Diane\'s Blog

Tracie L. Washington

November 30, 2010

Dr. Ravitch,

I was really disappointed that I could not see your presentation live when you were here in New Orleans at Dillard University. I thank Lance Hill for providing me with a copy of your speech, and I look forward to watching same. Lance sent me the excerpt, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you:

But somehow the media just seems fixated on the idea that the only thing that moves people is dangling this little bit of money in front of them. And I think in the same way New Orleans is a victim of this kind of media blindness... somebody is going to want to break that pattern and find a different story. And I hope that person comes along. That may not be Superman; it may just be a really smart reporter.

We’ve had really smart reporters, Jan Resseger being one, and even smarter parents and advocates who have commented on, beg, pleaded, marched, etc. for this country to wake up and understand what’s happening in New Orleans is not a model of success. Really, it’s just one in a series of efforts, post-Katrina, to transfer wealth from the public sector to the private sector, without carrying all the burdens of accountability and responsibility. I’ve attached an excerpt from a speech / presentation I gave almost three years ago, explaining same, with a bit of irreverence.

History will continue to repeat itself, as long as folks continue to “experiment” on our children. That’s the bottom line. In Fall 2005 when Governor Blanco and then State Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard announced the grand experiment on New Orleans public education, I was horrified and told my dad “this experiment will fail.” My dad is a medical-microbiologist. He looked up from his paper and said to me, sternly: “That’s where you’re wrong. Every scientist knows experiments cannot fail. That is the nature of an experiment. Tracie Leigh your real fight should be to question the morality of experiment on children.”

Is history repeating itself? Of course. I have been reading with interest the decision by New York Mayor Bloomberg to appoint Cathleen Black as Chancellor of the city’s schools. She has no experience as an educator, but the state as granted a waiver to her, as long as she has an educator by her side. Humm… seems vaguely familiar. We did that once here in New Orleans with Col. Alphonse Davis. It was a ridiculous “failure.” So was Benjamin Demps in Kansas City, Missouri, and Paul Vallas in Chicago, Philadelphia, and now New Orleans. Check the records on John Fryer (Duval County, Florida), Roy Romer (Los Angeles), Merrett Stierheim (Miami), Alan Bersin (San Diego) and Joe Olchefske (Seattle). Is it really the case that these children’s educational fate was better under the supervision of non-educators?

These districts are similar in that they are populated by poor and minority children. So is it okay to experiment on certain children and not others? Seriously, would the Trustees of Kent School, or Groton, or Hotschkiss, or Corcord, or Lawrence, or Middlesex, allow the likes of Vallas or Davis or Demps anywhere near their students? Please. Not the precious ones.

Next time Bill Gates dares to purse his lips and question whether you “like the status quo” I have two suggested responses:

  1. You’re right, Bill. By-the-by, I know I don’t have a lick of experience running a software conglomerate, but I’d sure like a shot at making a difference. Can I run Microsoft for a while. I promise I’ll get a programmer to be my assistant.
  2. You’re right, Bill. By-the-by, where do your kids attend school? There are some fine Recovery School District direct-run academies in New Orleans that would love to experiment on your precious ones.

Just my morning rant. Forgive me.

Tracie L. Washington