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Diane Ravitch wants an apology

May 11, 2011

NYU professor and author Diane Ravitch, who visited Rhode Island last week, says Education Commissioner Deborah Gist was rude and uncivil during a meeting with Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Blogging on Education Week, Ravitch writes that Gist:

interrupted me whenever I spoke, and filibustered to use up the limited time. Whenever I raised an issue, she would interrupt to say, ‘That isn’t happening here.’ She came to talk, not to listen. It became so difficult for me to complete a sentence that at one point, I said, ‘Hey, guys, you live here all the time, I’m only here for a few hours. Please let me speak.’ But Gist continued to cut me off. In many years of meeting with public officials, I have never encountered such rudeness and incivility. I am waiting for an apology.”

Commissioner Gist has not responded to WRNI’s request for comment. In past interviews she has said that many of the concerns raised by Ravitch are not problems in Rhode Island.

Ravitch, who is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, came to the Ocean State at the invitation of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. She has argued that teachers and teachers’ unions are being unfairly demonized and that focusing too much on standardized test scores leads to a narrowing of curriculum that dammages public education.

In an interview with WRNI, Ravitch cites the threat of mass teacher firings in Providence and Central Falls as an example of the kind of attack on unions that demoralizes teachers and does not improve schools.

A spokesman for Governor Lincoln Chafee says he did not perceive the conversation in quite the same the way that Ravitch describes it.

“The Governor views it as a very lively exchange of opinions and views,” says Chafee Spokesman Mike Trainor. “He was happy that he and Deborah Gist and Diane Ravitch had a chance to speak.”

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