Do We Need More Heroes?

The words ‘hero’, ‘heroic’ and ‘heroism’ are overused in America. Think, for example, how often those words are tossed around in reports about athletics, as if running with a football and dunking a basketball were acts of heroism.  People talk about ‘everyday heroes,’ as if doing your job every day–even a tough job like teaching in the inner city–was heroic behavior.[1]

We need to be more discerning in our use of those words.  We shouldn’t be so quick to crown people as heroes, because doing so dilutes the meaning of heroism.

Deep down, a lot of people realize this.  I say this because nowadays the word ‘genuine’ is often attached to the word, as in “She’s a genuine hero.”

Most of us will never–knock wood–know if we have what it takes to be a hero.  We will never face a raging fire, roaring flood waters, or a crazed gunman and have to make a split-second, life-or-death decision.

The teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary Schools–those who lived and those who lost their lives–are heroes.  They exemplify the best in the education profession, and they remind us of how good and strong people can be.

Those were my words on Saturday night in Washington while presenting an award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences to the teachers of Newtown. I have no doubt about their heroism. When they were tested, they responded heroically.

But I also have no doubt that we toss around that word, hero, far too easily. For example, Ted Cruz, the US Senator from Texas, is a hero to some on the extreme right because of his strident opposition to Obamacare.  Over on the left, Diane Ravitch is a hero to those who share her views on what is happening in public education.  Since when does taking a strong public stand qualify as an act of heroism?  Call them ‘crusaders’ or ‘principled leaders’ or some other term of approval if you wish, but not heroes.

I believe many people are uncomfortable with the way ‘hero’ is used.  Here’s my reasoning: When a noun needs modifiers, it’s a clear signal that the word has lost its original meaning. Take ‘politician’ as an example.  This word is rarely unadorned these days. Someone is a ‘thoughtful politician,’  ‘unconventional politician’ ‘not your typical politician,’ ‘a well-respected politician,’ or (shudder) ‘an honest politician.’  Enough said.

I think that is what has happened with ‘hero.’  Because of our culture of excess and a glut of ‘heroes,’ the noun is routinely modified.  We have ‘genuine heroes,’ ‘everyday heroes,’ ‘unassuming heroes,’ ‘hero worship’ and–of course–’Super heroes.’

So I am wondering how many of us have (genuine) heroes in our lives.  Do you?  Are there living people you identify as your heroes?  The only person who comes easily to my mind is Nelson Mandela.

An older friend told me that he didn’t have any living heroes, and he doubted whether most people did these days, because of the 24-hour news cycle and the power of the internet to allow everyone to dig up dirt on anyone of prominence.  No one can keep their feet of clay (or their sex tape) hidden for long, he said.

Some say we need more heroes in our lives, but I am more comfortable with “role model” than with ‘hero.’  There’s a long list of role models whose positions, behavior or humanity I wish to emulate.  I respect and admire these men and women, even though I know they are not perfect human beings.

Perhaps I am just getting crotchety as I get older, but I would like to see us tone down our language.  I am pretty certain that the same people who idolize Ted Cruz or Diane Ravitch are equally vehement in their disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with their hero (and them).  These people inhabit a comic book world without ambiguity where heroes require villains.  Our society makes it easy to live in a black-and-white world without nuances–you can watch either Fox or MSNBC, but not both!

Unfortunately, the hero/villain polarization can cause us to lose sight of all the good, decent (and flawed) people who are trying to make the world a better place.  Polarization not only doesn’t move the ball forward; it’s a step backward.

In his speech accepting the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education Tuesday night, Dave Levin of KIPP reminded us that fixing public education was “messy” work.  Extreme positions weren’t effective, he told us.  “Should we use test scores to assess students and teachers?” he asked?  “Yes,” he said, “but we have to have lots of other measures as well.”  He called it “the messy middle” where the work is hard and the job is never done.

I know what Levin is talking about.  My colleagues and I spent 6 ½ long years documenting the struggle to rebuild New Orleans’ schools after Hurricane Katrina and the flooding.  On October 22, “Rebirth,” our 1-hour film will premiere nationwide on Netflix (and will be live-streamed for 24 months in nine languages).  I am sure it will inflame those on the extremes, both left and right, because it fails to either completely endorse what is happening there or to condemn it outright.  It’s that “messy middle” that Dave Levin was talking about.

There are no silver bullets, Levin said, and I agree.  Moreover, searching for them, like hero-worship, is a waste of precious time and energy.


Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. 1. CNN has an annual competition for the Top 10 unknown everyday heroes of the year.  The winners for 2013 will be revealed on October 10th.

160 Responses to “Do We Need More Heroes?”

  1. anthony Cody 25. Sep, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    I am not sure where to start with this.

    You ask your reader for who their heroes might be. But then the thrust of your piece is to preemptively impugn anyone who might choose Diane Ravitch as their personal hero, by suggesting that “the same people who idolize Ted Cruz or Diane Ravitch are equally vehement in their disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with their hero (and them). ”

    So those of us who indeed do admire Diane Ravitch greatly must first fend off your assertions about our intolerance.

    For the record, I would count Diane Ravitch as one of my heroes. She has had the strength of character to examine the evidence and reject prior beliefs. Other people have had changes of mind, but she has pursued the evidence to explore and uncover real deceptions that have been sown about our schools and the teaching profession.

    There is a real battle taking place over the future of our schools. Great harm is being done to the institution of public education, as we see neighborhood schools closed, and the teaching profession mechanized and micromanaged through ever more frequent tests. Diane Ravitch has emerged as someone able to place this battle in the context of the last century of American education history, and provide a clear map as to what is happening, and who the players are working the levers of power.

    The real people working in the “messy middle” are the teachers and students who have been the subjects of this unprecedented series of experiments in market based reforms. Teachers who have seen the standards and tests change on an almost yearly basis, and who now must be evaluated based on test scores. Students who are being tested to death, and face ever more difficult tests under the misguided notion that somehow failing more of them will enable more of them to succeed.

    Teachers get to choose their own heroes, fortunately, and the thousands showing up to hear Diane Ravitch speak about her latest book in the weeks to come will no doubt make their own views heard.

    • Linda Johnson 25. Sep, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      Well said. It’s easy to tell who the real heroes are in education: the teachers who choose to be with the children each day. And Diane Ravitch is THEIR hero!

      The American people are not stupid. In the end, they will side with the people willing to do the job.

      • Jay Thompson 26. Sep, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

        Well said, Anthony Cody. I am shocked that Merrow would sideswipe Dr. Ravitch. Aghast, in fact.

    • ira shor 26. Sep, 2013 at 11:51 am #

      Anthony is exactly right, thank you for making clear how ridiculous and offensive Merrow is to analogize Diane to Cruz. Merrow’s tack is an old rhetorical ploy through which a speaker represents herself/himself as the reasonable, sensible middle while characterizing others as irrational, feral, dangerous. “Nut jobs to the left! Nut jobs to the right!,” this rhetoric declares. “Follow me to the sensible muddy middle where the reasonable people are.” Sen. Cruz has earned nut job status but to liken Diane to him as a radical is pure insult and distortion. The ploy of the middle was used in 17thC English politics when conservative politicians claimed they were like “trimmers” on boats whose carefully placed weight prevented the ship from veering too far in either direction. Merrow portrays himself and KIPP as this phantom middle but to do so he has to slander Diane, and the rest of us.

      • Non-Union Teacher 27. Sep, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

        “Merrow portrays himself and KIPP as this phantom middle but to do so he has to slander Diane, and the rest of us.”

        And KIPP students as well. When did boot camp for kids become middle of the road? That might be the sentence imposed by the courts for minors who’ve engaged in serious criminal activities, but it should not be considered appropriate just because children are poor and Black or Hispanic, as the majority of KIPPsters are. Military style schools for children are extreme, not the happy medium.

  2. Jonathan Pelto 25. Sep, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Mr Merrow,

    I was with you until you in our observation that we use certainly words like hero too freely until you gratuitously added, “Over on the left, Diane Ravitch is a hero to those who share her views on what is happening in public education. Since when does taking a strong public stand qualify as an act of heroism? Call them ‘crusaders’ or ‘principled leaders’ or some other term of approval if you wish, but not heroes.”

    As we know, the traditional definition of heroic is “behavior or talk that is bold or dramatic” and an individual of “distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities” is referred to as a hero.

    For those reasons and more, Diane Ravitch is a hero. She is certainly a hero of mine and I have absolutely no reservations when it comes to recognizing her as a hero.

    She has displayed extreme courage, conviction and wisdom in her ability to see and speak the truth. Of course in today’s political pandering driven world, speaking the truth might itself be called heroic.

    As an academic and policymaker, she studied the issues and the data and changed her position on vitally important issues. The ability to become enlightened and then use that understanding to stand up and speak out is nothing short of heroic; that is true in the academic world and especially in the political world.

    Finally, as a Connecticut resident and admirer of teachers, I’m offended that you’d twist the context to try and compare the heroic actions of the Newtown teachers and the heroic actions of Diane Ravitch.

    It goes without saying that we are talking about fundamentally different situations.

    Heroic actions come in a variety of different forms, many of which arenot associated with trying to protect children from a gunman.

    Personally, I’m fond of saying that if President Eisenhower was alive today, he would be warming us of the education industrial complex.

    The warning would be apt because people like Rupert Murdoch openly admit that they see public education in the United States as a $500 billion market.

    Considering the financial and political resources that are being utilized by the corporate education reform industry to push their agenda, I truly believe that Diane Ravitch is a hero and her actions on behalf of our nation’s children, teachers, schools and parents is heroic.

    Considering some of the heroic work you have done as one of our nation’s leading journalists, I’m disappointed that you see her differently.

    But I can say, with certainty, that in this case, you are wrong.

    Diane Ravitch is a hero. On that I have no doubt.

    Jonathan Pelto

    • Mary in Maine 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      Hero to me too. She has what it takes. She fought for things that she thought would improve life for students, and when it went the other way, she stood for the students she wanted to help all along. She is not a good old boy; that makes her a hero. She didn’t start in the left. I’d say she was now in the middle following what research shows, open to do what is best rather than just standing behind something because she once thought it would be good. Look at what has happened to education in the last 13 years. Not good for children or other living things. Education should not be on the national political spectrum. Right and left shouldn’t matter. What is good for children should matter. Fighting poverty should matter. Privatization of public education should not obliterate the truth.
      Diane Ravitch for Secretary of Education!!

  3. Jonathan Pelto 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    sorry typing to fast – meant to open with

    “I was with you in your observation that we certainly use words like hero too freely until you gratuitously added, “Over on the left, Diane Ravitch is a hero to those who share her views on what is happening in public education. Since when does taking a strong public stand qualify as an act of heroism? Call them ‘crusaders’ or ‘principled leaders’ or some other term of approval if you wish, but not heroes.”

  4. Gail Richmond 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Hero. That is exactly what Diane Ravitch is to millions of public school teachers across the United States. Hero. Because she seems to be the lone voice who truly understands what is happening as profiteers attempt to take over our schools. Hero. Because she isn’t afraid to go up against the huge corporations which hold our children hostage and treat them as commodities. Hero. Because she is letting America know that politicians are lining their pockets with Pearson money and turning their heads so that false failure through flawed tests is created in order to sell a cure.
    Hero. Because for the first time in 3 years I have had a glimmer of hope that finally, FINALLY someone who has public attention is telling our story. If you loved your profession as much as I have loved mine, Sir, and watched it become systematically destroyed – you would be waiting for a hero too.

    • Diana Shea 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

      Your last sentence brought tears to my eyes. Perfectly stated!

      • Duane Swacker 26. Sep, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

        Merrow probably has been watching as “journalism” as we think we know it has been dying to be replaced by the internet.

      • Jan Carson 01. Oct, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

        Me, too.

    • Liz Wisniewski 26. Sep, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

      Thank you, from another teacher.

  5. Joe Nathan 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Well done, John.

    • Linda 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      What is well done Joe….explain…stop trolling on blogs bashing Diane while also bolstering yourself with your stories about I, me and my. It’s all about Joe always.

    • Michael Paul Goldenberg 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

      Praising Merrow, who made a short-lived attempt to undo the damage he promoted in his effusive praise for Michelle Rhee by actually investigated what a fraud she is, but then chickened out and whined to critics that they should complIn to some other people, is really telling, Joe.

      Linda calls you out below for exactly what you are about. Hard to tolerate your splooge, but it pales beside Merrow’s bilge above. He shows his true colors. . . And they are sick-making.

    • Rob Levine 25. Sep, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

      Isn’t Beth Hawkins breathlessly awaiting a call from you Joe?

  6. Mike Pare 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    Sorry, but I have no tolerance for those who are trying to destroy public education. None. And I have great respect for people who put themselves on the line to defend public education against those who want to destroy it. Are they heroes? I don’t know. What I do know is that Dr. Ravitch doesn’t have to be doing what she is doing. She could have retired and not opened herself up to the attacks that she is now getting with the release of her new book, “Reign of Error”. I greatly admire that since too many people don’t even take the time to get involved. I have a feeling that if Dr. Ravitch supported the “reporting” you did in New Orleans you would not have singled her out in this item. You could have dealt with any criticisms she may have about what has happened in New Orleans, but instead you decided not to “tone down the language” and single Dr. Ravitch out. How does that get you closer to your goal?

