Sep 17 2013

Let It Reign!

The reformers can wait for Superman all they want.  We’ve got Wonder Woman.

‘Reign Of Error:  the Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,’ released today, is what Arne Duncan would call a ‘game changer.’  This will bring a new and wider audience to Dr. Diane Ravitch’s analysis of the current fads in education which will, I expect, get her air time on mainstream television to spread the truth even further.

Education ‘reform,’ she describes in the first pages of the book is based on the narrative that our country’s schools are, in general, ‘failing’ and are in a wild free fall from the unspecified ‘glory days’ of public education.  The situation, the reformers say, is so desperate, that the public has been convinced that it is, indeed, time to panic and to be willing to try radical and untested remedies.  The problem with all this is that schools, though not perfect, are not truly ‘failing’ and the reckless strategies now called ‘reform’ are not making things any better and are, in many ways, making things worse.

The average reader will be shocked by chapters 5 through 9 in which Ravitch uses data to demonstrate that there is no international test score comparison crisis, high school graduation rates are at an all time high, and that NAEP test scores are also at an all time high.  No, this does not mean that we don’t keep working to make schools better, but it does mean that the initial motivation for the radical reforms sweeping the country are based on a false premise.

The book was preemptively critiqued by former US DOE employee Peter Cunningham in The Huffington Post who predicted:

She will say that a big part of the problem is poverty — which no one disagrees with. She will call on America to invest more in fighting poverty, as if we have not spent tens of trillions of dollars fighting poverty since the New Deal and the Great Society and will spend tens of trillions more. She will even attack a president who started his career as a community organizer fighting poverty in low-income Chicago neighborhoods and whose core beliefs stem from his faith in education to provide a pathway out of poverty. Can’t remember the last president with a similar background. Worst of all, she will use poverty as an excuse to avoid any responsibility on the part of the federal government, states, districts, schools and educators — collectively — to somehow do a better job of educating poor kids.

The whole ‘poverty is not destiny’ vs ‘poverty is destiny’ argument is something that reformers have been using as a talking point for years.  Throughout the book Ravitch acknowledges that of course some kids born into poverty will escape from it.  It is really amazing that her critics have been so unified in spreading the message that she doesn’t believe this so that it is necessary for her to remind people that she is not the straw man they accuse her of being.  But, yes, a central theme of the book is that poverty is the root cause of the achievement gap (really should be called the test score gap).  Reformers will be licking their chops on page 62 when Ravitch writes:

The schools did not cause the achievement gaps, and the schools alone are not powerful enough to close them.  So long as our society is indifferent to poverty, so long as we are willing to look the other way rather than act vigorously to improve the conditions of families and communities, there will always be achievement gaps.

It is a shame that this sentiment is often characterized as defeatist.  Would a medical doctor be criticized for saying that an approach for dealing with Cancer that just treats the symptoms is very limited while actually curing Cancer is the only way for it to actually get cured?

Ravitch, in a chapter called ‘How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement,’ continues this line of thinking with quotes from reformers like Bill Gates, Wendy Kopp and Geoffrey Canada demonstrating how they really seem to believe that good schools have the power to reverse the cycle of poverty.  On page 92 she quotes Bill Gates saying “We know you can have a good school in a poor neighborhood, so let’s end the myth that we have to solve poverty before we improve education.  I say it’s more the other way around:  Improving education is the best way to solve poverty.”

On pages 95 through 97, Ravitch explains the tremendous cost of premature births, a seemingly tractable problem, on our economy and also on our education system.  She will revisit this idea at the end of the book as the first of her eleven research based solutions.

The book is filled with pithy paragraphs, characteristic of Ravitch’s writing style, like this one from the same chapter:

The reformers’ case is superficially appealing.  It ought to be easier to “fix” schools than to “fix” poverty, because poverty seems so intractable.  Our society has grown to accept poverty as an inevitable fact of life, and there seems to be little or no political will to do anything about it.  It should also be cheaper to fix schools instead of poverty, because no matter how much it costs to fix schools, it will surely be less than the cost of significantly reducing poverty in a society with great economic inequality like our own.  The problem is that if you don’t really know how to fix schools, if none of your solutions actually improve education, then society ends up neither fixing schools nor doing anything about poverty.

