Thursday, November 01, 2007

Wylde Thing

We just can't resist weighing in on the orchestrated attack against educational guru Diane Ravitch by the NYC Partnership's Kathy Wylde. The sheer audacity of the whole thing, outlined yesterday in the NY Sun, astounds us-with a corporate lobbyist lacking any educational background, going after someone who has spent her entire life exposing educational failures with a deftness and independence that Wylde could only dream of.

And on top of this, the Wylding of Ravitch isn't even in her own words, but comes from a crib sheet supplied by the DOE. AS the Sun points out, "Ms. Wylde said the idea for the piece was her own, but that she wrote it with the help of a research file composed by the Education Department that chronicles Ms. Ravitch's policy positions over the years. The seven-page document, titled "Diane Ravitch: Then and Now," tallies quotations by Ms. Ravitch on nearly a dozen topics, comparing comments she made in the 1990s to statements in recent years."

What chutzpah! It's bad enough that the bumbling bureaucrats think that they have the ability and expertise to attack Ravitch, but what possesses the always available Wylde to think that her limited perspective and background qualifies her to weigh in as the DOE's munecha?

It's also bad enough that the Partnership's leader is speaking out of both sides of her mouth on congestion pricing-with a new found environmental sensibility that is belied by the mall building of all of her key partners in the Partnership. Now, to go along with her freshly minted Sierra Club membership, she's an educational expert as well?

The real issue here, and its one that we've commented on before, is the way in which the DOE acts more like the DOD in its ruthless approach to dissent. Here's what we said in response to Sol Stern's scathing analysis of the educrats: "There is a fascinating analysis piece, one of many that is done by the inimitable Sol Stern, that focuses on the reality behind the mayoral PR campaign about how well the schools are doing under Bloomberg's stewardship. In many ways, the elaborate mayoral burnishing is reminiscent of the current campaign on congestion taxing-lavish spending on media relations designed to conceal some unpleasant truths lying beneath the surface of all the glitter."

So now it continues in a more ruthless way, as Ravitch points out to the Sun: "Ms. Ravitch said her most serious concern with the Bloomberg administration is the way it responds to dissent. She said that many educators who are professionally reliant on support from the city, through grants or contracts, fear voicing any differing opinions."

It's a variant of the Marx Brother's line: "Who're gonna believe, me or your own lying eyes?" And Ravitch lays it all out in an editorial blasting Wylde and the DOE in today's NY Post: "This attack, I have learned from published accounts, was orchestrated by the New York City Department of Education, which compiled a secret dossier about my views and turned it over to Wylde. I am at the top of the Department's enemies list. This is a frightening way for a public agency to behave."

It is, as Ravitch, Sol Stern and Andrew Wolf have all pointed out, the way that an agency behaves when it has a good deal to hide. It is an agency that will go to great lengths to do bureaucratic sleight-of-hands, and when that doesn't work on seasoned educational experts, the agency will bring out corporate toadies to do ghost-written character assassination.