  7. CarolineSF 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    I think we’re allowed to define “hero” as we choose, so I reject the idea that we have to submit to someone else’s definition.

    For starters, it’s REALLY hard for people to admit they’ve been wrong. (John Merrow, I give you credit for publicly admitting your former admiration for Michelle Rhee was misplaced, to say the least. In fact, you had to admit to being duped by her lies and the “reform” sector’s lies, which is really tough.)

    Anyway. Ravitch has indicated that relatively late in life (given that 75 is the new 55), she felt an obligation to committing herself to combating and (we hope) reversing the destruction wrought by the policies she formerly championed.

    After taking a huge amount of flak from “reform” sector mouthpieces funded by billionaires (who may or may not actually believe what they’re saying, given that they’re well paid to say it, but that’s another story), she responded to their professed concerns by thinking through and articulating a positive vision of public education, rather than purely working to combat and reverse destruction.

    Ravitch has also been subjected to on ongoing barrage of vicious, unfounded personal attacks from those paid reform “sector” mouthpieces. I’d defend her against those attacks in a more specific way, but she has made it clear that she’d rather move on and discuss her message. I’m just adding that fact to the discussion, though.

    If you position her against Mandela and say there’s a bright line somewhere between Ravitch and Mandela, you aren’t going to define her as a hero, but that’s your personal bright line and no one else has to accept it.

  8. Wayne Gersen 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Sorry… but there is NO analogue on the left to Ted Cruz… and Diane Ravitch, who seeks to put facts in front of the public, is certainly not deserving of any comparison to Ted Cruz.

    Moreover,those who follow Diane Ravitch’s blog are hardly in lockstep with ALL her views… I’ve thrown a few rejoinders her way in the comment section and many others have as well. Diane Ravitch speaks truth to power and doesn’t pander to her readers or the education establishment.
    Diane Ravitch’s willingness to change her mind about education policy when the facts undercut her principles is what makes her a hero in my eyes. Sadly, too many of our political leaders like Ted Cruz ignore the facts when they contradict their principles. As a result we have faith-based shouting on both sides of the aisle instead of reasoned discourse based on reality.

  9. Susan Polos 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    Diane Ravitch is not a “crusader” – she is a truth-teller. She is heroic only because she speaks out against those employed in mainstream media who obscure the truth and intentionally mislead the public. We are witnessing the hijacking of public education by corporate interests in collusion with politicians. You may not wish to be labeled a hero. No worries there. With this column, you are firmly in the corner of whatever the opposite of hero might be – a banal bystander, a bully, a wimp? Our children deserve the schools that Diane Ravitch is fighting for. She is fighting against a powerful slew of bipartisan interests with only some open-eyed parents and the ever-silenced, much-maligned teachers as her chorus. Shame on you for labeling her “leftist.” I am shocked – and I really didn’t think anything could shock me anymore.

    • Duane Swacker 26. Sep, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

      “Shame on you for labeling her ‘leftist.’”

      Diane is so far “left” that she is right!!

  10. Mom/Speducator 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Seriously John? She is a hero, you’ve been bought, admit it. Diane is so transparent and incredibly generous with her knowledge. I have kids in public school and I cannot believe what is happening. I am patient though and pretty bright, so I understand what is happening with the media and am toiling away in a grassroots movement. It may be too late for my kids but i fight for their kids and their kids’ kids. This is one of the most important movements in our history. It’s the Ravitch Revolution, so there, she is a hero and there’s no fight like a parent’s fight for their children. Are you feeling OKAY?

  11. EJST 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Mr. Merrow,

    I am rather perturbed by the unnecessary attack on Diane Ravitch. For many educators, she is a hero. I see nothing wrong with having a hero who stands up for what she believes in– she stands up for the millions of teachers and students who have been left voiceless by the sweeping corporate education reforms. For several years now, I have been sensing this unwelcome wave, but didn’t quite know how to explain it or how to make the connections; Diane Ravitch found it for me, and it is very empowering to finally understand what is going on and finding solidarity with other educators who are also alarmed and appalled by the state of education today. You name Nelson Mandela as a hero, and rightly so, but I don’t believe that he ever took a bullet for a child or fought a fire or raging floods, which seem to be your criteria for a “genuine” hero. Diane often writes about issues for which Nelson Mandela fought, such as equity, segregation, and poverty. If Nelson Mandela can be your “genuine” hero, why can’t Diane Ravitch be ours?

  12. Steve Magruder 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    One key difference between Diane Ravtich and Ted Cruz: Ted Cruz has essentially never changed his mind. His college-age views are his current views. That’s what the man’s bios show.

    And what does such an unchanging set of viewpoints remind us of?

    For me, it reminds me of the corporate reformers, who keep pushing and pushing and pushing the same “reforms”, and despite evidence that frequently shows these “reforms” to be fool’s gold, they keep pushing and pushing and pushing them.

    Ravitch has clearly demonstrated a broad base of knowledge on education over a long period of time, and when the facts and her conscience intervened on the set of viewpoints she used to hold, she yielded, and I say, very bravely.

    • Laura Boytz 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      Exactly. The thing I admire most about Diane Ravitch is not that her current views agree so much with mine (although I am often in agreement with her, me from my perspective of 20 years on the ground in the classroom, her with her wealth of historical context and thoughtfully comparative data) as that she did what scientists are supposed to do, but that far too few public policy makers actually do: she adjusted her theory to account for the actual data, rather than adjusting the data to fit her theory. She changed her mind based on real evidence, and then she had the courage to publicly say so and to try to make up for the damage of the previously wrong views. Her work is not based on faith (except perhaps for a faith in people’s ability to learn and reason). We can quibble about the word “hero” (I’m not sure for what purpose — just to distract people from the message in Reign of Error, perhaps?), but to equate those who admire Ravitch with anti-fact, anti-evidence, utterly faith-based folk like Ted Cruz is just wrong.

  13. Terry Kalb 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    Diane Ravitch speaks for all of us who have given our lives to public education. We are under corporate attack, threatening teaching as a profession. Our beloved schools are being co-opted for private takeover to line the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of our most vulnerable students. We don’t match the reformers’ deep pockets, but we will fight them tooth and nail to protect our kids and our communities. Diane is one of us- and a highly respected educator. She speaks truth to power.

  14. Joel Jones 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    Incredible. To believe that you have the audacity to tell us who our own personal heroes can be. Diane Ravitch is a personal hero of mine because of her tireless pursuit of truth and exposing the corporate take over of public education. How much did the “rheeformers” pay you to lambast Dr. Ravitch? I think it’s time that you look at the facts and find out that the wealthy corporate lap dogs are staging an all out assault for that very important dollar.

  15. Concerned Citizen 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Diane Ravitch is my hero. Not because the term hero has been diluted and I find heroes everywhere, but because her work is so very admirable that she is one of just a few heroes that I admire. John Merrow’s attack on Ravitch is so nonsensical that it must have some ulterior motive.

    Perhaps Mr. Merrow is taking a swipe at Diane Ravitch because of this blog post:

    What say you, Merrow, are you bitter that Diane called you out for giving up on your investigation of Michelle Rhee and DC schools?

  16. Nichalas Enser 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Mr. Cody says it the best:

    I am not sure where to start with this.

    You ask your reader for who their heroes might be. But then the thrust of your piece is to preemptively impugn anyone who might choose Diane Ravitch as their personal hero, by suggesting that “the same people who idolize Ted Cruz or Diane Ravitch are equally vehement in their disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with their hero (and them). ”

    So those of us who indeed do admire Diane Ravitch greatly must first fend off your assertions about our intolerance.

    For the record, I would count Diane Ravitch as one of my heroes. She has had the strength of character to examine the evidence and reject prior beliefs. Other people have had changes of mind, but she has pursued the evidence to explore and uncover real deceptions that have been sown about our schools and the teaching profession.

    There is a real battle taking place over the future of our schools. Great harm is being done to the institution of public education, as we see neighborhood schools closed, and the teaching profession mechanized and micromanaged through ever more frequent tests. Diane Ravitch has emerged as someone able to place this battle in the context of the last century of American education history, and provide a clear map as to what is happening, and who the players are working the levers of power.

    The real people working in the “messy middle” are the teachers and students who have been the subjects of this unprecedented series of experiments in market based reforms. Teachers who have seen the standards and tests change on an almost yearly basis, and who now must be evaluated based on test scores. Students who are being tested to death, and face ever more difficult tests under the misguided notion that somehow failing more of them will enable more of them to succeed.

    Teachers get to choose their own heroes, fortunately, and the thousands showing up to hear Diane Ravitch speak about her latest book in the weeks to come will no doubt make their own views heard.

    by anthony Cody on Sep 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm

  17. CarolineSF 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Most of the “reformers” are paid, funded and employed to push those “reforms,” Steve Magruder. Of course at the top of the chain, wealthy and powerful forces are funding them, and the “reformers’ ” great fear has to be that those forces will lose their faith and the funding will stop flowing.

    That’s why they try so hard to intimidate people like Dr. Ravitch, and also why they undoubtedly (in my view) have threatened John Merrow forcefully enough to get him to stop reporting on Michelle Rhee. Of course he denies that, but if he’s been threatened, he obviously can’t acknowledge it.

    Follow the money.

  18. Victor3 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    With the exception of Joe Nathan, I second all of the above comments. I remain dumbfounded that a man of your intelligence, a man who was capable of doing such fine and objective investigative work in the examination of the DC cheating scandal could possibly make such a ham handed comparison between Ravitch, who always does her very best to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to Cruz who quite likely can no longer recognize such truth as anything other than an inconvenience. Your extremely sloppy conflation of left vs. right with those who pursue the truth and are fully willing to be guided by it with those for whom the truth must be avoided at all costs is appalling and inexcusable. Shame on you. An immediate correction is in order.

  19. Pedro Sarmiento 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:38 pm #


    First of all, sorry for my English. I am writing from Madrid, Spain.

    I am surprised to see Diane Ravitch listed as somebody trying to get more attention than she deserves.

    I follow Ms. Ravitch’s twitter account and blog. I bought and read her book a few days ago. She provides information which is valuable here, even though our education systems are different. Other people in other countries know about her work and resonate with her ideas. She works hard to explain her convictions and she uses data. Her last book is filled with charts and statistics.

    I don’t think she is trying to get an attention she doesn’t deserve. I think she is trying to help people understand that public education deserves people’s attention.

    I don’t think becoming “famous” at her age can be considered a demonstration of vanity. As an informed journalist, you can probably name 2000 people in search of fame before her name comes to mind, most of them 50 years younger.

    When you write:

    “the same people who idolize Ted Cruz or Diane Ravitch are equally vehement in their disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with their hero (and them)”

    it sounds as if agreeing with Diane Ravitch’s ideas was an act of fanatism. But I am no fanatic. She is not my hero. I just admire her work. If somebody uses the word “hero” in a way you think is not right, you should blame those who say “hero” before picking on those being called “heroes”.

    If you don’t agree with her, it would be better to know what you think different and why, like she has done in her book. But instead you put her aside, as an extremist, with no further explanation, while presenting yourself a reasonable person. This is especially sad after some politician called her “evil” days ago.

    I understand writing in a blog is not a slow research process. Perhaps it took you just a few minutes writing this entry. I just think you should be careful when making such negative comments.

    Thanks for reading.

    Pedro Sarmiento

  20. Joe Nashville 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    This is odd. Would you consider Ravitch an extremist had she not changed her views from what they once were to what they are now?

  21. Sheila Resseger 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Mr. Merrow, I strongly object to your juxtaposition of Ted Cruz and Diane Ravitch in the same sentence as examples of pseudo-heroes. As other commenters have clearly articulated, Diane Ravitch is a seeker after truth and a speaker of truth. That she had the audacity to turn her back on her compatriots because she looked squarely at the evidence and saw that the consequences of testing, accountability by test scores, and choice were undermining our vital public education system, branded her a traitor when she should have been praised as a patriot. The corporate education reform juggernaut is one of the most ill-founded and dangerous sets of policies to descend on America. The “reformers” have billions of dollars at their disposal, and stand to profit by billions more. Diane Ravitch is one of many highly knowledgeable and principled authors who are standing up to this unnecessary disaster befalling our children, OUR CHILDREN! She deserves tremendous credit for this. Whether or not she is a “hero” is a matter of opinion, but please do not use her as an example of a too cavalier use of the word. The stakes are too high.

  22. Julian Vasquez Heilig 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Diane is a hero for standing against the powerful.

