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Diane Ravitch zombies

February 20, 2013

Zombies is a word you that grabs a lot of people. Some people it takes hold of really strongly. One example is Paul Krugman of the NYTimes who has been mentioned on ZombieLaw many times this year. Now, Diane Ravitch has become taken by the word.

zombie diane ravitch zombie krugman

ZombieLaw first mentioned Ms. Ravitch last week when she endorsed a zombie protest of high stakes testing. Since then Ravitch has written multiple posts on her blog using “zombie” in various contexts.

Her post about the “zombie” protest was on February 11th. On February 15th she posted Paul Thomas: Do Not Become a Zombie and Who Are the Zombies? and Zombie Ideas in Education. Then on the 17th Return of The Zombie Film “Won’t Back Down”. And today: ““Parent trigger” is a zombie policy”.

It seems Ravitch has adopted Paul Krugman’s definition for zombie ideas which he explained most recently as:

a zombie idea is a proposition that has been thoroughly refuted by analysis and evidence, and should be dead — but won’t stay dead because it serves a political purpose, appeals to prejudices, or both.

Krugman has also called these “zombie economic policies“, “zombie lies”, Rand Paul, and “intellectual zombies” primarily referring to Medicare and Social Security age raising arguments and is now also to be about Republican tax policy.

In contrast, I argue zombie ideas are merely opposing ideas about complicated controversies and, contrary to Krugman’s assertions, are difficult to disprove or refute. They rest on political facts and the fact are themselves part of the dispute – the very modes of observation are challenged.

This is somewhat similar to what Joe Kernan said after his public on air tiff with Krugman on CNBC. At that time I suggested it was more than simple disagreement, but that they two seemed to live in completely different factual worlds.

zombie kernan

On closer examination of Diane Ravitch’s blog and her use of zombie, this is exactly what is happening. When she answers “Who Are the Zombies?” she writes:

New York has zombies too. They are running the State Education Department and they fervently believe that testing is the very essence of education. They think that testing will help poor kids. The zombies think that testing will close the achievement gap. No one ever explained to them that standardized tests are based on a bell curve and the achievement gap is designed into the curve

Though she admires:

some brave humans on the New York Board of Regents who are among the living. They are Dr. Kathleen Cashin, an experienced educator who represents Brooklyn; Dr. Betty Rosa, an experienced educator who represents the Bronx; Roger Tilles, a lawyer and businessman who represents Long Island; and Harry Phillips, a business executive who represents The suburban counties north of New York City.

Presumably she intends to mean that the other Regents who disagree are zombies who think “data and formulae” matter more than “people and children”. That’s about 13 people on this NYSED page— So tell me Ms. Ravitch who is it I should photoshop into a zombie image?

Her next post links to Paul Thomas at the blog the becoming radical: “Lessons from the Zombie Apocalypse”:

The decimation of public education has infected us all. The only real antidote, unlike the zombie apocalypse, is that educators, students, and parents must all choose not to follow orders, not to become the accomplices that allow the decimation.

zombie paul thomas

This is how we imagine it possible to stop Nazi Zombies, surely the soldiers could stand up and refuse – resist in the name of humanity! As if they (the soldiers or in this case teachers) would not be reprimanded, fired on the spot, replaced with even less radically minded drones – how does that serve the students? Ravitch echoes Thomas:

When your leaders are zombies, do not follow them. They will make you a zombie too. How can you recognize a zombie? They talk about data, not individuals. They always say they put “kids first” or “children first,” but they don’t mean it. That’s meant to persuade you they are not zombies. People who truly put children first don’t boast about it. Don’t be fooled by zombie rhetoric.

How does she know that they don’t mean what they say? Or does she really mean only that they disagree with her about how to achieve. She endorses Arthur Camins proposals for education reforms, claims “merit pay” is another zombie idea in education and asks her readers to suggest more zombie education ideas. Many of her readers eagerly share ideas they hate. Then Ravitch goes on to attack the movie “Won’t Back Down” as a zombie film and pure privatization propaganda:

Their goal was nothing short of privatization of public education.

Today Diane Ravitch is also looking for “the good charters” and even while conceding they might exist she writes:

You may technically be right about some “good charters”, but I think such a reasonable concession is just what they’ll use as an excuse to then drive a truck right through it.

She is so hardened against her enemies, so unable to even give the slightest inch for fear of being ‘trucked’ by the overwhelming financial power of capitalist interests – mentioning those like Rupert Murdoch or Koch brothers.

One of her readers’ comments relates corporate greed to reptilian predators (recall invasive species zombies – and note the “parent trigger” “zombie policy” is in Florida). Another commenter asks:

Are there bell curve charms we can brandish? Will it burn the zombies like holy water to a vampire?

This is a good idea because a juju may help as a zombie defense and one meaning of juju is charm.

Is it really the bell curve that’s the problem or is the very notion of an X-axis – is the idea of people as continuous variables the zombie idea? Or on the other hand, is the zombie idea that “I am not a number, I am a free man“??? They are perspectives, they are not provable but it doesn’t much help to think that the other side is an unreasonable zombie. These are battles of core epistemological debate and they are religious arguments that are not easily resolved but can’t we talk about with less vitriol – or is there just too much conflated history and hurt feelings.

President Harry Truman once said:

Give me a one-handed economist! All my economists say, On the one hand on the other.

And of course Truman is responsible for decimating two cities in Japan with a nuclear apocalypse – a means to an end.

Finally, here’s the video footage from last week’s high stakes testing zombie protest via Providence Journal Youtube:

From → Academics, nazi

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