Monday, August 13, 2018

The real story on David Garcia's book, 'School Choice'

New Book by David Garcia, Arizona Candidate for Governor, is a Blueprint to Dismantle Public Education was posted to Blog for Arizona on August 9th by Larry Bodine. I read that review with a sense of disquiet. For one thing, Bodine’s quotes and comments run 180 degrees opposite to what Garcia has publicly stated in his plan for Arizona education. For another, the overall tone seemed more like a political hit piece rather than a dispassionate review of a scholarly work. As such, Bodine’s post was bound to elicit more emotional reactions than reasoned policy analyses.

Sure enough, “Disturbing book by Garcia against public education” was the title of a quick reaction. And, sure enough, it spawned emotionally charged to-and-fro.

In my estimation, what is disturbing is that title. Therefore I was glad to see that someone who knows about educational policy issues read the book and wrote an informed review of it.

Also from Blog for Arizona, Bob Lord posted David Safier, Former BfAZ blogger: Bodine Depiction of Garcia Book “Wrong”.

If there were a hall of fame for Blog for Arizona writers, David Safier certainly would occupy a premier space. David wrote over 3,000 posts here before moving on to his current gig at Tucson Weekly’s The Range. His posts here covered many topics, but mainly on his passion, education policy. His posts always were thoughtful.

After reading Larry Bodine’s hit piece on David Garcia’s book, “School Choice,” David reviewed the book himself and wrote his own piece at The Range, A Review of David Garcia’s Book, “School Choice”.

Here’s Safier’s take:

BODINE’S DEPICTION OF THE BOOK IS, IN A WORD, WRONG.

In other words, David agreed with Brahm Resnik’s characterization of Bodine’s piece as a “gross distortion.”

Safier went a bit further than Resnik:

Of the people who have had a chance to read the book and comment on it in the media, I probably have the most experience reading education books. I have amassed a significant number of postgraduate units in the field, and I’ve continued reading education works, ranging from blog posts to articles to books, on a daily basis. Though I have expressed my support for Garcia, I also know how to read these kinds of texts for content and possible political leanings without letting my personal opinions interfere.

What Garcia has written is a book on the history of school choice beginning in colonial days and continuing through 2017. It is meant to be an objective overview of the subject, and it succeeds in that regard. If I had never heard of David Garcia and read this book, I wouldn’t know his personal opinions on the subject. Though it is written for general consumption, it would be a valuable book to assign in any college course on the history of education, from Education 101 through graduate school.

Safier also noted that Maria Polletta at The Arizona Republic has reviewed Garcia’s book, and sees Bodine’s hit piece the same way he and Resnik do.

In my previous post regarding the Bodine hit piece, I was wrong about something as well. I suggested there that Blog for Arizona might owe Garcia an apology, and asked readers to comment. Mike Bryan appropriately corrected me in the comment section:

This blog does not owe anyone an apology. The author will do what conscience dictates, but the blog is merely a forum, not a monolith.

Well put, Mike.

But, you see, Mike missed something as well. The author, Larry Bodine, actually already had done what his conscience dictated. Upon seeing my post, Mr. Bodine reposted his hit piece, in order to enhance it’s visibility in relation to my post. That’s called doubling down. It’s something Trump often does after a clear mistake.

But perhaps after reading David Safier’s column Mr. Bodine will have a change of heart.

Here’s hoping.

FYI, here is some of Safier’s review:

… the book focuses mainly on private schools (specifically private school vouchers), charter schools and district schools. Garcia looks at them from a number of angles and includes the major arguments for and against all three types of schools. Anyone who wants to say Garcia is pro-voucher can cherrypick passages where he paraphrases pro-voucher arguments. But someone else can just as easily portray him as anti-voucher by cherrypicking other passages where he paraphrases anti-voucher arguments. He does the same thing with school choice research. He attempts to cover the main conclusions derived from all the serious research on the topic without picking favorites. (FYI, he comes to the conclusion that the differences between the achievement of students in the three types of schools, as measured by standardized tests, is minimal, and varies depending on grade level, subject, and the year the research was done.)

Bodine’s blog post claims that voucher and charter school advocates can use Garcia’s book as a tip sheet on how to set up voucher programs, and how to make pro-voucher arguments. I suppose he’s right. People reading the book for ideas supporting school choice can find arguments in their favor. But it would be a tedious process. Why bother when there are far easier ways to find material in favor of vouchers and charter schools? Just go to the Goldwater Institute, which has written elaborate voucher recipes listing all the ingredients and how to put them together. So have any number of privatization/“education reform” organizations and think tanks whose work is readily available. For legislators looking to enact school privatization legislation, ALEC has already written it. Just add the name of your state to their cookie-cutter bills and present them during the next legislative session. Readers of Garcia’s book with an agenda would have to dig through all kinds of material which would be extraneous to what they were looking for, and read lots of counter arguments to their positions.

Before forming an opinion (or voting), get informed. Read the rest of Safier’s review of Garcia’s book.

Safier says he voted for Garcia. Your Scriber voted for Steve Farley. Regardless, I completely agree with Safier’s conclusion:

Writers and political campaigns go after candidates all the time. That’s the name of the game. But attacks on Garcia based a gross misrepresentation of the contents of his book is dirty politics pure and simple. Democrats should leave that to the Republicans. They’re already sharpening their knives for whoever wins the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

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