institute notes in his own comments about the piece: “ Ravitch does her best to exploit the Newtown shootings to advance her own political agenda.” [Ravitch, by the way, has attempted to defend her claptrap after being criticized publicly and rightfully by David Rosenberg, an executive at Teach For America.]
As your editor, I’m not even going to dissect her arguments or her insinuations because it is not the right time for all that at all. Nor am I going to do some pearl-clutching, or call for Ravitch to be banished to some imaginary hinterland. I’m not even happy to be commenting on this piece at all. What I will say is that Ravitch is engaging in pure intellectual demagoguery in obituary form. This is absolutely, positively inappropriate to do. Not even Fleet Street writers, whose tradition of skewering the deceased in obituaries is legendary (and often admirable in a way) would defend this. Certainly Ravitch could have found a more-appropriate topic through which she could argue for her positions. She could have even devoted her piece to discussing how the Newtown massacre is an opportunity for all of us to build caring cultures for our children. Yet Ravitch has proven incapable of such decency or logical thinking. And this fact speaks loudly about Ravitch’s capacity for thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and decency.
UPDATE: As you would expect, Ravitch has found a few folks willing to defend the indefensible. I’ll let you judge their views for yourself.