From chapters 11 through 15, Ravitch explains why most of the fads of education reform, like standardized test based accountability, Teach For America, and even Michelle Rhee got her own chapter, have not done much to improve education and if allowed to continue to grow will surely make things worse.  These 56 pages serve as a nice summary of Ravitch’s last book ‘The Death And Life of the American School System’ with updated information about what has happened with these fads over the past three and a half years since that was published.

Though the concept of ‘privatization’ is weaved throughout the book, on page 156, nearly halfway through the book, Ravitch has a sixty page, four chapter, section that delves deeply into the concept.  Before reading this book, I was a bit anxious about how Ravitch would present this.  If you search all my blog entries, you will notice that I never once have used the word ‘privatization’ in any of my posts.  It isn’t that I doubt that it is true that there are some forces out there that truly want teachers to not have unions and to have teachers not teach long enough to earn pensions, it is just that I never thought that it was the strongest argument against the reformers, while the arguments about how none of their ideas work was decisive.  I felt that it was too tough to prove that privatization was a large part of the motivation of some reformers.  So I was very pleased with the sixty pages outlining the corruption that is currently going and and facilitated by privatization.  Some charters have found ways to make their founders very rich through shady real estate arrangements.  Virtual charters are particularly lucrative despite have little proven success.  Vouchers have also been a disappointment wherever they have been tried.  I don’t doubt that there are also abuses and swindles going in in regular public schools, but it does seem like there are a lot more loopholes and ways for people to game the system to get their hands on that public money.  I’d say I learned the most from these pages.

Within this section was one of my favorite, extremely ‘tight’ explanations, in this case of the parent trigger fiasco in Los Angeles:

The next candidate for the parent trigger was Desert Trails Elementary School in the Adelanto School District, about eighty miles from Los Angeles.  Parent Revolution worked with dissatisfied parents, and in January 2012 parent leaders presented a petition with the signatures of nearly 70 percent of the parents.  The Parent Revolution community organizers had circulated two petitions, one demanding changes in the school, the other calling for a charter school takeover.  But only the latter petition was presented to the school board.  Some parents sought to withdraw their names from the petition, and the school board invalidated their signatures, dropping support to 37 percent.  The matter went to court, and a county judge ruled that parents were not allowed to rescind their names once they signed the petition.  Victorious, the parent leaders — with Parent Revolution’s help — invited charter operators to apply to run the school.  When it came time to choose between two charters that stepped forward, parents who did not sign the original petition were not allowed to vote.  Only fifty-three parents in a school with more than six hundred students chose the new charter operator.

A few pages later, this passage about the folly of shutting down schools is done with similar brevity:

Arne Duncan had initiated the strategy of closing low-performing schools in 2002.  At that time, he closed three elementary schools, fired their staffs, and started over.  Two years later, he and Mayor Richard M. Daley made this strategy the centerpiece of their reform plan, called Renaissance 2010.  President-elect Barack Obama chose one of the three schools, Dodge Elementary (renamed Dodge Renaissance Academy), as the place to announce his selection of Arne Duncan as secretary of education in 2008.  He said of Duncan, “He’s shut down failing schools and replaced their staffs, even when it was unpopular … This school right here, Dodge Renaissance Academy, is a perfect example.  Since this school was revamped and reopened in 2003, the number of students meeting state standards has tripled”  But somehow the miraculous turnaround evaporated.  By 2013, Chicago school officials closed Dodge Renaissance Academy again, along with the other two elementary schools that Duncan had closed and “revamped” in 2002.

In the final 100 pages of the book, Ravitch presents eleven research based solutions to improving education in this country.  In chapter one, she tells us “I will then put forward my solutions, none of which is cheap or easy, none of which offers a quick fix to complicated problem.  I have no silver bullets — because none exist — but I have proposals based on evidence and experience,” and her eleven solutions are presented beautifully.  The first one is to “Provide good prenatal care for every pregnant woman.”

In these very short eleven chapters Ravitch truly puts her heart into explaining why these strategies are so essential.  Reformers, of course, will say something like “Sure, those things are great and all, but as education reformers that’s not our job and even if nobody ever works on problems like that, we still have a job to do.”  But I think that this book is not really targeted at trying to ‘convert’ reformers.  Much more important is to inform people who have been duped by the reformer lies.

