Diane Ravitch was just selected as the 2011 recipient of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize, created by the American Academy of Political and Social Science to honor those individuals whose careers in the academic or public arena have been dedicated to the use of social science research to improve public policy. The $20,000 prize was awarded in recognition of her long career of distinguished work on urban education as a researcher and public official.
Ravitch is a true public intellectual, someone who is fully engaged and committed towards ensuring that local, state, and federal education policy is informed by history, social science research and good sense. She has also passionately advocated for the parent and teacher voice to be recognized in the national debate over education reform. I can't think of anyone else in the field of public policy who is more esteemed, or who has made more of a contribution to the wider understanding of the history of public education and what should be done to ensure that all children receive a quality education.
Over the past few years, she has tirelessly written and traveled the country, cogently and persuasively arguing that the current craze for privatization and high-stakes accountability is neither research-based nor an effective means to improve our public school system. Rather, she has pointed out how the imposition of these policies will further degrade opportunities for children, particularly the most disadvantaged students who reside in inner cities and other high-needs areas.
If it is indeed true that education is the civil rights issue of our generation, Ravitch is one of our most esteemed leaders in the struggle for the right of all children, no matter where they attend school, to be provided with a well-rounded and rich curriculum, high standards, small classes and experienced teachers.
As John Dewey once wrote, "what the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children." Through her eloquence, vision, and scholarship, Diane has passionately and convincingly argued that our public school system should be strengthened -- rather than undermined -- so that it can provide for all the nation's children the kind of education that the best and wisest parent wants for his or her own child.
I cannot imagine a more deserving candidate for this award. Like Daniel Patrick Moynihan himself, Diane's vision is entirely non-partisan, transcends ideology, and is based on the best evidence and scholarship, as opposed to the latest political fads or fancies. Her immense courage and honesty has impelled her to speak truth to power, whereas lesser individuals would keep quiet or repeat the delivered wisdom.
More personally, Diane has been a mentor and a friend to me, as well as an inspiration, in times when I feel overwhelmed by the immense power and money of the oligarchy that has come to control education policy in this country.
She will receive the prize at an award ceremony in New York on June 2, 2011.
Follow Leonie Haimson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/leoniehaimson