Patrick Walsh Reviews Mercedes Schneider’s “Chronicle of Echoes”

Patrick Walsh, a teacher and blogger in New York City, reviewed Mercedes Schneider’s “Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.” I missed the review when it first appeared last fall, so am reporting it to you now because it remains timely. Walsh says it is one of the three most important books to read about “reform” today.

He writes that if the “reformers” succeed,

“…the U.S. public school system, the backbone of American public life, could well be but a memory in another 10 years. The noble art of teaching, which has sustained civilization since the days of Socrates, could well be reduced to a temp job or, at best, a micromanaged performance both scripted and judged by an international corporation like Pearson—which has, over the past decade, evolved from publishing textbooks to producing curriculum, making and grading tests, and in some states is involved in teacher certification—or worse.

Who are these people? How did they amass such power over a “public” institution of such magnitude?

In “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education,” Mercedes K. Schneider sets out to answer those questions. She does so with fierce intelligence, wit, an ocean of unearthed facts, and a vengeance. Schneider, who in very short order has established herself as one of the nation’s most profound and prolific education bloggers, has taught for 19 years in many grades in four states and is currently teaching high school English in St. Tammany Parish, La.

You can sense her pride in her profession in every word she writes, as well as her righteous rage toward those who would defile it. Schneider is also a Ph.D. in applied statistics and research methods, which, for people who like to bury information and obscure reality with numbers, makes her a force to be reckoned with….

The book is as much a modern day bestiary as a chronicle. With the exception of former TV anchorwoman Campbell Brown, recently catapulted to privatization super-stardom, Schneider misses no person and no organization of note. They are all there, all the names conscientious teachers have heard of but whose stories were rendered as hagiographies or remained hidden as a hedge fund. Until now. Here are the stories of economists like Eric Hanushek; the entrepreneurs David Coleman and Eva Moskowitz; the professional think tank thinkers like Chester Finn and Hess; the hedge fund manager messiahs Whitney Tilson and his Democrats for Education Reform (DFER); the “radicals” like Rhee and Wendy Kopp; and, above and beneath all, the limitless coffers of the Gates, Broad and Walton foundations. And, of course, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Schneider shows again and again how they are all linked. Brilliant at uncovering the incestuous forces fueling the entire privatization campaign, she discovers the same few names popping up all over the terrain.

Walsh says that “A Chronicle of Echoes” is “an extraordinary achievement.” Dream this: Imagine if every education reporter in the mainstream media read this book.

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