The media is awash in so many ridiculuous "rich people are trying to destroy public education" hit pieces that I rarely even acknowledge them. But a few colleagues have sent me Bob Herbert's Politico article, "The Plot Against Public Education," and it represents such a distortion of the current education landscape I just had to respond.
Herbert essentially argues that schools are being destroyed by nefarious plots hatched by billionaires like Bill Gates, intent on ruining public education through market-based reforms and rigid accountability structures.
There's no doubt that some of Gates' reform initiatives have been failures, and state and federal government accountability mechanisms are often crude and problematic, but one could read Herbert's piece and come away with the idea that education was just fine before Bill Gates and the like started meddling and if they'd just go away our schools would be fine once again. The truth is our schools are in big trouble, and reformers like Bill Gates didn't invent the need for serious reform.
A summary of my reactions to specific and general allegations of Herbert's piece follows:
1. I am a bit repulsed by the hogs-to-slop rush that states and districts make when Bill Gates comes calling, but Bill Gates didn't invent the idea that high schools are in bad need of reform. The evidence of this fact is overwhelming, starting with the fact that high school NAEP scores haven't budged in 40 years. Harvard's Richard Elmore calls high schools "the second or third most dysfunctional institution in America." I agree.