In This Authors' Debate, Paul Peterson Has the Winning Argument Over Diane Ravitch

My friends at the Education Policy Center recently ordered a couple of new books by big names in the field: Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System and Paul Peterson’s Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning.

If you want to whet your appetite for one or both books, or just to get a flavor of what their argument is, you need to check out the authors debating on the Eduwonk blog. I’ll boil down their arguments for you with excerpted quotes (or you can read Marci Kanstoroom’s summary at Education Next):

  • Diane Ravitch: “It is not a marketplace that we need, but a commitment to provide a good school in every neighborhood in the nation, just as we strive to provide a good fire company in every neighborhood….Our current obsession with accountability and choice is not improving American education. We are not producing a generation of students who are better educated, better read, more knowledgeable about science and history, and better prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship in our society. And that is why I changed my mind about school reform.”
  • Paul Peterson: “But if the more advantaged are likely to be the first to explore the pluses and minuses of virtual learning, these educational innovations, as they prove successful, can be expected to spread rapidly, as evidenced by the rapid-fire diffusion of cell phones. In the long run, equal opportunity will be advanced by the separation of education from specific geographical locations. Regardless of the place in which a family resides, a student will have access to the best education can offer. And each student can learn at the time and pace he or she prefers.”

For those who follow what I write in the least, you probably have no doubt about which side I find more persuasive — especially after a month ago when I applauded Peterson’s ideas on the same theme.

But what’s wrong with Ravitch’s argument, you say? Guest-blogging over at Jay Greene’s site, Stuart Buck provides a thorough logical take-down of the arguments in her book for a very special “Ravitch is Wrong Week.” (You can find the fourth and latest installment here, with links to the previous three.)

I’m sure there will be more to say as my friends finish reading the two books.