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Saturday, at a CTU sponsored lecture, Diane Ravitch, public education advocate and author of The Death and Life of the American School System, asked the question, “Given all the talk of school reform and seeing how it’s playing out in the media and legislature, I have one question: do we live in an age of national insanity or is it an age of national stupidity?”  To a crowd of over 500, she criticized the multibillion-dollar testing industry, charters, Teach for America, and turnaround management organizations.

Ravitch, a historian by trade, retold the education reform story starting with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) which was passed to make sure that the neediest students had the resources they needed. This law was replaced by No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which Ravitch described as “It’s as if the politicians said by 2014 the U.S. will be crime free or we’ll close down the police and give badges to anyone who wants them.”  She renamed The Department of Education’s Race to the Top (RttT) program “Race to the Trough” and “Dash to the Cash” and explained that due to its competitive component only students from 11 states will receive that federal funding, which contradicts the original intent of ESEA and public education.

Ravitch recalled how she tweeted Secretary of Education Arne Duncan repeatedly to meet her in Madison on March 8th to support teachers and other public workers.  She inquired why he and President Obama were absent from the protests in other states where similar bills are up for a vote. Without the ability of teachers to bargain over issues outside of wages, Wisconsin could see class sizes swell to over 60 like Detroit.

Ravitch advocated for a union resistance to the current attacks on public education. Visit her website to download her articles.

View photos from the event on our Flickr stream.