Parent Revolution ED Ben Austin has penned a Huffington Post piece responding to some starkly personal blog posts Diane Ravitch wrote calling him, among other things, “loathsome,” saying there was a “special place in hell” for supporters of his “parent trigger” organization, and accusing him of doing his work for “filthy lucre.” Ravitch was outraged by a “parent trigger” campaign at a Los Angeles elementary school that resulted in the removal of a principal based on the wishes of a majority of parents. Others have weighed-in on the rhetoric, which is simply deranged and unworthy of serious consideration.
But something else caught my eye and is unintentionally revealing of a larger problem. In her apology/non-apology to Austin (and the pattern of outrageous rhetoric followed by apology/non-apology here is becoming routinized) Ravitch notes that she lost her temper and attacked Austin based on:
All I know about [the principal] is what I read in this article in the Los Angeles Times.
Seriously? If you’re functioning at a high level in the education conversation, commenting on the issues of the day, and confronted with a situation like this one you can/should (a) check any available data underlying the issue (b) look for alternative viewpoints to learn more (in this case there were many on all sides readily available), and (c), augment that by talking with people with a firsthand knowledge of the situation – for instance a teacher, administrator, or close observer in Los Angeles to learn more. I’m not saying that someone is obligated to report out every blog post or that relying on and citing a newspaper account isn’t adequate in many instances. But before you start unleashing this kind of rhetoric, calling people “malevolent” and worse you ought to do more homework than one article. Especially if you’re a trained historian.
In this particular case, whether you support, oppose, or are the fence about the “parent trigger” the performance at this school is troubling enough that while there are clearly valid viewpoints on all sides about the best course of action, something needs to happen. That’s called context. And in a complicated and fluid situation like this there is room for nuance. It’s not clear to me how anyone can be so sure of anything at this point about what the parents’ action means for this school, or parent trigger more generally. Meanwhile, it should go without saying that everyone up in arms about this wouldn’t put their own children in a school with this persistently low level of performance.
So we’re again left with irresponsible rhetoric, casually tossed around, in a debate about what’s good enough for other people’s kids. Ridiculous.
Past Eduwonk posts on the parent trigger and its evolution here.