  23. Kathleen 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    John, do you need an Ironman fix lol?

  24. Mark Naison 25. Sep, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Diane Ravitch has written the most important book about public education in the last ten years, a carefully researched and argued critique of the dominant trends in education policy in the US that resembles Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” in the force of its arguments and its ability to reshape debate. To compare a scholar of Dr Ravitch’s accomplishments to a Senator of little not leading a filibuster is a cheap shot at best, and at worst a cynical attempt to get people to a voice coming to grips with her arguments. I expected better of you, but perhaps that was excessively optimistic. There are quite simple no people who operate within our major news outlets who are prepared to reveal the vice grip that the Big money people who fund their networks have on shaping education policy. These comments are not worthy of a journalist of your stature, but perhaps I overestimated that stature. This is a shameful moment in American history when every major new outlet decides to gang up on the most distinguished education scholar we have in this country

  25. tlmerrie 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:00 pm #


    I am really shocked. Perhaps you ARE getting crotchety as you get older. I thought you were just doing your job when you reported on the D.C. test score scandal, but I thought it was heroic a bit too, though I didn’t think to use the word at that time, since it is a rather unpopular story to tell. I thought Adell Cothorne was a hero for sure, because she stood up for what she knew was right at great personal cost to herself. I hadn’t thought to call Diane Ravitch a hero really, but now that you mention it, she is one to me. Until she started that blog I came home from work everyday and cried. I have found work easier and life happier since we found a leader for our fight to save public education. To me, yes, she’s a hero. My life is better because of her. I wouldn’t still be teaching if it wasn’t for her. That blog she writes is what I read every day and it helps me face yet another miserable day of reading from the script they give us and guiding students through mounds of test prep. While I go to work she spends her day standing up for what is a very unpopular view. Trying to make Diane sound like the extreme left doesn’t put her there. I think Levin is no hero and I definitely do not think he is a centrist, but I do understand that to someone he probably is and to others he may be nothing. I think you should get out of the business of deciding who is a hero and who isn’t.

    I have a lot of heroes… and role models…. And for me, Diane Ravitch is certainly both.

  26. Jim Spellman 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    What comes immediately to mind is Teddy Roosevelts immortal statement ” The credit goes to the man in the Arena…”. Dr. Ravitch is in the Arena and cowardly critics attack her. She is one of my heroes. Your audacity and ego to determine who is heroic and who is not is mind boggling.
    Jim Spellman
    Groton, CT

  27. Linda 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    I actually don’t care what John Merrow thinks..he sold his soul a long time ago. Who cares what he thinks? I shall unsubscribe to this spam.

  28. Nancy Goldberg 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    How disappointing, John….do I detect the rancid smell of resentment due to jealousy? When you put down Diane Ravich, you put down her dedicated army of contemporaries who soldier on against Murdoch-like privatizing efforts to undermine our system of public education.
    Diane champions the children of America, and so she is a hero.

  29. John Thompson 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:29 pm #


    Please issue a retraction and apology. I’d then ask you to remember that anyone can give a speech embracing the “messy middle.”

    But, that’s not the big point. Please stop this quick. We all cross lines and as long as we’re able to say we are sorry, no harm no foul.

  30. john merrow 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    I do not know Ted Cruz. I have known Diane for many years and like and admire her. However, my blog is not about either of them. My subject is the elevation to heroic stature–and the accompanying demonization of anyone who disagrees with the new hero’s position.

    I don’t think I have many readers on the political right, but it’s easy to imagine them saying,”How dare you compare Senator Cruz to that Ravitch person.”

    • Randal Hendee 25. Sep, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

      “However, my blog is not about either of them.”

      That is false. By setting up the bogus analogy and repeating it as one of your key tropes, the post is “about” both of them. Also, there’s plenty of subtext connected to the Diane Ravitch blog that’s easily uncovered through a “close reading” of the post.

      “My subject is the elevation to heroic stature–and the accompanying demonization of anyone who disagrees with the new hero’s position.”

      That isn’t really true either. There isn’t much evidence related to elevation and demonization. There’s just the extended quote at the beginning, Ravitch and Cruz, MSNBC and Fox, something about adjectives, and an anecdote about a friend and some musing. Rereading this I’m finding it pretty incoherent, and I’m concluding that the embedded material is intended to carry more weight than the putative main topic.

      Okay, here’s something: “Extreme positions weren’t effective, he told us.” This isn’t at all about elevation and demonization, but it does serve to frame Diane Ravitch’s viewpoint as extreme (supposedly analogous to Ted Cruz’s extreme viewpoint). And it is in the context of advocating that teachers be evaluated in part by student text scores (which, in case you haven’t heard, is a thoroughly invalid practice).

      “I don’t think I have many readers on the political right, but it’s easy to imagine them saying,’How dare you compare Senator Cruz to that Ravitch person.’”

      Just another red herring. The post is loaded with this sort of thing:

    • Concerned Citizen 25. Sep, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

      The comparison isn’t the problem. The problem is that you said neither Cruz nor Ravitch should be considered heroes, and anyone who regards either of them (or anyone who hasn’t faced down a loaded gun or run into a burning building) as a hero is misguided. Cruz, Ravitch, or any other person need not face down mortal danger to be lauded as a hero.

      Ravitch is a hero to many, many people–just read the comments here. Ted Cruz has never blogged about you, but Diane Ravitch has, so something more seems to be going on with your original post. You are an education journalist, so you can take pot shots at Ted Cruz all day without causing a stir, but when you take a shot a Diane Ravitch, people who follow education have to wonder why you are trying to tear her down with such nonsense.

      What is your agenda, John? Payback to Ravitch for some of her criticisms of you, trolling for education reform foundation money, or what?

    • JustCaresAlot 25. Sep, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      John, You elevated the promoter of military style education for minority children to the status of hero yourself by falling for, agreeing with and endorsing the “messy middle” label Dave Levin ascribed to his approach. That’s pure propaganda. There is nothing middle of the road about demanding that children of color be subservient all day long to their (mostly white) charter school teachers. Do you really think Martin Luther King Jr. would consider minority compliance the happy medium? Wake up and get a grip, for God’s sake!

      • JustCaresAlot 25. Sep, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

        Better yet, ask your hero Mandela what he thinks about the imposition of military tactics on minority children. Not to mention segregation.

    • bMarshall 26. Sep, 2013 at 7:04 am #

      A very weak defense sir. You are sniveling and It is evident that not one person, except for Joe, finds what you wrote at all edifying!

      • Other Spaces 26. Sep, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

        Joe is his own hero. He uses Diane’s blog to slap himself on the back for his work in charter school expansion, even though charter schools siphon funds from public schools, their expansion places public education at peril and Diane is fighting to save public education. Joe is very fortunate that Diane’s is open to allowing opposing viewpoints, including from someone who is so unappreciative of getting free advertising space from her.

    • Bonnie Cunard 26. Sep, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

      Mr. Merrow,

      You write, “These people inhabit a comic book world without ambiguity where heroes require villains.” I personally found that insulting.

      Maybe it is just me, but anytime anyone starts a sentence with “These people” it is usually insulting. Couple that comment with “comic book world” and you’ve managed to insult parents everywhere.

      Perhaps, that was your point?

      Well, because we parents are not living in a comic book world. We are living in a world of rigorous accountability for our children and high stakes testing all the way down to Kindergarten. I am not sure what comic books you read, sir, but that’s not the world we parents want for our kids.

      And, when you spew these insults under the guise of journalism, it becomes obvious why we look at Ravitch as a hero. In fact, I think you just made your own point for yourself : “Polarization not only doesn’t move the ball forward; it’s a step backward.”


  31. Rosemarie Jensen 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    Crotchety? Possibly. Senile. Maybe. Bought and paid for. Absolutely. Dr. Ravitch is the sole voice speaking truth to power in defense of public education and the teachers who have committed their lives to the profession and to our children. THIS mom in Florida has watched the game up close and personal since Jeb and his merry band of privatizers started defunding our schools and punishing our children and schools with more and more testing and less and less electives, specials, librarians, and teacher autonomy. To even breathe Dr. Ravitch’ name in the same sentence as Ted Cruz is almost laughable if it wasn’t so ridiculously transparent as to who owns you. While she is doing good work in her later years in hopes of leaving a legacy of good fully funded and sane public education, you are spending yours carrying water for the reformers. I hope whatever they are filling those buckets with is worth it. My kids are suffering under a grand experiment in education not developed or created by educators. I just see another white male angry that a woman is fighting back and is on the right side. Heroine…. Absolutely.

  32. David Cunningham 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    You couldn’t be more incorrect about Diane. Our public schools are perhaps the last vestige of what remains of democracy in this country. They have never faced a threat like they do today from the out of control deformers, whose only goal seems to be about making money off of our nation’s school children. Privatization of our schools must be stopped! Diane leads the charge against this madness.

  33. Janna 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    “For example, Ted Cruz, the US Senator from Texas, is a hero to some on the extreme right because of his strident opposition to Obamacare. Over on the left, Diane Ravitch is a hero to those who share her views on what is happening in public education.”

    I do not have a problem with you objecting to Ted Cruz and Diane Ravitch being considered heroes. You want the definition saved for people who save lives or risk their own lives for others. I can respect your discussion of semantics. I do object to your dismissal of Diane as “over on the left.” Ted Cruz is a proud tea party representative who is standing up to what I assume he believes is the right action for our country. But he is an elected official and that is his job. Diane is absolutely not “over on the left” from what I can tell. I have been following her work for several years and can make a case that she is one of the few non-partisan voices in the public school debates. If you look at her views on questioning the Common Core ( since it does not have an evidence base) or her views on using student test schools for teacher evaluations you would find those views are supported by our supposedly liberal president and Secretary of Education. So does that mean she is also a tea party supporter or a conservative republican? Please do not contribute to the mischaracterization of individuals on one side or the other of the political spectrum in the public school debate. That is the problem- both sides are taking the money and trying to destroy public education. You could be the voice of reason in the debate and take on both sides if you wanted. As an investigative reporter I have been hoping you or someone would take on ALEC and the oligarchy we have trying to buy our government, prisons, and schools. Please- we need you to be a hero Mr. Merrow. Not be part of the problem.

  34. Claudia Swisher 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    Dr. Ravitch is a respected academic with a strong publishing history. She investigates, she reflects, she holds up her own thinking for us to see. Hero? Yup. A thinking-person’s hero. Someone who’s always reading and thinking and questioning and writing.

    Why does this threaten you? You who fell, hook, line, and sinker, for a self-serving, headline-hogging, money-grubbing taper-of-children’s-mouths.

  35. Real Teacher 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    Wow. Looks like Mr. Merrow will be welcomed with open arms at Education Nation. And MSNBC is promoting privatization every bit as much as FOX. Pathetic excuse for a column. I know a teacher who died at Sandy Hook. Diane Ravitch honors her and all teachers by advocating for the whole child, the kind of education that the rich afford their own and deny others. Be accountable, Mr. Merrow. This was an ineffective, inaccurate & insulting piece,.

  36. Randal Hendee 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    “Perhaps I am just getting crotchety as I get older, but I would like to see us tone down our language. I am pretty certain that the same people who idolize Ted Cruz or Diane Ravitch are equally vehement in their disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with their hero (and them). These people inhabit a comic book world without ambiguity where heroes require villains.”

    I don’t think you’re becoming crotchety. Cynical and demagogic maybe, but not crotchety. A crotchety person can’t help being crotchety. A cynical person is calculated in his use of logical fallacies and other shady means in trying to achieve some ulterior goal. A demagogue appeals to popular biases in order to make his point. Like labeling Diane Ravitch a leftist, and accusing her growing audience of a total lack of discernment. If you don’t realize these claims are off base, I’m “pretty sure” you’re losing your marbles. But no, I don’t think you’re losing your marbles. I think you know exactly what you’re doing.

    You’re trying to smear a scholar with a valid point of view and a ton of evidence to back it up, but you’re not doing it by responding to her work. Not only are you placing her on a false political spectrum, you’re drawing a false analogy between her and an obstructive politician with a very thin resume and a boatload of ambition, if not facts. Ted Cruz is very good at manipulating the English language, though. So, apparently, are you. Why are you so much like Ted Cruz? Okay, I’ll retract that association, but I hope you get the point.

    Back in March of last year I called Diane one of my “current heroes.” She still is. She fits the definition of hero because of her courage and achievements, but also because she’s willing publicly to challenge the conventional wisdom. Yes, she’s also one of my current heroes because I generally agree with her both her critique and her “crusade,” but if you believe her readers are mostly mindless idolaters, I’m “pretty sure” you’re the one living in an alternative world. But of course, I’m pretty sure you don’t really believe that, although it may be in your interest to say you do. That doesn’t make you a villain, but the way you’re trying to frame these issues is a clear attempt to marginalize a valid point of view. And that’s bad.

  37. Darlene Cowles 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:48 pm #


    Something is missing in your blog “Do We need More Heroes?” I believe it’s journalistic integrity. The comparison you make would be funny if you were just a guy off the street. You are a published author. Hold yourself to a higher standard, PLEASE. Did you not check the background, the experience, the education of the two peolpe you compared?

    How do you compare Ted Cruz’s profit making (on well underperforming schools), personal opinion, and dearth of educational experience with Dr. Ravitch’s vast experience, education and yes, actual verifiable facts, ones that matter. You need a less educated audience, if you want credibility with this post.

    May I suggest you do some real research? See what the reformers have done in the classrooms. It’s not a pretty sight. Do you have the stomach to go into these rooms and really look? And you know what? Despite it all, there are many heroes in these under supported classrooms all across America. And they are thankful that Diane Ravitch speaks for them.

  38. Linda Johnson 25. Sep, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    Mr. Merrow,

    Prof. Ravitch might not be valued by McGraw-Hill (publisher of tests and testing materials. Surprise!) but she is the hero to the people who care enough about education to be with our children each day.

    Yes, this woman threatens the moneyed interests who have their eyes sharply focused on K-12 tax money, but I never guessed that you were one of them. How terribly disappointing!

    Dr. Ravitch and teachers will win this fight, because in the end the public will always side with the people in the classrooms.