For me, my favorite section was an eight page chapter, chapter 24, called ‘The Essentials of a Good Education.’  In this section Ravitch writes poetically about what the purpose of school is.  In contrast to ‘raising test scores’ the ultimate goal of reformers, this section reminds us that schools is not about beating other countries, but about raising citizens who will one day vote and serve on juries.  This chapter which would make Dewey proud and would probably make Michelle Rhee nauseous, really resonated with me.  As I was reading it just before beginning my new school year, it really helped me put things back into perspective as I mentally prepare for what I am trying to achieve with my students this year.  I expect this eight page section to be excerpted, maybe someplace like Reader’s Digest, and to be widely read and contemplated.

The ‘voice’ in this book is quite different from what we see on Ravitch’s blog each day.  It is much more objective, often having expressions like “some critics say” before presenting counterarguments.  Though Ravitch’s point of view is clear, I think the tone is very respectful, though I’m sure that some of her critics will still accuse her of not being respectful enough.  I’m sure in the coming days we will see reactions from reformers where sentences from the book will be taken out of context to prove one desperate point or another.  I think, though, that they will still be fighting a losing battle.  If timing really is everything, then this book is going to sell a lot of copies.  Just as the public is beginning to get the sense that something strange is going on in education, this book will open a lot of eyes and a lot of mouths.

As a side note, I am extremely proud that my name appears four times in the book.  I’m mentioned and quoted twice in the chapter about Teach For America, once in the index, which made me feel pretty good, and then — the one I’m most proud of — I’m one of about thirty people mentioned in the acknowledgments as one of the people Ravitch “relied for ideas, inspiration, reflections, research, and suggestions.”  That my work over the past few years may have helped this book to be as good as it was, is something that has made all the late night blogging, all the searching through public state data systems, all the thinking about these issues even more worth it.

25 Responses

  1. Educator

    I wouldn’t call it test score gap. I call it no stakes for students (usually) 60 or so multiple choice questions standardized test score that usually has high correlation to socioeconomic status gap. Yes, this shouldn’t be an excuse, but I’m not convinced super awesome excellent teachers can significantly close this gap in the way reformers communicate it does or will.

    Thanks for the summary. And good for you and all the other citizen bloggers who are researching things and calling things out when they need to be. I have considered myself in the reform camp but have been shifting as I’ve met more and more people in reform camps who privately confess things. Reformers need to reform if they want to survive. (Traditional schools could use some reforming too.)

    • Steve M

      Educator- you should present those confessions (names and specific work locales redacted, of course), so that we may get a better sense of what has caused you to begin to doubt and shift.

      • Educator

        OK. I’ll qualify this by acknowledging that just a few anecdotes doesn’t mean it’s true for all. However, it did make me pause and think and critically analyze some more. This is what led me to this blog.

        I’m remaining anonymous so I know I lose credibility, but sorry, I’m not as brave as Gary and others.

        1) When a charter administrator at a semi famous charter network in a major city told me that yes, he does kick students out who he knows will score low on the state exam, and usually they’re special ed or ELL students or very challenging behaviorally/emotionally/psychologically. He said he usually calls a meeting and has a very straightforward conversation with the parent, usually a single parent, and “I scare the #$%! out of them” and tell them the local school is a better fit. I asked him how he could do this knowing how wrong it is. He said something like “My bonus is tied to my school’s test scores. It’s the system.” He also said that when students win the lottery he tries to see what kind of student s/he is, and if s/he knows that the student is likely or already has an IEP, he gives extra attention to him/her and makes a point to let the parent know that this is a no excuses school and it might not be the best fit. In other words, he admitted to being passive aggressive on the front end to encourage the lottery winning student/parent to not enroll.

        2) When two different charter teachers at a famous charter network in a major city told me that they wish they had a union because there were terrible things happening to the students, but they were afraid to advocate for their students for fear of questioning management and getting fired. You question, you get fired.

        3) When a charter teacher at another famous charter network in a different major city from 2) told me there were things happening that were newspaper worthy at his school. I didn’t have time to ask him for more detail, but he alluded to the students being treated like prisoners. He did tell me he and another teacher just couldn’t take it anymore and so they started a unionization campaign, which is surprising cause he was kind of anti-union. But then it was too much work they both quit before really getting traction. Plus the rest of the teachers who were starting to get interested in unionizing resigned a few months later.

