Looking further into the sources for Stanley Fish's call for Classical education, I find that Diane Ravitch and her latest book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education offer a somewhat less ideologically incorrect though hardly any less controversial choice than Leigh A. Bortins. Diane Ravitch is an education historian and a former assistant secretary of education.
See Wikipedia on Ravitch: ”She was appointed to public office by both President of the United States George H. W. Bush and his successor Bill Clinton. Secretary of Education Richard Riley appointed her to serve as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which supervises the National Assessment of Educational Progress; she was a member of NAGB from 1997 to 2004.”
The Amazon editorial of her new book emphasizes Ravitch’s profound experience of the US educational system and the knowledge she has gathered from her manifaceted perspectives: ”Ravitch has witnessed the trends in public education over the past 40 years and has herself swung from public-school advocate to market-driven accountability and choice supporter back to public-school advocate”.
To get an idea of the rich background for Ravitch’s work and of the relative importance of her views on education in the USA it is helpful to read Sam Dillon’s article in the New York Times ”Education” column on March 2, 2010.
For a more comprehensive view of Ravitch’s educational aims today, read Alan Wolfe’s article in The New York Times on May 14 2010.
Not unlike Fish, I would say, Ravitch is a pragmatist with her deepest allegiance to learning. She has first-hand knowledge of supporting and trying national testing and free choice of schools as remedies for problems in the educational system. Having seen these remedies fail, she makes no bones about changing her mind.
As Wolfe concludes, ”Ravitch ends with a call for a voluntary national curriculum, and believes that a consensus around better education is possible.” An interesting call coming from someone who has been in the position of having really tried the concept of free-market schools in the country of free enterprise: ”we should be working harder to preserve the benefits of community and continuity that neighborhood schools offer” Wolfe summarizes Ravitch’s point of view.
As a source for Fish, Ravitch provides first-class first-hand evidence in favour of a common national curriculum based on classical skills.