  39. Cosmic Tinkerer 25. Sep, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    Yes, John, I will confirm your suspicions. You have definitely grown old and crotchety.

    The Democrats may have a paucity of liberals today, but couldn’t you think of even ONE actual left-leaning politician to pit Cruz against? Diane Ravitch is a historian and advocate for public education, not a politician. Pitting her against Cruz was downright cruel.

    Many people see Ravitch as a hero because she has the courage to admit she was wrong, tries to right her errors, is committed to improving public education for all children and she is willing to take battering on a daily basis for taking a stand against destructive policies. Why you thought she deserved your comparison with the hate-mongering Cruz is beyond me.

    If you accept Dave Levin’s military style education, which promotes immediate compliance for children of color, as the acceptable “messy middle,” then you have absolutely no idea what your own hero, Nelson Mandela, represents. I’ll take the humane supposedly lefty approach represented by Ravitch, because she cares about equity, over that hot mess any day.

    I think you need to make amends. And stop acting like an old fogey when you clearly realize that’s what you’re doing!

  40. Ms. Swissa 25. Sep, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    If the journalists who covered education worked a bit harder to find other experts to interview than Ravitch and Rhee, perhaps neither would be considered heroes–or villains. Perhaps they would just be two voices among many. And there are so many experts out there; most are teachers. To most of these teachers, Ravitch is a hero because she gives most of them a voice. If you have a problem with Ravitch being a hero, you have the opportunity to let more voices be heard, Mr. Merrow. I hope you’ll take it.

  41. Linda 25. Sep, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Looks like Diane is doing quite well…maybe it’s jealousy.

    Everyone is reading and listening to Diane. People are ignoring John.

    “Reign of Error,” released September 17, debuts at #10 on New York Times’ bestseller list!

    Thanks to all the fabulous education bloggers who spread the word.

  42. Chris 25. Sep, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    The world of high stakes testing has obliterated art, music, P.E., etc. from the K12 world. I applaud anyone Dr. Ravitch or Tea Party politicians that stand up to the NCLB, RTTT catatrophe.

  43. Ralph Ratto 25. Sep, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    Mr. Merrow,
    I find it quite amusing that someone who helpMichelle Rhee onto her wobbly pedestal of self promotion has the audacity to tell anyone what a hero is. Your comparison of Ted Cruz to Diane Ravitch solidifies my opinion that you really are the type of journalist that will sell the point of view that would gain you the most viewers or readers.

    Diane Ravitch is a hero because she stands up for what she believes in, she admits when she is wrong, and her herculean efforts are an inspiration to tens of thousands of her fans.

    Heroes don’t take food out of the mouth of children, deny heath coverage to anyone, threaten to destroy our country’s financial well being, ignore the needs of the poor, insult their nation’s duly elected leader, and work towards the destruction of our nation’s human values.

    You owe Diane an apology, you owe all of us who view Diane as a hero, an apology, and you owe your readers an apology.

  44. Andy Mitchell 25. Sep, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    “Since when does taking a strong public stand qualify as an act of heroism?”

    Since Bill Gates, and Eli Broad, and Michelle Rhee, and Pearson, and McGraw-Hill, and the President and Arne Duncan and George W. Bush and Jeb Bush and Scott Walker and Andrew Cuomo et. al. decided that it was acceptable to bully public employees and public school students behind a façade of “data.”

    Standing up to bullies, especially when they are rich and powerful, is ALWAYS an act of heroism.

    Standing up to bullies is the ULTIMATE act of heroism when facing “the messy middle.”

    Heroism DOES reside in the acts of people facing bullets and fires.

    Herosim does NOT reside SOLELY in the acts of people facing a bullet or a fire.

    How sad to hold such a narrow definition of heroism in your heart.

  45. Rosemarie Jensen 25. Sep, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    Well, there is a thoughtful comment. You can imagine those on the right saying ” how dare they compare Ted Cruz with this Ravitch person.” The implication is they don’t really know who she is, which is probably true, unless they are anti common core and then, they, too, would be in support of her.

  46. Mary Porter (chemtchr) 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    John, the first thing that struck me is, who (in God’s name) are YOU to be giving an award to the teachers of Sandy Hook? Couldn’t they have found anybody at all more worthy? Were you not struck with at least a twinge of humility in such a situation?

    Instead, you puff yourself up and hold forth on other people’s heroism. You certainly could have offered yourself as a non-example: after all, you published a column about how you gave up on trying to pursue the truth of the DC cheating scandal, because you were not being praised by influential and powerful people for your spasm of journalistic integrity.

    So, your excuse for attacking Diane Ravitch (out of the blue) isn’t anything she’s done, it’s just that many people do consider her work heroic. I’m one of those people, so I am at fault here. I wish you’d asked us why we admire her, but instead you asked,
    “Since when does taking a strong public stand qualify as an act of heroism?”

    Well, how would you know, of course, since you didn’t have even the stomach to do that. But Diane has done more. For the past year, she has gotten up before dawn every single say and worked so long and hard I have been afraid for her health. By the way, so have I.

    But, none of her admirers is asking Diane to slow down, or to take the weight off her feet for a while. We understand how important this mission is, and we see that she’s in a position to make a decisive difference. We know that what we’re asking of her is actual physical heroism, and real, permanent sacrifice if it comes to that.

    We’re asking a kind of heroism of each other, because we believe we can save public education from wanton destruction, and hand it on for the next generation of Americans, if enough of us are willing to make the necessary sacrifices and take the necessary risks.

    I would have asked it of you, also, if you hadn’t already publicly declared your surrender, to the security and convenience of your hired advocacy industry. What would you know about any of this?

    One thing still amazes me. How dare you take those teachers as a platform?

    • Sawyer K 25. Sep, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

      This post says it all, Mr. Merrow:

      “You certainly could have offered yourself as a non-example [of being a hero] : after all, you published a column about how you gave up on trying to pursue the truth of the DC cheating scandal, because you were not being praised by influential and powerful people for your spasm of journalistic integrity.”

      Your post–on the heels of the post where you announced you would no longer pursue the Michele Rhee story and just as Ravitch’s book reaches the NY Times best-seller list, sparking panic in the corporate reform circles that have buttered your bread for years and years– tells everyone who is interested all they need to know about your credibility when it comes to defining “heroism.”

      And your banal and tepid “the best answer lies somewhere in the middle” conclusions–while ensuring you funding for years to come– really add nothing to our current debate.

      As a 15-year veteran of urban and suburban public schools, I don’t consider Dr. Ravitch a hero. But she is admirable for admitting when she is wrong and for trying to make amends for her complicity in triggering the machinations that have intensified the privatization of public schooling in most urban centers in the U.S. I won’t claim to be the end all arbiter of deciding who should be bestowed with “hero” status, but since you started the discussion, I will just conclude by adding: to me, your ongoing complicity in that same corporate reform boondoggle–despite a few surprising “spasms of integrity” over the past year or so– makes you neither “heroic” nor “admirable.”

    • Paul Hoss 02. Oct, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

      “For the past year, she has gotten up before dawn every single say and worked so long and hard I have been afraid for her health. By the way, so have I.” Every single day? So, you’ve been bunking with Diane to know her daily itinerary? First-hand? Or simply more hyperbole and half truths? How would you know she’s up every day before dawn? You’ve been afraid for her health? Now you’re her doctor?

      BTW, so have I? More self promotion? What a load of happy hen manure. You’re as transparent as your purported movement, which, by the way, continues to make minimal to zero headway in countering the current education reforms.

      Bad-Ass Teachers? That’s a great moniker for professional educators to adopt. And what, exactly, has happened to this steamroller group? They’ve seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth as has the Save Our Schools group that “marched” on Washington and for their grand finale had less than fifty people stay to listen to Diane Ravitch speak. Oh, did you not make it to another one of the movement’s events? Yet another surprise. All BIG talk and when it comes time for action you’re AWOL.

      Try reading Diane’s new book CAREFULLY and after each one of her contentions ask yourself: What’s behind this statement and more importantly, what’s the REST of the story here? From choice, to student/teacher accountability, to shuttering/restructuring drop-out factories, to some purported entity attempting to abolish public education…she never tells the whole story behind any of it. So if she’s the leading agent against all the reforms, and she appears to be, your movement is going right where it hasn’t gone to date: NOWHERE.

      John Merrow has more integrity and credibility is his little finger than anything you’ve ever done. You’re certainly NO ONE to question anything he does.

      • Reteach 4 America 02. Oct, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

        Sorry, John, but this endorsement from a retired teacher who is against progressive education, including projects, and has said that “Investing in assessments that focus on higher order thinking skills (critical thinking and problem solving) is a waste of time and money,” and condemned qualitative assessments because they are not quantitative assessments, carries about as much weight as an endorsement from Ted Cruz.

        Then again, maybe you like our government being shut down and held hostage by Cruz et al. to the tune of $40M – $80M per day, leaving approximately 800,000 federal employees on furlough? Somehow, I think not.

  47. PhillipMarlowe 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    John stood there as Michelle Rhee said want to watch me fire someone.
    He knew of questions about her resume yet remained silent.
    It took John several years to express regret about that.
    I see children do a better, faster job than that.
    Come back to elementary school, John.

  48. LLC1923 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    John: How disappointing!

    Diane is not Ted Cruz. Who’s paying you to publish this nonsense to hold David Levin up as a hero for running military camps called charter schools at taxpayers expense. You are misguided and seem to be easily influenced in the wrong direction.

    David Levin and other charter operators have awakened parents who have more votes than the reformers and charter operators. Legislators are listening to the parents.

    Name one “reform” that has worked and provide evidence. High-stakes testing? Charter schools? VAM? Teacher Bashing? Merit pay? Students First?

    Name one reformer other than your hero, David Levin whom you trust.

  49. Gene Bryant 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    How strange that this issue is raised at this time. I’ve been reading Diane’s book and thinking over and over again, what a hero! No doubt about it, she is my hero–and I have very few. Comparing her to Ted Cruz s an ultimate insult.

  50. David Topitzer 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    I’m with my fellow nutmeg-er, John Pelto, and others. Public education is under an all-out assault by powerful interests that want to tap into the biggest untapped market in America – public education. And this includes big tech, charter companies testing companies and other interests who want to crush the teachers’ union. If Diane Ravitch is not a hero, then who is? She is taking on a huge, well funded, carefully orchestrated movement – a dragon of sorts. I would suggest consulting a dictionary and perhaps some Joseph Campbell literature in order to get a better understanding of what constitutes a hero. Your credibility is at stake.

  51. PhillipMarlowe 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Ted Cruz also compared his naysayers to Nazi appeasers, positing, “I suspect those same pundits who say it can’t be done, if it had been in the 1940s we would have been listening to them. Then they would have made television. They would have gotten beyond carrier pigeons and beyond letters and they would have been on tv and they would have been saying, ‘You cannot defeat the Germans.’”

    So, John, does Diane engage in the hoary old Nazi comparisons?

  52. Katheryn 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    I’ll keep my comment short. I am a resident of CT and a school teacher. Using the Newtown teachers as an emotional example to drive your point home was cheap and in poor taste. Disagree with Ravitch’s supporters if you must, but please do not make shallow points on the backs of murdered teachers.

    This blog post was awfully long winded considering you simply disagree about Ravitch’s merit.

  53. Ani McHugh 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    Your recognition of the heroes in Sandy Hook is wonderful, but using it to preface a jab at Diane Ravitch and her supporters seriously perverts the overall tone of this piece.

    You speak of the dangers of polarization, but then you go on to claim that Ravitch’s (and Cruz’s, for that matter) supporters show “disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with their hero (and them).” Right–because that’s not a polarizing or inflammatory statement.

    Criticize people who call Miley Cyrus a hero–not those who recognize Diane Ravitch as one for her defense of one of our nation’s most important institutions. Otherwise, your argument seems to be just an opportunistic promotion of a laughable agenda–one that subtly tries to establish Dave Levin as the only voice of reason in a sea of extremists. Come on.

  54. Katheryn 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    Seriously, John. I think you need to apologize for the Newtown analogy. That is an extremely painful thing for us to think about, and they- and we- deserve better than that.

  55. John Kuhn 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    Diane Ravitch is a hero to me.

  56. Beth 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    Diane Ravitch speaks truth to power.

  57. Richard Munro 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    Diane Ravitch is a noted scholar and educational historian even perhaps as I have called her a “Grand Dame of Education” but she is not a “hero of education.” For most of her career she has been very cautious to maintain her public image; now in the twilight of her career she is very anxious not to follow in the footsteps of other educators and mentors such as her friend E.D. Hirsch, jr to be considered a “maverick” or “a far-right person” or even (as I have heard it said of Dr. Ravitch in the past) and “enemy of education.” She is, I believe, very conscious of her legacy and she does not want to be merely a footnote and another unread and unassigned author like the great Gilbert Highet. It says a lot about the state of American education that one of the greatest teachers and authors of the 20th century is virtually unknown to a younger generation of teachers and professors. Ravitch wants to avoid sudch a fate (In my opinion) . Ravitch is asI said a noted scholar and a gifted writer perhaps even a “shaker and mover” in education reform. But that doesn’t make her a hero. The real heroes are indeed classroom teachers who lay down their lives for their students or who make heroic efforts to teach or help their students after hours and on weekends for no additional financial compensation. The real heroes are the people who go above and beyond the call of duty for the common good and the common defense. My father, a WWII veteran, was a brave and honorable soldier who remained in the Reserves until 1953 (the close of the Korean War). But as he always said, “I didn’t do anything; I just did my job and what was required. “Audie Murphy was a hero of the first order. You are certainly right that people exaggerate when they call everyone a hero. Doing what is expected and what is required is honorable and commendable but that doesn’t make a person a hero.

