@dianeravitch makes suggestions on education for #obama #sotu, could we bag the competition?

Here they are, via Bill Moyers.

She makes two main suggestions:

 First, we must end the pressure on teachers to teach to the test… Second, we must strengthen and improve our public schools.

I support both of these, but I just really don’t agree with the fundamental premise here. I realize that Moyers was asking various experts to write parts of the President’s speech on various subjects, with Ravitch taking education. Some Presidential sounding language I guess needs to be borrowed. She begins the hypothetical address with the following:

My fellow Americans, I have said in previous addresses on this occasion that the key to our future success is to make sure that the education we provide our young people is the best in the world. I have said that we must out-educate and out-innovate other nations.

Emphasis is mine. I think I’ve heard the President say this before. But if I were to write this speech, I would scrap that statement and its implication altogether. Call me naive, but I really don’t care if we out-do this or that over other nations. Perhaps there would be huge implications for this that I’m not quite understanding. Maybe the reader can enlighten me.

For progressives, and I’m not altogether convinced that Ravitch is one, is competitiveness a primary motive for improving our public school system? Let me clarify: economic competitiveness with other nations, is that a main driver? Should it be?

If economic competitiveness, the spirit of out-doing everyone else, is the main catalyst for improvement, then this becomes a national concern and therefore justifies continued Federal intervention in education. And not just any Federal intervention, some of which I think is necessary, but the heavy-handed one like we have now.


  1. Interesting take, but in these harsh economic times with so many struggling and people looking to place blame-no one is describing the need for the “strive together for the finest group hug” version of competition. The model suggested is one of “you are solely responsible for your willingness/ability to survive or thrive, OR it was one of your teachers we pay to keep you all from becoming a problem…so get busy fighting for the ‘stay out of jail free’ card.” I look forward to seeing a policy focus on food, shelter, and a more pro-social morality, though. I wish it were coming.


  2. “Let us recognize here and now that public education is an essential institution of our democratic society. We must make it better, not privatize it.” I believe the implication that out-educating and innovating are synonymous with or limited to economic competitiveness is yours. Competition has become a dirty word because the “reform” version has attached it to a dollar sign and created winners and losers of our children. The true essence of competition is “to strive together – competere.” Our public education system allows all to be a part of that competition. When we give up the concept of standardization and strive to out-educate the other nations.


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