Tag Archives: Speak to the Tribe

Diane Ravitch is Good at Speaking to the Tribe


Diane Ravitch had a piece in this week’s NYRB: The Lost Purpose of School Reform.

I found Ravitch’s tone to be subdued and her claims to be relatively measured, especially in comparison to her blog.

For example, on charters, Ravitch writes in the NYRB:

Charter schools have a spotty record; a few charter chains post high test scores, but most charters perform no better—and often much worse—than public schools.

This is an incomplete take: Ravitch does not mention how urban charter schools are consistently outperforming their traditional peers. But her analysis is surely not outlandish, and the tone is professional.

Yet here is Ravitch talking about New Orleans on her blog:

…yet the media continue to spout the same claims from the advocates of privatization: wipe out public education, fire all the teachers, welcome privately managed charters, staff the schools with Teach for America, and–Voila!–everyone succeeds, no child left behind, an excellent education for all children! The actions are true: the public schools were closed, the teachers were fired, the charters sprouted in every part of New Orleans. But the results didn’t happen. New Orleans is today one of the lowest performing districts in the state. We leave it to students of mass psychology and the media to explain why the national media falls for the narrative repeatedly. Maybe because it is a good story, even if it is not true. Maybe they want to believe in miracles.

Not exactly the most nuanced take.

Clearly, Ravitch knows she is speaking to different audiences when she writes for the NYRB and when she writes on her blog.

When writing in the NYRB, she uses historical and policy analysis to speak to the left’s elite.

When writing on her blog, she uses hyperbole to speak to her base.

Ravitch’s ability to speak to the tribe is one of the many reasons that she is a skilled communicator.