End of an Error? Can Diane Ravitch’s new book reshape the nonsensical debate about our public schools?


I first met Diane Ravitch when she was in Boston to promote her last book: The Death and Life of the Great American School System. The editor of a newspaper for AFT Massachusetts, I planned to interview Ravitch for the final issue of the school year. But I harbored a shameful secret: I had not read the book. You see, “editor” doesn’t quite describe the job that I held. I was responsible for producing a monthly newspaper-entirely by myself. By the time Ravitch arrived, I was on my ninth paper of the school year, and completely fried.
But I had a plan. I’d skim the book on the train then, channeling my many years of graduate school, I’d wing it. Except that Ravitch turned out to be rather more formidable than I’d expected. This had the effect of causing the few questions I’d prepared to tumble out in a nervous rush, while her answers seemed to be of the short, definitive variety. When one of the event organizers poked her head into our conference room, summoning me out into the hall, I breathed a sigh of relief. There’d been a change of plans, she explained, and Ravitch’s next interview had been canceled. Did I mind keeping her entertained for the next two hours?
Reader: I can assure you that I have read her latest book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. I tore through it, and I predict that you will too. I followed the man to whom I’m *technically* married around our house, reading aloud from Ravitch’s fiercely clear account and for once he didn’t pretend to be on a conference call. In fact, he asked to read the book when I’d finished. But it’s too late.Reign is even now hurtling towards southern Illinois where my sister has just begun her 23rd year as an elementary school teacher. She asked me to send it overnight mail.