Diane\'s Blog

Bruce Mergele

Dr. Ravitch,

I listened to your interview on “To the Best of our Knowledge” today. I’d like to get a copy of your book and read it so that I might better respond to you and possibly help.

I am currently an underemployed librarian. Four years ago, I was laid off from Harcourt Assessments. For most of my six years as the Corporate Librarian and Archivist, I was working solo. You’d have thought that a company so firmly rooted in research and development would know the value of scholarship and research resources, but alas no. I worked all that time putting together one of the finest research collections of educational and psychological testing, and was never to see better facilities than a cage in the warehouse. I often wondered when tour groups of State Educational departments were brought out to the warehouse and passed by my cage, seeing my hand-lettered sign for the corporation’s library, what they thought. In spite of my best efforts to bridge the many “Ivory Silos,” the executives managed to implode the company, even though their lobbyists had helped write No Child Left Behind.

Harcourt trumpeted the passage of NCLB as their ticket to 15% revenue growth per year and fabulous profits. Those of us in the trenches were far more realistic, but had no power to reign-in the “irrational exuberance,” plus many of us had children already suffering under the onus of excessive, misguided testing.

My daughter told me of how the teachers stopped their TAKS test in progress and coached them on the correct answers. My son, condemned to an entire school career in “Behavior Modification” is paying the price to this day. His “group” was kept in a holding tank where their grades wouldn’t impact the school’s exemplary rating. Physically handicapped students were displayed front and center to show the world how inclusive the school was.

Before being a corporate librarian, I served 9 years in a public library. One of my most rewarding times was as a library assistant, staffing a part-time outreach project in the black neighborhood in Denton, Texas. You speak of poverty and there was certainly some to be found in Denton, but when we were there, you could see glow in the kids.

Things I see going wrong in education today point to the “over professionalization” of the process. Many teachers in elementary insist on kids sitting still and absorbing knowledge and demand that children who can’t be medicated. The first thing to be taken away is recess. Recess, when it occurs is not kids playing among themselves and developing executive functions, but strictly supervised by coaches and physical education teachers. The folly continues on through middle and high school. If you aren’t participating in organized sports you don’t get any physical activity or education. Obesity is rampant. Of equal concern is the excessive amount of administrative staff and Ph.D. administrators, squeezing out funding for actual teachers.

I’m sorry to go on. I’m sure I could write a book as well. I do feel that greed has claimed another victim in the Education of our children. I hope that the course can be reversed. My grandmother was a teacher in as one-room school, a model with valid lessons even for today. I would welcome a dialogue and wish you well.

Bruce Mergele