Thursday, March 01, 2012

Brill's Shrill Swill Spill

a book review by Edd Doerr

Class Warfare: The Fight to Fix America's Schools, by Steven Brill (Simon & Schuster, 2011, 479 pp, $28.00)

This book's covers are too far apart, to borrow a trope from Ambrose Bierce. While this tedious tome is ostensibly about education, in reality it is just a hack screed by a journalist with no experience as a teacher who drones on about the narrow slice of education politics occupied by educational pseudo-reformers. Brill, a cheerleader for the "blame-the-teachers/bust-the-unions/teach-to-the-test" crusaders, has nothing to say about public education's real problems -- the poverty of a quarter of our students' families and its concomitants, social pathologies that go largely unaddressed, inadequate and inequitably distributed funding, the relentless drives to divert public funds to discriminatory church-related and other private schools. Brill is enamored of charter schools and fails to acknowledge that over 80% of them are either worse or no better than public schools serving similar populations. He praises bombthrowers like Michelle Rhee, looks down on serious educators like Diane Ravitch and Linda Darling-Hammond, and has little but invective for teacher unions. He admits to being a private school grad and to sending his own kids to private schools. Were I to give this book of crass warfare a letter grade, it would be a D-minus.

1 comment:

Don Wharton said...

Michelle Rhee was much more than just a bomb thrower. Her charter school push now has 42% of DC students in charter schools. This removes much of the better students from the remaining schools. The remaining schools then have even more dismal stats based on the tests. With their much greater proportion of those in special ed and those learning English they have no chance to produce equivalent results.

A recent evaluation (funded by Walmart) suggests that massive numbers of the remaining schools should be closed or repurposed (read turned over to corporate charter interests).

This is a plot for the destruction of public education.

Moreover, there is a push to have two of the new schools be for Hebrew and Arabic languages. This will highten the tribal boundaries that are created with these languages