No True Scotsman Supports Education Reform

5671708416_47e1148533_nIt turns out that many large civil rights groups support NCLB-type education reform. This is a little bit awkward for progressive critics of NCLB-type education reform because progressives and civil rights groups are usually thought of as being “on the same team” and in most other contexts progressive education reform critics would consider civil rights groups “the good guys”.

Naturally enough, reformers like to use their support from civil rights groups to tweak the noses of their progressive critics. The logical, civil response to this tactic would consist in reform critics admitting that civil rights groups are understandably and genuinely concerned about educational equity while also pointing out that reasonable, like-minded people can nevertheless disagree about the best way to achieve mutually-desired outcomes.

Alternatively, there’s the tactic adopted by reform-critic-in-chief Diane Ravitch, who argues that groups like the NAACP aren’t really interested in the welfare of minority communities:

The Campaign for High School Equity is funded by the Gates Foundation. It received a grant of nearly $500,000. Some if not all of its members have also received grants from Gates to support the CHSE. The NAACP received $1 million from Gates to do so. LULAC received $600,000 to support the CHSE. The Alliance for Excellent Education received $2.6 million “to promote public will for effective high school reform.” The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Fund received $375,000 from the Gates Foundation to support CHSE. The National Association of Latino Appointed and Elected Officials is Gates-funded, though not for this specific program. The National Indian Education Fund received Gates funding to participate in CHSE. The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center was funded by Gates to participate in CHSE. The others are not Gates-funded.

When CHSE demands more high-stakes testing, more labeling of schools as “failed,” more public school closings, more sanctions, more punishments, they are not speaking for communities of color. They are speaking for the Gates Foundation.

Whoever is actually speaking for minority communities and children of color is advocating for more pre-school education, smaller class sizes, equitable resources, more funding of special education, more funding for children who are learning English, experienced teachers, restoration of budget cuts, the hiring of social workers and guidance counselors where they are needed, after-school programs, and access to medical care for children and their families.

My fellow philosophy majors may recognize, here, a classic example of the No True Scotsman fallacy: Ravitch thinks she can avoid the awkwardness of being at odds with civil rights groups by just redefining “true civil rights groups” to include only those groups with whom she agrees.

I sort of understand the impulse, but…really? Is that all the respect that’s due to these people? These are groups that dedicate substantial time and energy to civil rights advocacy. Dismissing their concerns with unsupported claims that they are in the pocket of the Gates Foundation does them a disservice and fails to advance the education reform debate.

This isn’t the only type of thing that makes it hard for me to identify as a “reform critic”, but it certainly doesn’t help.

This entry was posted in Education Reform and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply