In Search of a Charismatic Leader

Waiting for Superman

by Joshua on April 8, 2012

A The Daily Garriga classic!

When I first realized that Diane Ravitch would be a guest interviewee on The Daily Show, I got really excited. If you don’t already know who Diane Ravitch is, you should. You see, there is a major political push happening right now to break up teachers unions. As with any political movement, there are bound to be innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. In this case, those bystanders happen to be millions of public school teachers, many of whom are great teachers that haven’t been identified by the system as great teachers because they don’t “teach to the test.”

A number of prominent voices (following the lead of the highly successful film Waiting for Superman) are trashing teachers in the hopes of busting the unions. Meanwhile, Ms. Ravitch is one of the country’s strongest voices in support of unions. According to Ravitch, “unions actively lobby to increase education funding and reduce class size, so conservative governors who want to slash education spending feel the need to reduce their clout. This silences the best organized opposition to education cuts.”

Diane Ravitch’s words are music to my ears. So you can imagine how excited I was to see her on The Daily Show!

Boy was I disappointed. Ravitch did not come across as the charismatic leader that teachers have been waiting for to help make their case. In fact, she sounded kinda dull. Even when she made a great point about Finland experiencing great results with unionized teachers, she wasn’t able to drive home the point and connect with the audience. Don’t get me wrong; Ravitch knows her stuff, but next to Jon Stewart she just could not hang. She wasn’t funny, or clever, or quick on her feet. By the end of the interview, Stewart was making her case for her by using his mom, who happens to be a teacher, as an example.

Look, I’m going to continue to read Diane Ravitch’s articles and I cannot wait to get my hands on her book, but I’m still waiting for that charismatic speaker who can hang with Stewart and Colbert and make the case to the public that teachers need collective bargaining rights. Someone who can show the world why evaluating teachers based on standardized tests does not prove whether a given teacher is a good teacher or a bad teacher. Someone who can explain that standardized tests measure how well students have been trained to take that particular test, not whether they are being properly educated. Let’s face it, employers aren’t lining up to hire people who will spend the day taking standardized tests. They want to hire the ones who know how to think critically and solve problems. Employers are looking for candidates who know how to get stuff done. So yeah, I guess I’m still waiting for that charismatic voice to come along. It’s definitely not Ravitch, but who could it be? Am I just waiting for Superman?

If you haven’t had a chance to see this animate of Ken Robinson’s RSA lecture, you should really check it out.

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