On Diane Ravitch and Hyperbolic Analogies

It appears that some people are not happy with Diane Ravitch because of her reposting of comments that include troubling hyperbolic analogies. While talking about the “Education Achievement Authority, the special district created by Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder to contain the state’s lowest performing schools,” a reader wrote:

I’m speaking out because I feel for the children. And, you can quote me on this: This reminds me of the Tuskegee Experiment.

If you remember, in the Tuskegee Experiment, black sharecroppers in Alabama, most with syphilis, were watched to see what happened when the disease ran unchecked, even though this was after the advent of penicillin.  Yes, yet another highlight of the long, painful, brutal history of African Americans in the Greatest Country on Earth.

Many people were outraged, and rightfully so, that Diane Ravitch, whose blog is read by tens of thousands of readers, chose to repost this without any kind of disclaimer on the very poor choice of analogy. 

To be fair to Diane, who is Jewish, she has also reposted comments that use the Holocaust as an analogy to the Common Core State Standards.

I am reminded in the scene in SCHINDLER’s LIST where the older gentleman is registering for the ghetto. The Nazi officer tags him as nonessential. As Stern leads him away to safety, the older man says, “Nonessential? I don’t think he knows what the word means. I am a teacher of history and philosophy”.

I already lost most of my family to the Holocaust. I will not go down this time without a fight.

Again, a very poor, and completely unnecessary analogy.  And again, no disclaimer from Ms. Ravitch, which has earned her a place on some people’s “Dead to Me” wall.

I’m not so willing to give up on Diane Ravitch just yet.

However, I do believe that we need to stop making these comparisons, which are completely and utterly ridiculous, degrading and a “terribly offensive analogy for rhetorical win,” as my friend and NEA writer Melinda Anderson tweeted.

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Diane Ravitch responded, defending free speech.

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I’m not buying it, sorry Diane. Yes, people are mad about educational reform, but that doesn’t make the analogies ok. 

Nothing, NOTHING, is happening today in education that is comparable to over 6 million Jews dying at the hand of the Nazis, black men dying from uncontrolled syphilis with the knowledge and consent of the United States government, or slavery, whether in this country or any other country at any time in history.

When my kids were teens, they had Saturday morning chores.  They used to complain they were being treated as slaves.  I gave them more than one eye-rolling inducing lecture about how chores are NOTHING like slavery.  If my students used any of these hyperbolic analogies in their writing, I’d put a stop to that immediately. Aside from being offensive, the comparisons are ridiculous.

Think of it as blackface.  It is never, NEVER, ok to put on blackface.  And many people who would never even think of doing such a thing, do that every time they use these comparisons.  Just as blackface is offensive, these analogies cheapen the memory and ignore the very real pain that people feel over these events.

Stop.  Please.  Now.

This polarizing rhetoric has become commonplace in the political arena, as evidenced here, here and here.  Unfortunately, it has leaked over into other areas, including education

Diane, if you feel you must repost the comments, I wish you’d add a disclaimer that such over the top comparisons don’t really aid the discussion, they actually detract from it.

Food for thought.

 

 

 

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About socolaura

Mom, educator, opinionated, passionate, smart, witty, wise Latina. Waiting for my moment of zen.
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