Diane Ravitch doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories, and neither do I.
If you hold the belief that education is a funneling institution designed to make people dumber and more compliant and more consumerist and all that, I think you’re foolish and wrong.
If, though, you talked about how one of the effects of a schooling based in testing, accountability, profit, and various other aims that are not really part of the goals of education is some version of the above, then I might agree with you.
Like a lot of things in politics, the ways schools are run is a weird combination of a lot of different ideas, a lot of different motives, a lot of different agendas, and a weird set of effects. I don’t think there’s anything particularly nefarious about how schools are run and how agendas are set, but I do think there’s a lot of policies that come from exploitation, wrongheadedness, and ignorance that lead to incredibly damaging situations. All said, I don’t need to believe in a conspiracy theory to understand the damage being done to schools for all the wrong reasons.
If you want to sum up Diane Ravitch’s main thesis: School is a public good, and as soon as you stop treating it this way in policy-making and management, there’s trouble.
Here’s some things schools are not: experiments, factories, business.
If you think school is an experiment, you’re likely going to waste a lot of time, money, and the opportunities/potential of a lot of kids.
If you think school is a factory, you’re going to deaden students’ desire to learn and actually not really teach them much beyond how to take a test.
If you think school is a business, you’re going to hurt students by cutting resources they should have and not make teachers want to work for you.
Ravitch details the relatively short history of schooling from about 1980 on. She focuses on broad policies. What this book definitely lacks is the roles of racism on policymaking and the history of school, and that’s a problem, but it’s clear to me that she’s mainly staying in her lane. Urban education and racism have a muddled history and I think you would still find a lot of what Ravitch says to be true about those particular schools, but I do think she does not see it as her expertise to weigh in on a lot of those issues.