    • David Topitzer 25. Sep, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

      “The real heroes are the people who go above and beyond the call of duty for the common good”

      And that is what Ravitch has done with this book. I am a veteran teacher and do my duty everyday.

  58. LLC1923 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    John: I thought you had stopped drinking the reform/charter kook-aid, but you are like a chameleon.

    However, I’m excited about the ranking of Diane’s book as number 10 on the NY Times best seller list.

    Haven’t heard much about Rhee’s “radical” book lately. If Rhee crosses the border in my state, I call the state legislators to register concerns with supporting documents.

    On the other side, Diane has millions of parents across America listening because parents are sick and tired of the corporate reform nonsense. Parents want neighborhood schools without high-stakes tests and test prep for homework. Parents want rich curriculum and small class sizes. Parents want their children to be happy in school – have joy in learning.

    Parents are advocating to abolish the current US Department of Corporate Education that pushes the wacky common core WITH matching high-stakes tests and operates under the control of the Gates foundation.

  59. Jacqueline Colantonio 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    Diane Ravitch is indeed a hero. She is one of the only voices speaking for teachers and not against them, and as a teacher in an urban district who gets blamed for all the ills of those living in poverty, I appreciate and applaud all that she does. She is, in fact, quite heroic since she is speaking out against those with a lot more money and power. It would be great if you took a page from her playbook and continued to speak out against Michelle Rhee, who you helped create, and not back down because your tired of talking about her. You would indeed be heroic if you would continue speaking the truth to all of their lies.

  60. Marla Kilfoyle 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Well John you blew it here! Using Newtown to plug your thoughts on Dr. Ravitch were disgusting. She is my hero and a hero to 28,000 BATs! How sad, we really thought you were on our side in the fight to save public education. This post shows that you want to take a school tragedy and use it for your own gain. Bad decision!

  61. Katie Lapham 25. Sep, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Mary (chemtchr) was so eloquent in her response to your blog post. I can’t top that. Diane is one of the few high profile figures who is not only standing up for teachers and students but is working to the bone on our behalf. Her book tour schedule alone is exhausting, not to mention maintaining her blog and speaking to the press.
    How many people would do all that for public school teachers? Would you? She listens to us and truly understands our struggles. She’s a hero in my book.

  62. Steve K 25. Sep, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Mr. Merrow,

    Well, when a discussion of heroes or role models or simply people with integrity arises, rest assured your name will not surface.

    In the last month, you’ve both stopped your investigation of Michelle Rhee and equated Diane Ravitch with a radical politician. Your age may be leading you to be crotchety and also forgetful of your responsibilities as a journalist. Why exactly did you give upon the Rhee narrative so suddenly? Because people told you that you wouldn’t get anywhere? Not much of an investigative journalist.

    And quoting Dave Levin? His entire model is based on getting good test scores. Quoting him on that topic is like asking Obama about the ACA. I know, I know. Levin said other measures matter too. You know when charter leaders like Levin say they matter? When their test scores aren’t so good.

    Diane Ravitch has done much to draw attention to those who question the validity of these increasingly radical and never-ending reforms that are not based in research. She should be praised, even if you disagree with her opinion, for helping to turn this tidal wave into some sort of a conversation.

    I hesitate to label anyone a hero. But after your recent shenanigans, I doubt any aspiring journalist will see you as any sort of a model. Perhaps you should consider retiring. You don’t seem to possess the energy to withstand criticism from TPTB and prefer the path of least resistance. It says something about the quality of American journalism that you were at some point a decent reporter.

  63. David Berk 25. Sep, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    As soon as it was available, I ordered a copy of Diane Ravitch’s book. I will enjoy going to see her speak next week.

    Ted Cruz equated those who think differently than him with Nazis and shuns dialogue with his opponents. Diane Ravitch, on the other hand, invites dialogue and debate with those who disagree with her and has not used anything close to the inflammatory rhetoric attributable to Mr. Cruz.

    Diane Ravitch’s book debuted on the best seller list. It seems that the vast numbers of parents and teachers who have bought Diane Ravitch’s book disagree with your judgement about who is extremist and who is mainstream.

  64. Horace Manic 25. Sep, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Diane Ravitch believes in the past and future of public education. You don’t.

  65. Barry Wilson 25. Sep, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    Ted Cruz and Diane Ravitch??? We’re you drinking heavily?

  66. Jeannette 25. Sep, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Oh my goodness…as I reflect on my life and think of role models and heroes there is nobody that can compare to Diane Ravitch. Diane Ravitch is my hero…she is on the front lines for the teaching profession and for the children of America. In a respectful, informative, expert way she teaches us in so many ways. Her writing is brilliant. I’m so grateful for everything I have learned from her and it has been life changing. The title, hero isn’t big enough for this woman. Love Diane! …she deserves more respect and you must know that.

  67. Christal Watts 25. Sep, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    As a young girl, I remember learning how to read with the help of my first grade teacher. I can’t remember her name because as a Navy brat, I wound up going to over a dozen schools. What I can remember is that it was the teachers who almost always made this perennial new kid feel welcomed and secure.

    As a parent, I looked to the teachers that each of my three kids had as the experts. They were the ones that helped me help my children if they struggled over a new concept or informed me of when they needed extra help or support. They were the ones that brought learning to life for my three and helped them become the great young people they are today.

    Now as a teacher myself, I look to my own experience as a student and as a parent to help me inform my own practice. I became a teacher later in life in 2001 and in that very short time, I have seen the profession I love and the people that I admire become the targets for every thing that is wrong in education. What the general public seems to not understand is how very little control teachers actually have over their profession. Where once there was respect for our profession as teachers, there is now derision and scorn.

    Those of us who choose to teach in low performing, high poverty schools are labeled as failures when our students don’t perform as well as their peers – peers that often live in environments that are more supportive and less stressful. We are judged based on meaningless data that says nothing about the beautiful souls that so many of us feel so very privileged to teach. Kids that we see daily rising above despite all the challenges that are thrown at them, including attending schools that are labeled as failing again based on arbitrary data points that should never define any child, their school or their teacher.

    All of this is to say, Diane Ravitch gives us hope. None of us who read Ms. Ravitch are gullible, mindless people. I would argue that many of us fall along the political spectrum not often seen in the US today. We are Democrats, Republicans, Independents and DTS. We are liberal and conservative. The one unifying factor is that Ms. Ravitch has been willing to take a look at the programs she once previously supported with a critical eye, examine her own beliefs and support with research why previously held conclusions were erroneous.

    In short, she is a teacher. This is what teachers do.

    That is why she is MY hero.

  68. Don 25. Sep, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    One of things I’ve noticed lately is that the reformers are bragging about working in the “messy middle.” What’s happened is the reformers have used their great heaps of money to reshape the conversation. Dave Levin, whose organization gets massive amounts of funding from the pro-privatization Walton Foundation gets to play statesman because they have purchased a seat at the table. But Diane Ravitch, like thousands upon thousands of classroom teachers, are now viewed as extremists because only extremists would question the current regime of test-based accountability.

  69. Jay Ell 25. Sep, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    Are you high? Certainly not thinking! Diane Ravitch compared to Ted f#$&ing Cruz! I didn’t know so many people understood what is happening to public ed. until I discovered DR Blog. Her latest book is right on. I am unsubscribing from your blog Mr. Merrow. You, who gave up your pursuit of Rhee because it was too hard and no one would listen. Really! Very bad form and you should be ashamed!

  70. WT 25. Sep, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    And on cue, a horde of Ravitch sycophants descend on this blog to prove Merrow’s point: that they “inhabit a comic book world without ambiguity” and cannot stand to see a whisper of criticism of Ravitch.

    • David Berk 25. Sep, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

      How very brave of you to label the teachers and parents who have come to express their opinions “sycophants” under the cloak of anonymity. Many of the bloggers who’ve posted here have openly invited those with opposing viewpoints to post their opinions on their blogs so that a debate on the issues can ensue. From the words you’ve posted here, you seem far less interested in the debate you are claiming that Diane’s supporters welcome and far more interested in trolling/name-calling.

      • David Berk 25. Sep, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

        Typo. “From the words you’ve posted here, you seem far less interested in the debate you are claiming that Diane’s supporters oppose and far more interested in trolling/name-calling.”

      • Jan Carson 26. Sep, 2013 at 12:01 am #

        Because “they” know they’d lose the debate. Weak propaganda attempt. So lovely to see the critical thinkers who see straight through.

    • Jay Ell 26. Sep, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

      Or they could be real people doing real work in public schools and tired of your b#%^~#%t lies about our work, dedication, professionalism, and every other damn thing we are! We are fed up! 26 years doing the hard work! Very little $ reward but that is not why we do it- and don’t say why complain then! We don’t do it for charity but we love what we do. So take your smugness elsewhere.

    • Jay Ell 26. Sep, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

      Or they could be real people doing real work in public schools and tired of your b#%^~#%t lies about our work, dedication, professionalism, and every other damn thing we are! We are fed up! 26 years doing the hard work! Very little $ reward but that is not why we do it- and don’t say why complain then! We don’t do it for charity but we love what we do. So take your smugness elsewhere.

  71. Arthur Getzel 25. Sep, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    Do you know what makes a real hero? Someone who stands up for what is right. That, in my view, represents Diane Ravitch. Her view is neither left nor right. It is based on reason. I would bet you have read not one word of her book. Her conclusions are based on documentation. All her opinions are evidenced based. However, from her opinions doe come an ideology–to preserve a democratic institution that binds together our society to a common culture and heritage. She wants to preserve an institution that will cultivate informed citizens that will make political decisions also based on reason. She does not use platitudes and word games, such as the likes of Ted Cruz and other real ideologues. I respect her greatly. I am just a lowly public school teacher who writes a blog from the heart. However, when I write her with some information or send her a link to my blog, she takes the time to send me a short note with some insight. I will bet you will not respond to what I am writing right here. In addition, if I would write to the likes of Duncan, Gates or Broad, I would expect nothing less than to be ignored. Why don’t you tell us what you really believe in and why you feel Doctor Ravitch is a leftist–whatever that means?

  72. John Horn 25. Sep, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    Mr. Merrow,
    I have appreciated your reporting for years and often use your PBS video on grading schools to reframe the conversation about the debilitating role of standardized tests as they now are used. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but linking Diane Ravitch to Ted Cruz to make a point was our of character for you. I am from Texas, but do not know Ted Cruz. I witnessed his unethical campaigns and now and am enduring his embarrassing and self serving actions as our US Senator. We miss his predecessor, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson greatly.
    But I do know Diane Ravitch and have been instrumental in having her on some programs here at meetings of the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards. To call her an extremist is wrong and unfair. While her work is certainly subject to critical analysis, her assessment of the current educational landscape is valid and well documented. Her credentials and record are impeccable and her commitment to saving public education is most admirable. She has some voids in her solutions and I wish she would speak more about the role of systems that govern behavior in organizations as described by Peter Drucker, W. Edwards Deming, and Phillip Schlechty. But for the part she knows best, I think history will be kind to her, and if our public schools survive the onslaught against them she will have been a key player. She is a threat to the privatization movement and their leaders will unleash unwarranted attacks on her. She deserves better from you. —John Horn

  73. Brian Crosby 25. Sep, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    John – Although I think some of the comments here are too, “you done Diane wrong,” in that they leave the impression that she is not to be questioned ever … which I doubt anyone really means, but is in reaction to someone they revere in being one of the very few out there supporting teachers (which you think you get, but per this post … sorry, you don’t really) being linked to someone that is so, so far opposite and negative and polarizing, which if Diane is perceived that way by you, its only because the “Ted Cruz’s” and “reformers have had such a free and constant exposure to the media to share “their side” of the story (which you concede repeatedly), when teachers have had very little to no coverage to push back. Then you make them somehow equivalents? That shows how even someone like you that has at least made an attempt to do a fair reporting of the situation in education has been pushed to believing that Diane is FAR left? in her views … as far left as Cruz is far right. John, really? Diane is very in the middle, and you don’t get that, and that frustrates us educators that have been beat up relentlessly by both sides of the political spectrum for years and years. Your reporting recently was seen as a glimmer of hope in an otherwise wasteland of education reporting … so you are now reaping that disappointment. I’ll bet you’re feeling unappreciated and even abused by those you thought you had tried to give some equal time to. John, that is how bad the situation is … that is how sad and humiliated teachers feel right now … yes even worse than you imagined. That is why you got this kind of feedback … in education, in schools … things are not good. Welcome to our world.

  74. Kay 25. Sep, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

    John Merrow just wrote THAT? Well that’s disappointing. But we’ve gotten used to being disappointed in this fight. No matter…we will soldier on, and Diane will continue leading. She will lead because she is uniquely qualified and unselfishly willing. Doesn’t really matter if one calls her a hero. What matters is what you see when you take a virtual look around her. Every time I glance her way, I see growing numbers of compatriots marching beside her, and I am awed and inspired by the thousands of others in a steady march behind them. We are parents, teachers, bloggers, administrators, students, grandparents, and other concerned citizens. We are diverse so there is no one way to describe us. But we see the problems. We feel for the kids, and so we push.
    And they don’t like it.

