School Talk

In Defense of My Friend, Robert Pondiscio

It is increasingly vital that we stand up to the people who lie about and defame our allies and friends. As libel (and slander) increasingly permeate the media ecosystem by those for whom truth takes a back seat to a preferred ideology, it is incumbent upon the rest of us to stand up and fight back. 

Truth matters most. Decency matters too.

Diane Ravitch, education historian turned anti-reform polemicist, has increasingly taken a nosedive into the ugly world of smears and libel and she recently set her sights on someone I admire and call a friend. Robert Pondiscio is the epitome of decency. He is a committed husband, father, teacher and author of the book “How the Other Half Learns”, a book he wrote after spending a year embedded with Success Academy in New York City.

Ravitch, out for blood because of her disdain for Success Academy and its founder Eva Moskowitz, made the unfounded insinuation that Robert Pondiscio is racist by attributing to him an opinion that he has never held, let alone put in his book. The same Diane Ravitch who proudly stands in the way of black children having access to schools outside their residentially assigned zone thinks Pondiscio, her antithesis, has racist ideas about school discipline.

Repellent is right. 

And wholly undeserved. 

Normally it would not be worth it to dignify this kind of ugly innuendo with a response. But Ravitch has an enormous platform—I often see educators, including in my own district, share her quotes and blog posts even when anyone would be hard pressed to find a kernel of truth in them. Or decency, for that matter. 

Others can speak in much greater detail about Ravitch’s evolution from education historian and school choice supporter to privileged polemicist standing in the way of black parents exercising the very freedom she enjoyed as a mother who chose private school for her own children. And thankfully, many people were quick to publicly come to Pondiscio’s defense.

My goal here is to stand up for someone who treats people, all people, with respect. A person who left a lucrative career in media to take a massive pay cut and become a teacher in the South Bronx. A person who continues to teach Civics part time while working hard on the policy front to make school a better experience for other people’s children without ever implying that he knows better than parents what is best for their children. He is different from Ravitch in that way— and clearly, she doesn’t like it.

What do you think?

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