        4) When a central office administrator at a very famous school district that supports charters told me that yes, in the prior few months before state testing time, there is a very obvious uptick of students transferring into the local schools from charter schools. She knows this because she has to handle all the paperwork involved for transfers. This made me think because this clerk wouldn’t seem to have any strong opinion in ed policy one way or the other. In fact, it would seem like she would want to support students transferring as it gives her more work to do and a job. But she said it was sad to see these kids transferring mid year.

        5) When a hedge fund friend told me, “There’s no way these guys care about poor minority kids. Have you met these guys?! Have you worked with them?! But they’re doing the right thing. Schools need to be privatized.” Now, this story is just one guy’s opinion, and I don’t think the majority of those who are considered in the corp reform camp are in it to privatize. I just think many in the ed reform camp have convinced themselves that the traditional system is so chaotic and broken that any change is better.

        6) When a director at a very famous charter network confirmed that yes, a lot of their students leave. He denied purposely pushing them out. He said they usually leave on their own because they don’t want to repeat a grade. He said they’re working on this issue. But when I look at this charter’s marketing, it’s always “Top performing school” and “Our schools outperform similar schools” and “High expectations” But when 40% of students leave the school within 2-3 years, I’m not sure that should be considered a top performing school.

        What gets me is that for most of the above, these people were telling me this when I said something like “You know there are a lot of angry people, usually union folk, who criticize this or that. What’s your experience? Is this true?” And then they said it’s true! I used to think these criticisms were from people who were desperate to protect the status quo. But then these people confirmed many of these criticisms! This is what has started to make me doubt. So if anyone is reading this, I encourage you to ask folks in a non-threatening manner what they think. Maybe they’ll tell the truth. And that goes for both TFA-ish reformers and those who are against TFA-ish reforms. (sorry I know those phrases are simplistic but I think readers will know what I mean)

        Of course, for all the above stories, there are many stories about traditional school systems that aren’t so good. I think these are more widely known and have been written about in the press more, although nowadays there seems to be more press coverage analyzing reformers more critically. (Merrow, for example)

        Here are 2 off the top of my head -
        1) A few administrators from different traditional schools telling me that the process to implement an improvement plan, and upon no improvement, to eventually move for removal, is just too onerous and expensive.

        2) Many high schools who do have students who get transferred to a non-traditional continuation school (don’t get me wrong I think these schools are needed) but it doesn’t negatively affect their graduation rate on reports.

        Hope I answered your question Steve M. Where are you in all this?

        • Janet Brown

          You should have the decency out of a commitment to children to identify the schools and administrators who are puching them out. Education is a a child’s birthright not an administrators right o manipulate to obtain an undeserved bonus…

          • Janet Brown

            Sorry not a great typist. But I will walk the talk by exposing a charter school in DC where my son attended. His first year there I saw the ESL students who had started there with him counseled out of the school . Also noticed that the school served 15% student in poverty where as our districts rate is over 35%. Additionally when I finally was transitioning my son out of there and back to the public schools, and administrator of there, lashed out at him, ticked off that he tested into our public exam school.
            The name of that charter is Washington Latin. My name is Janet Brown and I am fed up with policies and the people who back then and turn our young people into commodities and ask others to take a stand as well.

          • Meghank

            Good for you! We need parents like you to stand up like this.

            But surely you understand why a teacher would not want to state her name and school? Especially the way the teachers’ unions are disappearing.

        • Steve M

          Educator, I’m a 20-year veteran teacher (high school) in Los Angeles who has been following the development of charters for more than a decade. When I was younger, I considered switching to one of the nascent charters…but decided not to. I was too busy working with my own students (as an AP teacher, Dept. Chair, Academic Decathlon coach, etc) and on my master’s degree to uproot myself.

          Those first charter schools were headed by idealists, and were ALL located in the most challenging portions of the city. They were run by intense, focussed, high energy teachers who felt constrained by the district’s restrictions. Of course, those charters began showing signs of strain within a couple years since it is impossible for a career teacher to give 100%, 12 hours a day, every day…especially if he/she has a family. It is also impossible to work with egomaniacs for more than a few years. People who I knew as truly exceptional teachers (that I knew from my MA program) discovered this firsthand and informed me of the problems thay had faced. It’s obvious (10+ years out) that charters are not sustainable from a personnel standpoint alone.

