Diane Ravitch, Two Visions for Chicago’s Schools

"According to most news reports, the teachers in Chicago are striking because they are lazy and greedy. Or they are striking because of a personality clash between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and union president Karen Lewis. Or because this is the last gasp of a dying union movement. Or because Emanuel wants a longer school day, and the teachers oppose it. None of this is true."

Photo: Rahm Emanuel at a temporary day care during the Chicago teachers strike, September 10, 2012 (M. Spencer Green/AP Images)

Diane Ravitch, Two Visions for Chicago’s Schools

"According to most news reports, the teachers in Chicago are striking because they are lazy and greedy. Or they are striking because of a personality clash between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and union president Karen Lewis. Or because this is the last gasp of a dying union movement. Or because Emanuel wants a longer school day, and the teachers oppose it. None of this is true."

Photo: Rahm Emanuel at a temporary day care during the Chicago teachers strike, September 10, 2012 (M. Spencer Green/AP Images)

Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal… The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit. An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon.
Charles Simic, Age of Ignorance
Ian Johnson, Learning How to Argue: An Interview with Ran Yunfei

One of China’s most outspoken public intellectuals, Ran Yunfei was detained last year after calls went out for China to emulate the “Jasmine Revolution” protests sweeping North Africa. He was held without trial for six months until last August. Interestingly, prosecutors turned down police requests for Ran to be formally charged, sending the case back to police with requests for more evidence. When police failed to come up with more evidence, he was then held under house arrest until early February.

Ran works for the government-run Sichuan Literature, where he writes often about classical Chinese. He is also the author of over a dozen scholarly books, including a meticulous history of a local temple, The Lungs of Old Sichuan: The Temple of Great Charity, which was released after he was detained last year. But it was his blogging—where he sometimes goes for the jugular, mixing humor and exaggeration—that got him into trouble. After anonymous calls were made on overseas exile Chinese websites for a Jasmine Revolution in China, Ran wrote China needed reform or would end up like the North African states that were then in turmoil. (He also has an account on Twitter (@ranyunfei) with 57,000 followers—viewable in China only with a VPN or proxy—and another blog on a permitted Chinese microblog, Sina Weibo with 70,000 followers.)

Most recently, Ran, who is 47, has been concerned with freedom of expression and what he sees as a need for a change in the country’s moral education. Born in a rural county that is now part of the city-state of Chongqing, he is a member of the Tujia ethnic group, one of China’s 55 recognized minorities. I talked to him at his house in Chengdu, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, where he has lived since going there to study literature in the early 1980s.

Ian Johnson, Learning How to Argue: An Interview with Ran Yunfei

One of China’s most outspoken public intellectuals, Ran Yunfei was detained last year after calls went out for China to emulate the “Jasmine Revolution” protests sweeping North Africa. He was held without trial for six months until last August. Interestingly, prosecutors turned down police requests for Ran to be formally charged, sending the case back to police with requests for more evidence. When police failed to come up with more evidence, he was then held under house arrest until early February.

Ran works for the government-run Sichuan Literature, where he writes often about classical Chinese. He is also the author of over a dozen scholarly books, including a meticulous history of a local temple, The Lungs of Old Sichuan: The Temple of Great Charity, which was released after he was detained last year. But it was his blogging—where he sometimes goes for the jugular, mixing humor and exaggeration—that got him into trouble. After anonymous calls were made on overseas exile Chinese websites for a Jasmine Revolution in China, Ran wrote China needed reform or would end up like the North African states that were then in turmoil. (He also has an account on Twitter (@ranyunfei) with 57,000 followers—viewable in China only with a VPN or proxy—and another blog on a permitted Chinese microblog, Sina Weibo with 70,000 followers.)

Most recently, Ran, who is 47, has been concerned with freedom of expression and what he sees as a need for a change in the country’s moral education. Born in a rural county that is now part of the city-state of Chongqing, he is a member of the Tujia ethnic group, one of China’s 55 recognized minorities. I talked to him at his house in Chengdu, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, where he has lived since going there to study literature in the early 1980s.

Rick Santorum says that 62 percent of people who go to college lose their “faith commitment” there. Some have questioned those statistics, which come from a 2007 report that found even greater decline among those who don’t attend college. I do not know how one measures such things, but I think it inevitable that questioning of childhood beliefs should take place at various stages of adolescence. This does not happen in junior year or senior year on campus. It is part of a long process called growing up.
For a decade, the Bush-era federal law called No Child Left Behind has required the nation’s public schools to test every student in grades 3-8 in reading and mathematics. Now, the Obama administration is pressuring the states to test every grade and every subject. No student will be left untested. Every teacher will be judged by his or her students’ scores. Cheating scandals will proliferate. Many teachers will be fired. Many will leave teaching, discouraged by the loss of their professional autonomy. Who will take their place? Will we ever break free of our national addiction to data? Will we ever stop to wonder if the data mean anything important? Will education survive school reform?
From coast to coast, great public universities are under attack as expensive luxuries that the nation can no longer afford to support. Governors and state legislators are withdrawing state funds from universities that they continue to regulate. Critics outside and inside the academy denounce professors for doing too much research, teaching too few students, receiving too much pay and offering unwelcome expertise on ideas ranging from climate change to the causes of the Civil War. Meanwhile tuition and other costs continue to rise, and promising students from poor families are reluctant to commit themselves to expensive institutions. In this climate of crisis, ideologues with simple, radical ideas about how to lower costs will attract an audience eager for a solution, especially one that does not include the words “taxes” or “public responsibility.”
Anthony Grafton and James Grossman, The Wrong Way to Lower College Costs