Reading & Reacting: Marginalizing the Teaching Profession: Merrow, Ravitch, and Education Nation

By Anthony Cody @ Living Dialogue blog – Education Week

First let me admit that I like the work of Anthony Cody, Diane Ravitch, and John Merrow all a lot. This is why reading Cody’s column, “Marginalizing the Teaching Profession: Merrow, Ravitch, and Education,” criticizing Merrow and his recent blogpost is interesting and unfortunate. There is a longer line of references in this exchange.

In Cody’s defense, while he definitely takes aim at Merrow, he is attempting to make a greater point about education, edreform, and some of the players engaged in the debate. Here is the nut of Cody’s claim, which has genuine merit.

We have, in our nation, two parallel conversations going on about education. One is the conversation sponsored and controlled by the billionaires driving corporate reform. The other is that of teachers, parents and students who are the subjects of these reforms. When those two conversations intersect, there is tremendous friction. With his attack on Ravitch and her followers yesterday, Merrow created such a friction point.

Cody is right about the parallel conversations, as well as Merrow creating a friction point. Moreover, I think his more strident attack on the forthcoming Education Nation is well deserved. Also, I even understand Cody’s desire to rally to the defense of Ravitch, as so many commenters did on Merrow’s blog.

The truth is that Merrow is off the mark in his post comparison between Republican Ted Cruz and educational historian Diane Ravitch. I understand what Merrow was trying to achieve but think he lost his way in the example. He would have been significantly more credible had he stuck with a like for like comparison, rather than trying to be timely. I can accept it at that and chalk it up as a poor choice by Merrow.

Yet, Cody really has an axe to grind with the comparison and, while I understand it, I think he too goes a bit overboard. Perhaps, Merrow is blinded slightly by the education beat he covers and potentially how he has to cover it, working for public television, which seeks funding from many of the same entities that are marshaling edreform. Still, Cody continues to push.

In Merrow’s post he references two major award ceremonies he attended in the past week alone. This is the world he lives in – of galas and billionaires presenting checks and awards at dinners in big hotels. These are the people to whom he apparently feels accountable, and he has salved their worries about Ravitch with his paean to the “messy middle.” But for teachers who are looking for who made such a mess of our schools, this is a betrayal.

This is where Cody loses me. Foolish, yes. Betrayal, no. I also wonder is the accountability claim is a bit of a stretch, as well. Merrow lives and works in Washington DC, which has a distortion field all its own. Still, given Merrow’s pursuit of Michelle Rhee, and his recent resignation of that effort, I would have thought he would have had more sense to paint Ravitch in such polar terms.

I also like Ravitch’s work a lot. Not only is she progressive, she is very, very smart and and considerably well-informed. She knows as well as anyone that certain forces are inclined to quickly dismiss her as a flip-flopper, or undermine her credibility because she now opposes the current status quo failing schools myth. Yet, there are schools that are struggling, even she would admit that. Plus, she is pretty capable of taking on all comers.

Unfortunately, I like all parties in this minor controversy. I am waiting to see how Merrow responds, if he does at all. It seems that he should at least offer Ravitch the kind of treatment that he would offer Rhee, which includes a chance to speak for herself. As for Cody, he redeems himself to some degree in sharpening his focus on the Education Nation issue, which clearly ought to be targeted for the joke that it clearly seems to be.

Image: iPad

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