  75. Steve Strieker 25. Sep, 2013 at 11:34 pm #


    You miss the entire concept of hero in your piece. Perspective matters. From your secluded journalist perch, you might not perceive Diane Ravitch as a hero. However, for those of us living out the detrimental policies being implemented in our schools–Ravitch is a hero. She gives voice to all of us who believe and support public education but don’t have the time or resources to campaign on the behalf of schools. You are naive and uniformed if you believe she is a polarizing figure. She speaks the truth.

    Just today, I attended the ridiculous rollout of more accountability being heaped on teachers. We have rising student poverty and yet waste our time our ridiculous privatization initiatives. You are out of touch with the doing of public education and should yield to the perspective of educators.

  76. Mark Ahlness 25. Sep, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    Please reread Brian Crosby’s comment, a few above this, as he can speak for me as well. I was blessed to teach for 31 years in public elementary schools. That blessing is now a robe of shame in the eyes of the public. I believe you can help to change that perception, and I hope you will try.

  77. Jan Carson 25. Sep, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    Heroism is when you take on the monster of public opinion established by corporate media without regard for what your friends or the public think of you… when you think less of your own pocketbook than you do of children and citizen responsibility and critical thinking… when you’d rather whither in poverty than manipulate the public with fear tactics of extremism that serve corporate interests.

    Seriously, John?????

  78. Leigh Campbell-Hale 26. Sep, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    I wonder if you wrote this because you got your feelings hurt when Ravitch provided a link to a New Orleans blogger who disputes the findings in your TV documentary on New Orleans’ schools?

  79. Jesse Turner 26. Sep, 2013 at 12:51 am #

    Well, Mr. Merrow, you missed the boat, the mark, and shot yourself in the foot with this one. You appear perplexed about teachers calling Diane Ravitch a hero. Perhaps you should be asking teachers. Why they are feel under assault by many of the Ed Reformers you so often, have let off easy over the years?
    She has stepped up to the plate for millions of teachers who feel our profession, our unions, and our professionalism is under attack. She is doing this during a time you and so many others seem to be playing it safe by staying on the fence of Education Reform. Staying on the fence never makes anyone a hero. I understand you never called yourself a hero. I just want you to know sitting on status quo fences can never be heroes.
    One condition for being a hero is you need to get off the fence, and risk failure, and earned the love of the people by standing up something worth fighting for.
    Dr. Ravitch, unlike most education reform pundits calls it like it is, takes on the Education reform billionaire’s club, and a status quo United States Department of Education that has spent 1.2 trillion dollars over a decade on policies that have failed to demonstrate real effects.
    My five simple rules for being a hero for me are:
    1. You stand for something that goes against the grain,
    2. You fight for a truth that is not popular with the powerful and the mighty,
    3. You give voice to the marginalized, and finally,
    4. You change people minds, including your own, and
    5. Finally you are loved by millions.
    Dr. Diane Ravitch’s last two books, her endless quest to honor teachers and defend our public education system in every speech since 2010 changed my mind on her. You see Mr. Merrow, before 2010she was just another respected education historian who failed to meet that final bar. You know rule number 5, to be loved by millions.
    Counting myself as one of those that love her,
    Jesse The Walking Man Turner

  80. Conny Jensen 26. Sep, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    Mr. Merrow,

    You are using a lot of words about heroes and their undue worship by their admirers, just to provide the subliminal stage for your own ‘unsung hero”, or so it seems! What a surprise to read that Dave Levin of KIPP received the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education Tuesday night! The prize named after the same Harold McGraw who, as you will recall, as president of the Business Roundtable in the Bush administration days was the driving force behind No Child Left Behind which led to high stakes standardized testing, and huge profits for his company for testing and teaching materials bought by school districts across the nation, and ultimately too led to school closures that led to an increase in charter schools like KIPP.
    Here a telling excerpt from Angela Engel’s excellent book, “Seeds of Tomorrow”:

    “..the leading driver and key lobbyist behind No Child Left Behind, Sandy Kress, held contracts with McGraw-Hill as he drafted the NCLB bill. Kress was also the architect of the Governor’s Reading Initiative in Texas. Eventually,that same model was adopted at the national level. “Reading First” and NCLB landed McGraw-Hill a large share of the nation’s textbook market along with the lion’s share of the nation’s testing market.

    Corporate leaders, like those associated with the Business Roundtable, continue to bank on public policy. With the passage of NCLB, billions of tax dollars were directed to test publishers
    and data managers, including Harold McGraw III, chair of the Business Roundtable and CEO of McGraw-Hill. In 2000, the year that NCLB was presented to Congress, the Business Roundtable invested $68,104,955 in soft money, political action committees (PACs), and individual campaign contributions.

    The organization then invested in eighty lobbyists in twenty-one lobbying firms, to the tune of $21,480,000. “Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law in January 2002. Five months later, Kress registered with the U.S. Secretary of the Senate as a lobbyist for NCS Pearson. Kress specializes in helping his clients tailor themselves to the requirements of No Child Left Behind, something Pearson has done with startling success.

    For the record, Kress’s client list also include Educational Testing Services (ETS), Kaplan, and HOSTS Learning—online testing and educational services. Look to future policies to benefit
    corporate online educational services. Education industry leaders, like Kress and Harold McGraw III, have turned lawmaking into moneymaking.”

    It is precisely this corruption, collusion, and the cooptation of education by special business interests that Diane Ravitch is fighting, and that does make her a hero!

    Also see:

  81. Prof W 26. Sep, 2013 at 1:04 am #

    Who could have predicted that John Merrow would be adding a new word to Diane Ravitch’s glossary in The Language Police, hero, because that word is “routinely modified”. Apparently, there is only one kind of hero and that kind needs no explanation. That’s a word which should stand on its own. He prefers that “role model” be used instead, too. I’d suggest not adding adjectives to that for clarification either, because what synonym will we have left if that is banished by the language police, too? Paragon? Rather antiquated. Idol? Too extreme.

    I have not had many people in my life who I’ve unquestionably considered to be role models, except my Mom, a civil rights worker who fought tirelessly throughout her life, in many arenas, to ensure equality for every man, woman and child. This late in my life, I would add Diane Ravitch, for the same reason. But both are also heroes to me, which is self-explanatory. No modifiers necessary, Mr. Language Policeman. I have no qualifiers for them, just a lot of gratitude for their commitment to social justice and for lighting the path.

  82. Hymie 26. Sep, 2013 at 1:54 am #


  83. Alex Berg 26. Sep, 2013 at 3:12 am #

    Mr. Merrow,

    You have proven a disgrace to the issue of education, and quite frankly, its impact on democracy itself…

    I find your lambaste of Diane Ravitch, who has, along with Valerie Strauss, and Linda Darling Hammond, exposed the truth of the corporate right’s charterization efforts, to be merely a corporate backlash against reality and in favor of the dismantling of public education altogether.

    I would suggest this is probably because of your corporate sponsors, which you have catered to for most of your career.

    I find you quite disgraceful indeed. Shame on you…

  84. Ian 26. Sep, 2013 at 4:10 am #

    If Mr. John Merrow wants to be my hero, he has a few more things to accomplish during his impressive career as an education journalist.

    First, get to the bottom of the Michelle Rhee testing scandal in DC, which, if I watched it correctly, is precisely what Mr. Merrow’s recent Frontline episode calls for.

    Second, write a book on the state of American education; what’s working and what’s not. What’s at stake. Who invests; who profits, and who loses.

    A friend of mine, after a storied career as a college basketball coach at an elite liberal arts college, applied for an open position as athletic director. He did not get the job. It was a difficult rejection for him. I challenged him: You have one more thing to accomplish here before you leave, win a national championship. He did. Five years later he did again. If Mr. Merrow puts his impressive weight behind an effort, I bet he’d finishes in three.

    (Yes. yes I read your post about dropping the Michelle Rhee test scandal investigation. You wouldn’t have written that post if you hadn’t raised the expectation that you wanted answers in the first place. That said why should anyone try to hold corporate culture Rhee accountable for results? It’s not like we want her fired,it’s just that we the fraud discredited. That’s something investigative journalists due when they do their job well and encounter fraud. It’s time for you, Mr John Merrow, to win a national championship.)

    Did my friend win a national championship because he was an amazing coach or because he had amazing players that he helped develop into a formidable team? (False choice, the answer is both.) Can we look at teaching and test taking through the same lens?

    What population of students apply to attend charters, one with parental involvement, right? So who’s left in the public school ? …at least until charter expansion forces it to be closed, due to attrition, and because of the budget reasons.

  85. Susan Harden (North Carolina) 26. Sep, 2013 at 6:10 am #


    By now, it should be apparent that you made a huge mistake in your blog. You original point has been lost through a thoughtless and poor analogy which was insulting and unkind on many levels, not illuminating. Take the feedback and don’t double down (again). Apologize.

  86. NJ Teacher 26. Sep, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    How much were you paid to write this? We are zealots I guess, those of us who hold Diane up as our hero. We have to be because we love our children with our whole hearts and we know with all our hearts that education reform is wrong for children. So if you want to align us with the Tea Party, if it makes you feel better, go ahead. We are the ones in the trenches being forced to test kindergardeners till they cry. We are the ones who are being forced to teach to the test as if our job depends on it. Diane is a hero for standing up for the children, our kids and our public schools. You on the other hand are a coward.

  87. Liz Wisniewski 26. Sep, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    How odd. I was just listening to Dianne being interviewed on NPR. In answering questions that seem pointed to make her views appear too extreme, her patience and tolerance were amazing. I am afraid I sat in my car livid. Here was this 75 year old woman, taking a beating standing up for the truth I face every day in my fourth grade classroom, I wanted to jump into the radio and help her (although she really didn’t need my help.) Later that day I used exactly those words to my husband, “That woman is my hero. I hope when she dies she goes to the front of St. Peter’s line!”

    Hero yes. At least to those of us in the trenches.

  88. Katheryn 26. Sep, 2013 at 7:01 am #

    Just one more comment I think and then I’m gone. John, many comments here are from teachers in CT. I’m one of them. We are upset at your use of Newtown. And you haven’t come back in the comments section to address that.

    Cowardly move, Mr. Merrow.

  89. WordsMatter 26. Sep, 2013 at 7:15 am #


    You write about good, decent people, who are trying to make the world a better place. These are the people who read Diane’s blog. These readers are teachers, working and retired, mother, fathers, and American citizens who care about public education. They are caretakers of relationship, doing the hard work of warming this cold world. They nurture civility and still find humanity and kindness valuable. They don’t read because they “idolize” her or are fixated with “hero worship.” They read her blog, because they see their own thoughts and beliefs in her well articulated words. Working teachers today are tired. They are beaten down by a corporate agenda, who have no understanding of how children learn and grow. They are so losing their strength, in protecting the hearts and souls of children in their care. Like a battered spouse in a damaged marriage, they stay and endure, believing they are stilling doing some good in protecting the children, their family, their school. Diane is the public voice for those getting up each day doing this work. She is their support, their hope . Yes, you are correct, good and decent people are missing in this discussion. And Diane, is my hero for not forgetting them. She is my hero for having the courage to stand up and speak boldly against money and power.

    Moral courage and conviction is the responsibility of us all. Defending good and decent people is worth the courage. I hope you find the strength to stand up for them too.

  90. Ken Jackson 26. Sep, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    Mr. Merrow,
    You clearly have no sense of what it is like to have school age children in this age of “disruption,” where alleged business minded folk to unsettle public education and the promise it provides for families, particularly young families who are quite vulnerable. It is, quite simply, a nightmare. Diane Ravitch could be enjoying comfortable professorial retirement. She isn’t. She is heroically fighting for many — and many who don’t even realize institutions they grow to trust have been seized and turned against them. I urge you to reconsider this essay in full.

  91. Gloria M 26. Sep, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    The irony here is that Levin’s work exemplifies a certain narrative about education in which the “hero” teacher “rescues” the poor children. In this narrative, what is needed are individual rescuers to go into poor communities from outside them, work hard, and believe in children’s potential. There is nothing wrong with working hard and believing in children’s potential (although this all does have a hint of the white savior, doesn’t it?), but Ravitch’s work is the one that steps back from the hero narrative to critique larger social forces that lead to poverty and segregation. Her vision of a good education system is populated by professionals, not heroes; it rests on democratic institutions, not individual charismatic leaders. If you’re wary about investing too much in heroes, it’s not Ravitch you should be worried about.

  92. Michael 26. Sep, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    Let’s extrapolate, “We should support the messy middle over the pure extremes.” Isn’t this the very definition of lazy sloppy thinking, and the type of thing which characterizes the Washington consensus these days, one that is rapidly falling apart as we see how ineffective the middle is against the real crazies, which are on one side, not both.

