For the last couple of weeks I've been following Diane Ravitch's blog - A site to discuss better education for all in the US.
Diane is an American educational researcher, historian of education, and public intellectual who has held public office for both Republican and Democratic administrations. She has a prodigious list of publications to her name, and - born before WW II - she is old enough to have experienced and observed the huge changes in US society - including desegregation - from the mid 1950s onwards. Diane is using her blog to wage an astonishingly energetic personal campaign - averaging 200 posts per month - to protect public education, and to challenge what Pasi Sahlberg memorably calls the GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) ideology that asserts that schools will improve if there is competition, standardization, school choice, and test-based accountability. If an average of ~5000 page downloads per day is anything to go by, Ravitch is hitting a chord with her readers.
What makes Ravitch's work all the more interesting is that she is someone who has changed her views.
"Where once I had been hopeful, even enthusiastic, about the potential benefits of testing, accountability, choice, and markets, I now found myself experiencing profound doubts about these same ideas......Why did my views change?......The short answer is that my views changed as I saw how these ideas were working out in reality."
Ravitch asserts that she's always been lary of fad-based miracle cures in education. And she owns up to herself having fallen for one:
"I too had jumped aboard a bandwagon, one festooned with banners celebrating the power of accountability, incentives, and markets. I too was captivated by these ideas. The promised to end bureaucracy, to ensure that poor children were not neglected, to empower poor parents, to enable poor children to escape failing schools, and to close the achievement gap between righ and poor, black and white."
Ravitch has no truck with proponents (of whom I am one) of online learning at scale, especially in the context of school-based education; and she is systematic in her exposure of the business and political interests in the US that are promoting commercial virtual schools - often of inferior quality - as an alternative to face-to-face public schools. [NB. Diane helpfully summarises her views in her comment below.] In some respects I fear that Ravitch is throwing the elearning baby out with the anti-privatisation and anti-test-based accountability bathwater; and from a UK perspective at least I think that occasionally Ravitch tilts at windmills and/or plays to the prejudices of teachers. But irrespective of whether this is the case, Ravitch certainly makes points about online learning that should make proponents think carefully about whom they are in bed with - whether wittingly or not. In particular, you realise from Diane's descriptions of badly designed, primitive implementations of online learning just how much harm is being done to the "cause" of online learning in schools in the US.
And her fearsomely energetic critique of GERM performs a really important service.