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Publisher's Summary

Diane Ravitch, America's foremost historian of education, says that public education in the United States is one of the pillars of our democratic society. In this eloquent book, she explains that our public schools have been wrongly criticized for low achievement, when federal data show that test scores and graduation rates are at their highest point in history - for black students, Hispanic students, white students, and Asian students - and dropout rates are at their lowest point in history.
But for 30 years and even longer, critics have wrongly claimed that the public schools are failing, and this mistaken narrative has set the stage for harmful, even disastrous federal legislation and programs.
George W. Bush's No Child Left behind law was passed with bipartisan support, allowing the federal government to impose testing on every child in every school. This is a practice unknown in other nations in the world. NCLB set impossible goals - that 100% of children would be proficient by the year 2014 - and many beloved public schools have been closed because they could not do the impossible.
This powerful book challenges a stale and failed status quo. It will give you fresh and important insights about the future of public education and the future of our society.
©2013 Diane Ravitch (P)2013 ChuHartley Publishers LLC
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Robert on 05-15-15

Persuasive critique of school reform movement

Would you listen to Reign of Error again? Why?

This book contains a very good point-by-point critique and refutation of the arguments in favor of the school privatization reforms currently being enacted throughout the country. I probably would not listen to the entire book again, but will likely refer to it from time to time. This is where listening to an entire book and then having a printed copy for reference is helpful.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The book doesn't really have characters. To the extent that it talks about individuals, it focuses on the ways that "reformers'" backgrounds, early experiences, and current commitments may have biased them against critically examining their own motivations and the evidence regarding the reforms they advocate. However, the book mostly examines arguments and evidence, rather than individuals.

What three words best describe Eliza Foss’s performance?

I found the narration a bit problematic. Part-way through the book I realized that my unease with Foss's style was that she sounds very much like the voiceovers in negative political campaign advertisements--the ones that are intended to make us view the target of the ad with worry, fear or disdain. In the context of this book, that style seemed overblown and manipulative--and I found it grating after a while. I think that a more neutral tone would have been more persuasive.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I suppose the book tended to confirm my biases. However, I think that, by the end the thinness of the evidence that supports reform was quite stunning.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Ray on 08-21-15


I totally agree with the basic arguments made by the author. That our public schools are performing much better than we are led to believe, That test scores are not a good measure of success. That privatization is merely for profit and not for the students. That schools can't be judged by a market sector business model.

The book is very well researched, but there is much repetition of the points made, It will take a real effort for most listeners to get through the book. Still public education is so important to democracy that it is worth the effort,

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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