  93. David Taylor 26. Sep, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Neither Diane Ravitch nor Ted Cruz can control how other people regard them; to criticize them based on how they are regarded, rather than on the content of their respective concerns, seems to me beside the point. Ditto for the stereotyping of their respective followers. I am admittedly most appreciative of Diane Ravitch’s depth of research (especially since I am an elementary school teacher dealing with much of the brunt of so-called education reform), and strongly disagree with Senator Ted Cruz. But that being said, I am not “vehement in my disdain” for people who disagree with Ravitch or cheer on Ted Cruz. I want to better understand where people are coming from whose views are so very different from my own, and I doubt I am alone in that regard, whether we are talking about supporters of Ravitch or Cruz. And incidentally, based on much research into valued added measures (VAM) regarding evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores, David Levin’s endorsement of evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores can fairly be judged an extreme position. Reality is what it is, whether someone wishes to set a priori rules about what is extreme or moderate. Global warming, for example, appears from overwhelming scientific evidence to be the reality. The “extreme” label should perhaps be reserved for positions/opinions that blow off the weight of gathered evidence, and also for describing the impact of certain realities, as witness what global warming appears to be doing to the climate.

  94. Patricia Hale 26. Sep, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Whether Dr. Ravitch is a hero or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is Dr Ravitch gives educators and parents a voice in the all out war for control of public education. Most of us are grateful that finally, someone is speaking truth to power.
    As a career educator, who is horrified by the path that public education is taking, I am thrilled that Dr. Ravitch is getting well-deserved attention. Truth be known, taking away music and the arts from school-aged children and substituting mindless bubble tests, is not making our kids any smarter. Dr. Ravitch gets it.

  95. Your Kidding Right? 26. Sep, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Comparing Diane Ravitch to Ted Cruz is like comparing Ted Cruise to Winston Churchill. Speaking of Mr. Churchill. Here is a great quote from him that is as applicable for education as it is for international politics.

    “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” Winston Churchill

    Here is what Diane fights against:

  96. eceresa 26. Sep, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    “Hero” might be a strong word for Diane Ravitch, but I have enormous respect for the way that she changed her position when the facts did not support the policies she formerly advocated. That shows quite a bit of intellectual honesty.

    Presenting a false equivalence between Ravitch, with her ability to face the facts, and Cruz, who insist on ignoring them, on the other hand, shows enormous intellectual dishonesty. I’ve gained respect for Ravitch because she bases her opinions on reality. I’ve lost respect for John Merrow because, in this blog, he does the opposite.

  97. Mike Barrett 26. Sep, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    This ill-disguised hatchet job of Diane Ravitch is just wrong.

    Diane is, in every sense of the word, a hero.

    You should be ashamed of yourself. Your false equivalence with Ted Cruz besides being ridiculous is similar to the false equivalence of creationism with evolution and the false equivalence of climate change science deniers with the evidence for global warming.

    Again shame on you!

  98. Colorado Teacher 26. Sep, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    I am in a state where a number of policy makers and advocacy groups such as Stand for Children seem to be primarily listening to people who tend to simplify educational issues in order to offer up simple solutions (available, by the way, to buy from Vendors). Even though we are a local control state our State Department of Education weighs in heavily and/or controls what districts do (and therefore what children get) and this is having an especially devastating impact on literacy opportunities for young children of poverty. CDE, through it’s interpretation of the new state READ Act, maintained tight control over what tests districts could use to identify children at risk for Reading failure and followed that up with a list of professional development providers and instructional programs that met a set of criteria that THEY wrote. This set of criteria was written to (in my view) exclude programs out of favor with CDE staffers whether or not those programs had strong data to prove their effectiveness. As a result reading Recovery, a very successful program with strong data designed to help the lowest performing children in first grade was DENIED a spot
    on CDE’s list while other programs without proven results were granted a spot. CDE claims the process was “open” – review panels were selected (by them), rubrics were used (but written by them),etc. This is just an example of how some people get to “rig” the game and this “rigging” reminds me of what happened during the national Reading First days when states got money for “approved” tests and programs (there is a DOE Inspector General’s Report that uncovered these dubious dealings). Dr. Ravitch is peeling back the layers of the current reforms and I, for one, welcome anyone with the brains and guts to do that. I wish she lived in Colorado. We could use her sharp eyes on what our taxpayer money is “doing” for the children in our state!

  99. NMB Lady 26. Sep, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    If you were right and Diane Ravitch were wrong there would be unimaginable passion for your book. There is not. The people who know the truth, the classroom teachers, flock to Ravitch because she recognizes and opposes everything the “reformers” and the Billionaire Boys club are doing to public education. You are either complicit or ignorant, which is it? I don’t want to hear that you have another “point of view”. Listen to thousands of veteran teachers who are not steeped in poison brew of Rhee like anti-teacher potions. If you don’t believe us, continue to belittle us and keep trashing Diane Ravitch, your legacy is assured. BTW, I am no leftist. I am a registered Republican who has no time for Barrack Obama, Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz. The are all sucking from the same corporate teat.

    • LLC1923 27. Sep, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

      I’m a registered Democrat, and I could not agree with you more. Parents are allies pushing back on the harmful impact of corporate reform on children’s learning.

      There’s good news from Jefferson County Colorado as a result of parents pushing back on inBloom/Murdoch/Gates.

      Parents will not allow their children to be used for corporate licenses and high-stakes testing nonsense. Parents want neighborhood schools staffed by degreed/certified teachers. Parents want small class sizes and rich curriculum. Furthermore, parents will not allow their children’s personal information to be collected by Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates.

      Rhee, Obama, Duncan, Gates, Murdoch, Klein, Jindal, Bennett and Bush are losing battles across the US. Parents don’t like what the reformers are selling.

  100. Karen Wolfe 26. Sep, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    Merrow’s closing really says it all. He seems to be pre-emptively striking the source of what will surely be an onslaught of criticism coming from Ravitch and her readers against his documentary about the New Orleans “rebirth.” The “…film will premiere nationwide on Netflix and will be live-streamed for 24 months in nine languages).” Oh, my!

    Who needs to toss around words like “hero” when Merrow promises a REBIRTH?!

    Diane Ravitch is an unusual scholar. Not only does she share her research and knowledge with us parents, teachers and others in the trenches, but her blog also serves as a forum for an exchange of stories from small towns to large cities across the country. By connecting the dots between all these places, we readers are able to see the larger agenda to which our schools and our communities are falling victim. As we fight for the very survival of our neighborhood schools–many people’s first foray into our democratic society–someone who provides that service I indeed heroic.

  101. Michael Johnson 26. Sep, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Wow. Comparing the politically posturing opportunistic behavior of a Ted Cruz to the serious theoretical work of a Diane Ravitch is pretty amazing. She may not be my hero, but she is a human being who deserves better. And to be clear Mr. Cruz is a hero to a virulent crowd who does not believe that Mr. Obama is legitimately our president; people who wish to turn the nation back to a time when the poor, women and the people of color knew and stayed in their place. I am not sure I would characterize Ms. Ravitch and her “supporters” as the “left-wing” version of the Tea-Partiers; I know communism and socialism have seen better days; but “left” should still stand for something. I have maintained over the years, that education unlike professions like law, engineering, nursing, etc. allows anyone who has ever attended a school, to become an “educational expert” (just spend an hour at one of many dysfunctional school board meetings in our nation) A profession without a committed standard of theoretical Praxis; without a definition of expertise, can’t be truly seen as a profession. If Mr. Cruz’s drive by shallow educational ideas (Summed up as: let the market place have its way) are equal to Ms. Ravitch’s well thought-out ideas (agree with them or not); then we are in trouble. I can think of a lot of decent people who disagree with Ms. Ravitch on one or several of her ideas; but also recognize that she is a necessary voice in the national education conversation. To her credit she has taken positions over the years that have drawn criticism from folks on the “left” and the “right”. And, I am not really sure if those designations (left-right) fit, or if they are even worthwhile in this work. Over the years I have been called (depending on the topic) both a conservative and a radical/progressive; very often in the same conversation or article (NY Times: Scores Count). If we must compare and contrast; let us not be led into the temptation of intellectual laziness. Find and present, a theoretically equal counter-weight to Ms. Ravitch, and let a thousand ideas fly. Mr. Cruz, on the other hand could do his best to improve his pedagogical literacy by first reading Ms. Ravitch’s papers and books; but let’s not compare an amateur who sees education as one of many strategic parts of an electoral play, to a serious educational thinker.

    • Colorado Teacher 26. Sep, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      Whoa – I hope you are the same Michael Johnson who is running for school board of the Denver Public Schools but I fear not…

    • Amy Valens 27. Sep, 2013 at 1:43 am #

      I echo Mr. Johnson’s comments. Certainly Diane Ravitch would fit the current use of the word hero: a figure with stature who can speak to their concerns. But juxaposing her as the left’s answer to Cruz was jarring to say the least. Where is John Taylor Gatto if Ravitch is the left? It was a poor comparison on which to build his arguments, but the argument still has value. We want a black and white world when we live in technicolor and shades of gray. Still there is a place for drawing the line. I am very curious to see where John draws it in his New Orleans coverage.

  102. Ted Cook 26. Sep, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

    Good point on the term hero being overused. But it is always good to see people recognized who show integrity, like Adell Cothorne. I’m glad I saw your show in January, and look forward to your show on New Orleans. A picture is worth a thousand words, right, and sometimes I think an image can be more objective than a story.

    Hopefully as many people will watch your show as the Breaking Bad finale, since education should be as important as entertainment.

  103. Citizen Concerned About Kids 26. Sep, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    The day that it stopped being controversial and became “middle” of the road to treat our nation’s poor African American and Hispanic children as if they are criminals on a virtual chain gang is the day this country officially lost its moral compass and heart. That would be today, thanks to Merrow, who just set our country back over 100 years, by accepting Dave Levin’s characterization of his military style methods with low income children of color as the “messy middle”.

    Why might Merrow resort to this? Due to the imminent release of his film, it could be a pre-emptive strike, because 8 years after Katrina, with over 75% of New Orleans students in charter schools and 79% of NOLA charters rated D or F by the Louisiana Department of Education, Merrow insists on proclaiming that debacle a “Rebirth.” Despite evidence to the contrary, and based on his anecdotal observations, Merrow has given RSD charters his own C- rating (as stated in his 13. Sep, 2013 at 11:29 am comment on the No More Rhee page of this blog).

    Privatized school districts that are dominated by privately managed charters, like NOLA, are Duncan’s model for the nation. No doubt, corporate “reformers” will be very pleased to see Merrow providing a spin and higher rating for their dismal performance in NOLA. That’s particularly important due to the evidence indicating that “charter schools that start bad stay bad, study finds” (see Washington Post Answer Sheet Jan 31, 2013). This might be reason enough for Merrow to attempt to cast Ravitch, a champion of public education who is trying to warn America of the privatization scheme, as an extremist on the left, in order to further the privatization agenda that Merrow is heralding in NOLA.

    What a huge disappointment this man is for America’s children, as well as to objective, investigative journalism.

  104. Meg 26. Sep, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    Mr. Merrow’s post represents precisely the kind of demonization of thinking that it purports to critique. By dismissing all who see Ravitch as a hero as unthinking lefties who don’t listen to the opposing side, isn’t he doing precisely the kinds of dismissing that he is claiming “they” do? An investigative journalist who wanted to make this point might go out and talk with 100 people for whom Ravitch’s work resonates. If there were evidence within those interviews of dismissiveness/demonization, it would be carefully documented — along with evidence that might complicate or contradict that position. For the record, I take strong issue with the so-called education reform movement, but I do not think all education reformers — even when they push extremely problematic policies and pedagogies — are evil people who want to harm children. I think many of them passionately believe that their positions are the best for kids…. and unfortunately don’t have the historical perspective, the pedagogical understanding, or a grasp of the relevant data to be able to see where they are wrong. I am hopeful that Ravitch’s book may help some of those who genuinely want to help children see that the path of what is called reform is hurting kids. These people are people I want to reach, not people I want to demonize. I realize some won’t be convinced. But to want a dialogue with people with whom one disagrees is the farthest thing in the world from demonizing them.

    If you truly see the “reform” agenda as more compelling, don’t label and dismiss me because I disagree. And don’t try to convince me using vague rhetoric about what constitutes the “middle.” Give me history, give me data, give me a range of perspectives (rather than only the opinions of the people with whom you already have decided you agree). Let me do the same. And then let’s talk and keep talking.

    There’s no journalism in the blog post as it stands, just demagoguery. You could do better.

  105. Ronee Groff 26. Sep, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Mr. Merrow, you question yourself by stating “Perhaps I am getting crotchety….” and I would say (knowing we are around the same age) that perhaps you are starting to become overly critical based on your own life experience. You could have made your point by not vilifying people for their points of view, no matter how extreme. I say vilify because in this very tense political and economic time in our history to identify people this way taints them far more then to have people listen to their views, whether you or anyone else agrees. We don’t shut people down but raise them up in order to make an informed and balanced decision. This is America and to come to some consensus we need to be aware of all points of view no matter how far apart they may be. The way in which you approached the ‘outing’ of these people did nothing to make your argument or your message any stronger, especially on the heels of seemingly making a plug for your film and lauding someone who is intrenched within the For Profit Education movement.

    A hero is someone who risks in the face of an unknown and at a personal cost of some kind. I do not know Senator Cruz, or agree with his positions and have found his technique very over reaching but nonetheless entertaining. As for Diane Ravitch, someone who could easily retire comfortably and live out her life without the fan fare or the notoriety, good or bad, but someone who has reshaped her thinking with sound research and hands on experience within the world of education and politics. She has risked and therefore, for many she is a hero. She is a spokesperson for those who are the voiceless and the powerless in the face of titans of commerce and politics. Is there room for both? I think so. But the big boys don’t play fair and play with damn near all the chips. How they are proceeding is without respect for the opinion or input of the little person and I literally mean the parents and the children.