          The second wave of LA charters (those established 5-10 years ago) were established by savvy lawyer-types who had very specific agendas…namely, remove their kids from those of other races, creeds and “questionable influence”. Wealthy, suburban schools split off in order to keep the riff raff out, where “riff raff” was either defined as poor, black and latino kids, or those of a different religion. Neighborhood Mexican, Salvadoran and African American church groups (pentecostal, baptist, methodist, catholic) began to see small (100-300 student) charters as a means to operate tiny private schools that are paid for by the public. Invariably, those schools are: incredibly insular; never allow any information to get out; hire from within their insular group; have food serice and maintenance contracts established with companies owned by members of the “in-group”; have had NEGLIGIBLE or NEGATIVE impacts upon student achievement levels.

          Finally, the third wave of charters (the last 2-3 years) has been in response to the national and state financial cises. These are suburban schools that resisted charterization for ten years, but have been left hanging with absolutley no money. They have dealt with no funding for years upon years…and professional parents finally got fed up and essentially took them over (rascist overtones exist here as well).

          The result: 250+ charters sprang up throughout the city, and they are controlled by politically active power brokers. They controlled the LAUSD School Board for five years until the union just barely managed to break that cycle this last year. However, the reason that LAUSD (which declares itself “charter-neutral”) loves charters is that it is systematically divesting itself of teachers…and the lifetime health benefit liabilities that go along with those teachers. One third of the workforce in LA has been quietly let go and replaced by naive newbies who are going to find themselves in terrible financial straights within another 5-10 years. It takes a while for young teachers to figure out what is wrong (usually right around the time that they want to have their own family).

          So, that’s LA: The new school board is in limbo. The financial situation of the region is still up in the air. The charter brokers are quietly strategizing and building warchests. Traditional schools, like my own, are working with 1/2 the resources and support staff. People are burned out. Massive, massive numbers of high-quality, 55 year-old teachers are going to retire in the next two years (they’re completely fed up and burned out). And, we have Eli Broad’s stooges to deal with.

          Gary gives the reformers a half-life of a few years, but charters are going to screw everything up for decades to come in many parts of the country. They’ve become power brokers on the local and regional levels, especially with the demise of so may teachers’ unions.

  2. Steve M

    Like Gary, I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind about the whole ‘privatization’ thing.

    I completely understand the forces at play regarding charters in Los Angeles. New Orleans and Tennessee are easy to understand.

    But Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington DC, New Haven…can anyone outside of their specific regions make sense of their respective situations?

    It’s sad, but no one has connected all the dots, to date.

    Does Ravitch’s book do this?

  3. yoteach

    On principle I will not weigh in on Ravitch anymore because I find her as the worst possible messenger for the arguments she attempts to advance. I beg all to read other critical books of school reform that are intelligent, well argued, and likely to change someone’s mind who isn’t already a part of the choir. The only mind Ravitch has changed is her own.

    David Cohen “Teaching and Its Predicaments”
    Jal Mehta “THe Allure of Order”
    Roger Schank “Teaching Minds”
    Fullan and Hargreaves “Professional Capital”
    Richard Elmore “School Reform Inside Out”
    Charles Payne “So Much Reform So Little Change”
    Mehta et al “Futures of School Reform”
    Anything By Linda-Darling Hammond

    • Meghank

      It appears, based on cursory online research, that the majority of the books you cited accept uncritically high-stakes standardized test scores as a proxy for student learning.

      Ravitch’s book should be read if for no other reason than it does not, and (although I haven’t read it yet) it gives logical reasons supported by data for why high stakes test scores should not be uncritically accepted as a way to judge our schools.

      • yoteach

        Schank is 100% opposed, Hargreaves/Fullan are very skeptical, others focus less on test scores. Ravitch has no trouble discussing test scores to compare union v non-union states or non-PISA international comparisons…

        • yoteach

          The Ravitch comment was in regards to all standardized tests, not high stakes as you specified. Fair point. But I think the greater point here is that the more persuasive critics of education reform attempt to use imperfect metrics to make their cases (when necessary) rather than throw out the idea altogether and wonder why no one is coming to their side. Many also advocate against high stakes standardized tests while (I agree) at times using their data for descriptive purposes.

  4. skepticnotcynic
  5. I am purchasing two copies of the book which I will leave in my school staff room to share with my colleagues.

