May 25, 2011

Ravitch Takes a Breath & Apologizes to Gist

Marc Comtois

The ProJo reports that that reformed education reformer Dianne Ravitch had apologized to RI Ed. Commish Deborah Gist for her actions following their recent meeting (which included a demand that Gist apologize to her). Ravitch issued the mea culpa on her blog after a visit to the Franciscan-founded Sienna College over the weekend. Apparently, the sense of community and the belief that we should treat others fairly impressed itself upon Ravitch.

I was indeed moved by my exposure to Siena. And when I came home, I reflected on a blog I wrote recently about my visit to Rhode Island. In that blog, I wrote harsh words about state Commissioner Deborah Gist. On reflection, I concluded that I had written in anger and that I was unkind. For that, I am deeply sorry.

Like every other human being, I have my frailties; I am far from perfect. I despair of the spirit of meanness that now permeates so much of our public discourse. One sees it on television, hears it on radio talk shows, reads it in comments on blogs, where some attack in personal terms using the cover of anonymity or even their own name, taking some sort of perverse pleasure in maligning or ridiculing others.

I don't want to be part of that spirit. Those of us who truly care about children and the future of our society should find ways to share our ideas, to discuss our differences amicably, and to model the behavior that we want the young to emulate. I want to advance the ideals and values that are so central to the Siena community: compassion, responsibility, integrity, empathy, and standing up against injustice. When Father Mullen presented me with my degree, he said that I am "now and forevermore a daughter of Siena." Although I am Jewish, not Catholic, I will strive to live up to that charge.

Credit goes to Ravitch for the re-set. My major criticism of her has been her stridency and her apparent unwillingness to believe in the sincerity of those with whom she disagrees. It's a trap that many of us fall into from time to time. Some of us live there. But being nice doesn't mean being any less passionate. It's important to realize that this came about because Ravitch had the opportunity to immerse herself in a community such as Sienna (or, say, a few days at a Portsmouth Institute event) that gave her time to reflect upon your outlook. It's a lesson to us all to take a breath every once in a while.

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So what made her "angry"? And why did she direct that anger at Gist?

Posted by: Patrick at May 25, 2011 1:03 PM

The quintessential progressive non-apology.

"I'm sorry I said those terrible things about you. I was very angry at the time."

Interesting how she starts off her piece, "Dear Deborah," but by the end it has turned into just another self-indulgent blog entry for public consumption that mentions "state Commissioner Deborah Gist" in the third person.

It is truly sad that anyone takes this woman seriously.

Posted by: Dan at May 25, 2011 1:22 PM

Dan, quick point: it's easy to be confused by the blog entry. The blog is a back and forth between Ravitch and Deborah Meier, another eduwonk and they start all posts with the Dear.... Just a confusing coincidence that Gist happens to have the same first name.

Posted by: Marc at May 25, 2011 1:39 PM

Strange blog format. Thanks for clarifying.

Posted by: Dan at May 25, 2011 2:01 PM

"The quintessential progressive non-apology."

Absolutely Dan. Only it's more like, "I'm sorry I said those things about 'her' but look at me with another degree to hang on my wall."

I'll give Gist credit. It must have been awkward for her to stand her ground while surrounded by Chafee, the union, and Ravitch. I wonder how it affected Ravitch's book sales. After all, that's why she was here.

Posted by: Max Diesel at May 25, 2011 4:09 PM
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