    I am an advocate for the learning disabled and I am seeing damage, destruction and disrespect of the plight and laws which govern these struggling and challenged learners and their families. Stripping out and trampling hard fought for federal mandates without the approval of the People and making demands of already painful school experiences and days by far too many of these children. For measuring and testing they are being told to perform at the same level and same result as the regular and gifted child and this is cruel and abusive! Why? To be measured for failure in order to give the excuse or reason to destroy the Public School System of this country for the For Profit Education Industry? Those same appointed managers of a sorting mechanism to look for the value added students for the global workforce for the corporate titans and government. Diane Ravitch has held the mirror up to this travesty and narcissistic push for expediency in this quest of global dominance. Children being moved into someone else’s lane before their maturity or interests take them to their own decision or choice of future. Old school thinking? Maybe, but with an American Dream foundation.

    The goal of creating a literate society is awesome and the public school system has faired well in this pursuit. There is enough research and enough evidence that this country runs off the engine of its People who perform the functions needed for our survival. From the smallest job to the loftiest leadership our schools have brought us to the forefront of global power. Is it perfect? No! Can it be enhanced for the individual consideration of each of its generations? Yes! You don’t abandon some because the shift to management by a measuring frenzied obsessed corporate surge for superiority and greed lunges ahead beyond reason and takes over our senses and our government and then they came for us!!!

    The title of Diane Ravitch book is compelling and accurate and her methodical disclosure of this wrong of dismantling education and other of our honored systems by an outside elite unseen group of mind and money manipulators is a reign of terror. Do No Harm should be mantra of any civilized society and we are seriously veering away from the very words we pledge to our flag…Liberty and Justice for all….not some…not the worthy or value added….ALL!!! It is always what we don’t know that will begin to make sense of things, like follow the money, watch for the hidden influence, and knowing who individuals have gotten too close to when trying to find the truth. A little truth here and there might bring us to some honesty. Pearl Buck and James Yen tried to Tell All The People with the book about the education experiment in China in the beginning of the last century, operative word is experiment and that is where we are at this point in time to bring us to a robotic future. Did anyone ask if we want to replace ourselves for the comfort of an elite few and the misery of masses? There are heros in this revolution but I think you and I differ on who they are! Time and the history books will determine who will bear the insults or the honors. To this point I have been a strong supporter of you and your work, I am so sorry that we have come to this point of disagreement but I am proud to live in a country that allows for our differing points of view and in public light.

  106. Gina 26. Sep, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Hack job Mr. Merrow, I suppose you have to get paid, thus the sell out. This is a very disappointing piece. Joe Nathan works for Center for School Change, one of several organizations hell bent on making a market out of public education in the Twin Cities, he negativiely comments on Ravitch’s blog regularly. Nathan pretends to be a journalist too, spending days and nights posting promotional material pretending to be journalist on the internet and in local papers; he’s an infomercial for the destruction of public education, so recognizing writing that resembles his own, he thanked you for this piece, Mr. Merrow. I don’t like what Merrow wrote here as already beautifully explained by so many above like Linda, Mark Naison, Jonathon Pelto, and more. I also don’t like what Nathan writes, if you agree, consider letting his funders know (the usual suspects): Funding for the Center has come from the Annenberg, Blandin, Best Buy, Bradley, Bremer, Cargill, Carlson, Frey, Gates, General Mills, Joyce, Minneapolis, Peters, Pohlad, St. Paul, St. Paul Companies, TCF, Travelers, Rockefeller, Wallin, and Walton Foundations, the Carnegie Corporation, the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Initiative Funds, and the Minnesota and U.S. Departments of Education.

    • Joe Nathan 29. Sep, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

      For what it’s worth, district schools all over Minnesota welcome ta and encouragement that we provide. We honor a lot of work that district public school educators do – day after day, week after week.

      The most recent examples are booklets and you-tube videos on our website that describe how youngsters in district & charters have gained from taking Advanced Placement, Int. Bac, College in the Schools and PSEO courses. The students talk glowingly about these courses and how much they appreciate the educators who made it possible.

      • Not a Public School Teacher 29. Sep, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

        So now you’re going to advertise here, too, huh, Joe? Well, that’s not worth very much to most of us, because we know that anecdotal reports and testimonials can be obtained rather easily for just about any cause.

  107. Cindi Pastore 26. Sep, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    John Merrow,
    You know who I consider to be heroes? Those teachers and administrators and parents who are standing up to the “deform” agenda everyday! But especially, those teachers who do not see their students as test scores, profit margins, or data points, and who seek to educate each child to be a happy, healthy, productive, and contributing individual, no matter the child’s background, the child’s parental involvement, or the child’s cognitive and/or physical abilities. And you know who i consider Diane Ravitch to be? “THE WIND BENEATH THOSE EDUCATORS’ WINGS.”
    I take great offense at the disdain you show for Dr. Ravitch, the public school educators in this country, and to my former students with special needs and their families.
    I was raised by a journalist and a teacher, Mr. Merrow. Because of my upbringing, I know what integrity is. You have shown none in this attack on Dr. Ravitch.
    With all sincerity, Cindi Pastore

  108. Ted Lewis 26. Sep, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    While I appreciate your investigative journalism that has exposed testing cheating under Michelle Rhee, I am disappointed by your characterization of Diane Ravitch. She is generally a thoughtful, sober voice who engages in discussions without personal insults or overblown rhetoric. Some may disagree with her. I believe that she is substantively on target with her critiques of school “reform,” and hope that my public school kids are not subjected to increased testing that wastes resources and inflicts harms. Regardless, she is no Ted Cruz (who just compared Obamacare with Nazi Germany). Diane has solid arguments backed by substantial research. You should not insult such a cogent, respected voice. In fact, you could learn something from her by taking your investigations into the DC cheating scandals to its logical conclusions. Why is the media reluctant to cover your investigations? You could “follow the money” as earlier investigative journalists have done, and see where that leads.

  109. Lazar T 26. Sep, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    Ah, false equivalency. Ted Cruz tries to blind people by distorting facts and ignoring research, instead invoking baseless fear. Diane Ravitch continually cites research and data in order to counter unsupported theories.

  110. DeviledEgg 26. Sep, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    Congratulations, John Merrow! You’ve collected from the big boys. And all it cost you was your credibility and your reputation as a serious education journalist

    “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.”
    ― Will Rogers

  111. Rosemary Rodgers 26. Sep, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Face it, Mr. Merrow, as far as education goes, you’ve just become irrelevant.

  112. Chi-Town Res 26. Sep, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    Congratulations on officially joining the ranks of edu-bullies, John! I did not have you pegged before as someone who gets off on schadenfreude, but that’s what it looks like when you bully a 75 year old female scholar.

  113. Priscilla Shannon Gutierrez 26. Sep, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    John Merrow, Diane Ravitch digs aside, you are shirking your duty as a journalist to speak and share the truth about what is going on in public education. That is the overriding issue here…not hero worship. Suggest you read The Hero’s Journey by John L. Brown and Cerylle Moffet…might clarify your clouded vision…”The hero demonstrates, throughout the transformation process, a sustained commitment to ideals that represents the best to which anyone in the group can aspire…”

  114. Veteran Educator 27. Sep, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    “People talk about ‘everyday heroes,’ as if doing your job every day–even a tough job like teaching in the inner city–was heroic behavior”

    So, then, first responders are not every day heroes in your book, like firefighters, the police or EMTs –people who rush into calamities knowing they are putting their own lives in danger in order to save others?

    Do you realize how many teachers prepare for disasters and are ready to lay their lives on the line for children, including putting themselves between a bullet and their students, just like the educators at Sandy Hook? When I was a classroom teacher, I certainly planned and was prepared for that.

    Do you know how dangerous many inner-city neighborhoods are for teachers, especially women? Do you know that teachers have had their car windows smashed and beer bottles thrown at their cars? Do you know that, when the parking lot is full and teachers have to park on the street, unfriendly neighbors may verbally taunt and follow them? All of these things happened to me. I was lucky that an alert school engineer saw that I was about to be physically attacked and opened a side door to let me in.

    People should not have to die to receive credit for doing a job that places their lives in danger.

  115. inteach 27. Sep, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Yes, we need more heroes.

    Next question.

    • Linda Johnson 27. Sep, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

      I was just going to write the same thing. And I thought Mr. Merrow was one of them. I am so disappointed!

  116. Bonny Buffington 27. Sep, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    To label Mrs. Ravitch “left” when she was instrumental in bringing in the high-stakes accountability required under NCLB is patently ridiculous. I suggest that Mr. Merrow spend a year, or even a week walking in the shoes of those of us who are impacted by these ridiculous “reform” measures. Talk to the parents of children who are over-tested and uninspired with the standardization that comes along with this movement. You want us to “tone down” our rhetoric? These are our CHILDREN being adversely affected by decisions that are advantageous for private charter companies and schools but HARMING our children. As a public educator for over 35 years, I have watched as we standardize and test the joy out of learning. How we have created a generation of test takers with very little creativity. How we have labeled children as “below proficient” or not “on track” for “college and career readiness.” They’re NINE YEARS OLD, for goodness sake. Stop measuring and labeling and LET US TEACH!

    Our language and our tone is nothing compared to our frustration over watching know-nothing legislators and corporate reformers completely destroy what we have spent our entire lives working to build up for the good of CHILDREN. We do what we do because of THEM, and not because of any desire for profit. “For-profit” education is an oxymoron. Every dime going into corporate pockets is a dime not being spent on our children and their futures. That demands some pretty stringent language, in my opinion. Instead of labeling us as being extremists nut jobs (LIKE TED CRUZ), spend some time examining the issues like a real journalist should.

  117. Elder Wise 27. Sep, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    “Do We Need More Heroes?”

    What we need are more intrepid, ordinary people who have the spunk to face adversity, courage to stand up to tyrannical rule, bravery to fight against injustice, determination to persevere when confronted with daunting impediments, and stalwart strength to prevail regardless of personal risks, in order to ensure human rights and the common good.

    That’s actually the exact opposite of obedient KIPPsters.

  118. Jennie Shanker 28. Sep, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    You ask: Since when does taking a strong public stand qualify as an act of heroism?

    What is the value of limiting heroism to those who are forced to act in the face life-threatening violence?

    The definition of a hero to me? A person who, through their own great sacrifice, empowers the powerless and inspires hope. A person who offers an example to learn from and follow, gifting us with the belief that our ill-fated future can change.

    We do need more heroes. I’m grateful for Dr. Ravitch’s vision and leadership.

  119. Not a Public School Teacher 28. Sep, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    “Since when does taking a strong public stand qualify as an act of heroism?”

    Since when was Paul Revere not a hero? That is who Ravitch is most similar to, because she is alerting Americans to the alarming array of private forces that are encroaching on public education across America. Since privatization is the policy supported by the administration in power, a bi-partisan Congress, corporate leaders (and the media they own), think tanks, pundits, etc., Ravitch is rocking the boat in a major way and it is a risk for her to assume such a role. She takes hits for it all the time. You should know what that’s like yourself, since you faced it when reporting on the DC cheating scandal under Rhee and clearly did not like how people translated that as something personal.

    Thank goodness for the Paul Reveres in history. And that God for the Paul Reveres in contemporary times, like Diane Ravitch, Gerald Bracey, David Berliner, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Bernie Sanders. If we had more of them, maybe a lot more people would know that the reason why we have such a stratified society and dwindling middle class today is because our country is being run by oligarchs.

    • Not a Public School Teacher 29. Sep, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

      Correction to typo: And “thank” God for…

  120. Reteach 4 America 01. Oct, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” ~Mark Twain

  121. Sarah Puglisi 03. Oct, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    IF you DEFINE a teaching hero as someone who gets shot in a gun-crazed country then iI suppose the answer is “no” we do not need that.

    I’d prefer you are not involved in presenting your definitions of “hero” at any more functions to honor teachers killed in the line of duty.

    Gladys Peyton was my first teacher hero. My third grade teacher in West Virginia who helped integrate the public schools after a long career in a school for black students. Her personal character and skills teaching had profound effects on my choice of career and on countless peers. Do we need more like her?

    Over the years I was impressed by a teacher in South Central LA who fought the good fight ultimately leading 93rd Street School. Marsela Keyes was, and is, the epitome of the teaching profession. Do we need more of her? Yes.

    Then In the Hueneme School District i cannot fail to note Deloris Carn-her leadership in this CA School system did transformational work -and affirmative action boosted her into her role. Do we need more like her? Yes.

    Can I name more heroes? Yes. Many more-heroes all for dedicated work in the public system on the national stage, on the community stage, quietly working in a room far, far from your lens. Yes we need more teaching heroes.

    You know what we really need? We need more folks-pundits I guess-that recognize heroes right around them. If Ravitch doesn’t do it for you tell us an Ed. Historian and analyst of the current system that does, suggest to us how we teachers can become heroic to you for something other than being shot. Perhaps take us to a person that taught well or proclaimed well, or that changed lives. For though we know our fallen in the line of duty certainly are heroes-no doubt-are there those teaching, analyzing, influencing, that are heroic in their search to strengthen the public school system and the educational advancement in our nation? Because, yes, we do need the models. We definitely do need them.

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