What Right Does the US Department of Education Have to “Monitor” Diane Ravitch ?

August 18, 2013

Dr. Diane Ravitch: a dangerous woman

Dr. Diane Ravitch: a dangerous woman

I usually avoid the Huffington Post at all costs and will continue to do so until they begin to actually pay the writers whose labor is making its owners very rich, but I make an exception this morning due to information in an article that came to me in a sideways fashion via a fine post by Paul Thomas. In his post, Thomas eviscerates an adhominen attack on Diane Ravitch by one Peter Cunningham, former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach for the U.S. Department of Education under Arne Duncan. The catalyst of Cunningham’s sophomoric attack is Ravitch’s soon to be published, eagerly anticipated and apparently just as eagerly feared new treatise, Reign of Error. Cunningham’s words are nothing but a preemptive attack on Ravitch’s person, which Thomas handily displays as utterly unfounded and barely meriting a response. There is a reason that, for teachers, Ravitch has emerged as the most respected, revered and, yes, beloved figure in America. And that reason is character, above all the character it requires to admit you were wrong and set out making it right because it is the right thing to do.

What should merit a response, however, is what Cunningham’s first sentence reveals about how the U.S. government apparently now routinely monitors its critics and pays people like Cunningham to do so. Consider only Cunningham’s opening sentence:

During the Obama administration’s first term, I served as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education, where one of my jobs was to monitor criticism of our policies and develop our responses. One of the people I monitored pretty closely was Diane Ravitch.


I find this an extraordinary and disturbing statement, not merely for its content but for the equally disturbing and extraordinarily casual tone.
The US Department of Education “monitored ” Diane Ravitch ? And others ? Who are they ? To what end ? Does this mean that the DOE, like the FBI and the CIA and the NSA is building dossiers on those, like Dr. Ravitch, who have the temerity to point out their inconsistencies, absurdities, failure and lies?

Hi!  I'm Arne Duncan and I'm watching you.

Hi! I’m Arne Duncan and I’m watching you.

I suppose I should not be surprised that an administration that would shred the constitution to preserve the NSA’s ability to have total surveillance over every American citizen would so casually monitor education critics but I am.

I am also disgusted and wonder, how many more critics did Mr. Cunningham “monitor? ” What does it mean to ‘monitor” somebody? Do taxpayers know that their money is paying for this ? Does Congress ? What has this to do with education ? Is there now a Monitoring Departing in the DOE to keep an eye on dissidents ? Where have we arrived when this kind of stuff is allowed ? How do we put an end to it, now ?

17 Responses to “What Right Does the US Department of Education Have to “Monitor” Diane Ravitch ?”

  1. […] I recently learned that the Obama administration “monitored” me. […]

    • patrickwalsh Says:

      Don’t you worry Diane. You have the teachers of America behind you, watching your back — and very gratefully watching your back.


  2. […] « What Right Does the US Department of Education Have to “Monitor” Diane Ravitch&n… […]

  3. susannunes Says:

    Obama was a fraud, and it was there all along if people had only paid attention and didn’t let the media tell them what to think.

    The next puppet for the billionaires, hedge fund crooks, and neolibs is likely Cory Booker, who is an outright fraud.

    • patrickwalsh Says:

      I agree. See Glen Ford of Black Agenda on the genesis of Booker in right wing think tanks and foundations. Scary stuff.

      • susannunes Says:

        I have seen that wonderful video, perhaps the best ever laying out the history of the privatization movement in this country and Cory Booker’s central role in it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdPACwRgw04

        • patrickwalsh Says:

          I’m happy to hear that. Ford is the last of a dying breed with the quality and import of his work his should be a household name. Let us do our best to make that so, OK ?

          • susannunes Says:

            I am there for the longhaul. What is a kicker is Ford is supposed to be some kind of Marxist, but actually he comes across as a conservative in the best meaning of the word.

            That’s how screwed up American politics has become.

  4. Josh Kilroy Says:

    I think this entire post is based on a willful misunderstanding. Cunningham clearly meant nothing more than following what criticisms were being leveled against the administration, esp from formerly respected figures like Ravitch.

    There is real irony in criticizing Cunningham for personal attacks against Ravitch, who is the worst offender in this regard. See her disgusting screed against Ben Austin for just one example.

    • patrickwalsh Says:

      There is no misunderstanding here, sir, willful or other wise. I know my own language and I know what the word “monitor” means. I also know that the DOE under Obama is utterly contemptuous of the law and utterly ruthless in imposing the experimental, half-assed policies demanded by their masters Mr. Gates, Mr Broad, the Walton Family and others — the creators of RTTT.

      Diane Ravitch had the courage to admit she was wrong at the very moment when the most powerful financial, corporate and political figures in the United States banded together to systemically undermine public education for the sole purpose of privatizing it and enriching them selves in the process. Ravitch not only refused to remain on that billionaire backed gravy train, she openly and brilliantly called it as the mass scam that it is. Her character needs no defense from me or anyone else. As for a shameless shyster like Ben Austin, like all the members of billionaire backed “grassroots group created for no other reason than to dupe the gullible on behalf of the super rich, I can only say that I believe that there is a special place in hell for such a soul as he.

      • Matt Coia Says:

        My thought on this is: Do we want a DOE that “monitors” (and ignores) criticism or one that doesn’t know the criticism exists? Which is worse?

        • patrickwalsh Says:

          We want a DOE and a government that listens to criticism and takes it serious critics seriously.

  5. Yeah, they’re “monitoring” everyone and everything.

    That’s Obama’s specialty.

    Obama = Nixon.

    They’ve got an enemies list in multiple areas and they’re monitoring for pushback or, in some cases, arrests (i.e., whistleblowers.)

    The irony here is Nixon Redux was a constitutional lawyer.

    In how many ways has he trampled on the constitution since 2009?

    Drone bombings, the kill list, NSA spying, NCLB waivers that make new mandates (a power the USDOE does not have.)

    I’m sure I’m missing a whole bunch of other crimes.

    I voted Obama in 2008, but I have regretted that vote ever since.

    • patrickwalsh Says:

      As did I vote for him and millions of others now profoundly regretting that decision. All we can do at this point, RBE, is do keep writing and hammering away and trying to expose their bullshit and crimes to as many people as possible. Keep the faith!


    • Michael Fiorillo Says:

      Sick and evil as Nixon was, he was preferable to Obama, who was the Overclass’ “Chosen One” because of his ability to divert and derail liberal/Left opposition to neoliberal policies.

      More than any other I divide all, even Bill Clinton, Obama is responsible for neutralizing, if not destroying the left wing of the Democratic Party, his greatest single “accomplishment.”

      Nixon signed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, created OSHA, and proposed a guaranteed minimum income.

      While, of course, these came about because of public pressures and the overall tenor of the times, Obama was chosen to insure that an FDR-style response to the 2008 financial crisis was averted. Thus, Obama’s appointment of Geithner and Summers, and his refusal to seek a single indictment for systemic abuses by the finance industry.

      • patrickwalsh Says:

        Sadly, I could not agree more, Micheal. We are in the fight of our lives with this person and his backers for the very things our parents took for granted. Something has to break and I pray it ain’t us.

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