All over Twitter and now on one blog there are reports that education rabblerouser Gerald Bracey has passed away. If true this is as sudden as any loss is unfortunate. Literally just yesterday and Monday he was attacking editors and reporters at the LA Times for publishing, in his view, “crap” about teacher value-added methods, all the while liberally cc’ing anyone who might pay attention. He was never one to mince words or pull punches.
Bracey was a complicated person. Though I’m sure some of my colleagues disagree, I think he called useful attention to some of the myths that do surround public school performance and the facility with which these myths travel. But too often amongst his adherents that morphed into denial of the gravity of the problems that do actually exist and face the public school systems and too often amongst those unfamiliar with statistics it led to misunderstandings. The sky may not be falling but all is not close to well. His acerbic personal attacks on people he disagreed with (he once swore at Dick Riley of all people) were as counterproductive and marginalizing as his columns on research were generally must-reads.
Aside from the usual things, perhaps his passing should again remind us that while education has plenty of critics, and plenty of people who want to be seen in the critic role, we really don’t have a true critic function right now. Maybe it’s impossible to be disinterested from something we’re all as emotionally involved in as education and where everyone has priors of varying degrees of intensity. But in any event we’re worse off for that as a field.
Update: Ed Week here.