    Even though we are educators, we may not truly understand what is happening to public education and our precious students even though it is unfolding right before our eyes.

    Thank you Gary for your excellent review!

    I hope Dr. Ravitch’s book becomes a call to action…it is time we take back our schools and do what is right for our students!

  6. KrazyTA

    Metrics can be used and abused. Can we measure whether or not Diane Ravitch’s just released REIGN OF ERROR has an audience? One large enough to change the national ed debates in a healthy and productive direction? Is the space devoted on this blog to her book warranted or unwarranted?

    Let’s get real—

    Not Rheeal.

    Diane Ravitch, REIGN OF ERROR (hardcover).
    Info gathered at 10:54 PM, PST:

    Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
    #1 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Public Affairs & Policy
    #1 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Children’s Studies
    #1 in Books > Education & Reference > Schools & Teaching > Education Theory > Reform & Policy

    Michelle Rhee, RADICAL (hardcover).
    Info gathered at 10:55 PM, PST:

    Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
    #95 in Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Professionals & Academics > Educators

    Some commenters would do well to review their Marxist maxims before posting:

    “A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.”

    Groucho, that is.

    :)

    • yoteach

      My point certainly is not that she’s unpopular…And CERTAINLY not that anyone should read Rhee’s book. My point is that if more people read more nuanced (but equally critical) critiques of ed reform, not just Ravitch’s polemics, those opposed to current ed reform movements would have more tools to actually do something about it.

      • Kellen

        I’m curious why you consider ravitch’s arguments as less nuanced than other critics’. Why the hate?

        • yoteach

          I’d go through Diane Ravitch’s blog and post a few sections where she stereotypes every single person involved in the reform movement (teachers at charter schools, philanthropists, principals, journalists) as profit-seeking greedy business people who exploit poor children, but my blood pressure is already high from reading a stupid Eric Hanushek article (I spread my hate!) so I will avoid doing that for my health. But I encourage you to read her blog and count up the ad-hominem attacks.

          • yoteach

            But maybe her tone is more respectful in the book. Still, her blog betrays an indifference to reason and evidence, which makes me not trust her as an information source.

          • Educator

            I hear you with not trusting as an information source, and I think this could also be applied to the “other side” like with Rhee. The thing I think everyone needs to do is try and step back from the rhetoric, as hard as that may be, see the arguments they’re making, consider your personal experience in education, and go from there.

            I like Gary’s blog because he has done some real thorough research, and I can’t get around it. What he writes also matches the experiences I’ve had and the testimonies I’ve heard. I just wonder how many more there are out there, or maybe I somehow run into a certain group of teachers whose experiences largely agree with what Gary is criticizing.

          • Kellen

            I read her blog regularly and don’t have the same problems with her tone. I think actions speak louder than words and many involved in “reform” are misguided. I don’t think she calls out charter school teachers either. This is from her book, where she doesn’t suggest All reformers are evil business men. That’s always been the straw man wih Dr. Ravitch.

            “Some in the reform movement, believing that American education is obsolete and failing, think they are promoting a necessary but painful redesign of the nation’s ailing schools. Some sincerely believe they are helping poor black and brown children escape from failing public schools. Some think they are on the side of modernization and innovation. But others see an opportunity to make money in a large, risk-free, government-funded sector or an opportunity for personal advancement and power. Some believe they are acting rationally by treating the public education sector as an investment opportunity.”

  7. veteran

    “As a side note, I am extremely proud that my name appears four times in the book. .”
    This is great Gary! You deserve this honor. Your work is appreciated

  8. tlmerrie

    I love the opening line Gary!

  9. RetAZLib

    I’d like to address the comments about Diane’s blog. I believe she is respectful, but not all of her commenters are. I think the value of that sight is the amazing way she keeps up with the ed news from around the country. And, she points readers towards other informed & important bloggers. Gary’s great at explaining numbers, though I must admit I don’t always have the fortitude to do more than skim. Thank goodness for topic sentences and summary paragraphs. She has given a platform to people “in the trenches”, something you’d never find through the MSM. And that’s a big part of the problem, too many people think sources like The New York Times delivers unbiased news. I think her sight is almost like FB (or other social network sites) was to the Arab Spring.

    Off topic- Gary, I don’t know if you saw a comment I made a few weeks back about seeing a review of one your books on a Children’s book site. It was nice to see people in my other area of interest appreciate your work.

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