Mercedes Schneider is pissed.
There are many things that come through in her book A Chronicle of Echoes, but what's most immediately palpable is her anger at what has been done to public education in this country. And as each chapter unrolls, it's impossible not to see why she is so angry.
Schneider is one of the most important bloggers in the edublogosphere. She is a tireless researcher, with a careful command both of statistical research tools and the tortured depths of government forms. What Schneider has done, time and time again, is use her research skills to act out the most standard, and yet most valuable, imperative-- follow the money. While many edubloggers stick to bold strokes or the part of the ice berg that sticks up in their particular neighborhood, Schneider repeatedly completes the painstaking job of connecting the dots.
Her blog is required reading for anyone concerned about the current battle for Amerian public education. Seriously-- over to the right of your screen is a list of blog links and you should be following the link to her blog (deursch29). But there were topics of enough complexity and detail that to really address them, Schneider needed to write a book.
A Chronicle of Echoes is a sprawling narrative the connects the dots, follows the money, and lays out how the reformsters have gotten their hands around the throat of public education. And I guarantee you-- no matter how closely you've followed events of the past several years, there is information in this book that A) you didn't know yet and B) you knew, but didn't know just how bad it was.
Here's the subject list by chapter:
1) Joel Klein
2) Eva Moskowitz
3) Wendy Kopp
4) Michelle Rhee
5) Erik Hanushek
6) Chicago Connect: Daley-Vallas
7) Chicago Connection: Duncan (and Obama)
8) Chicago Connection: Emanuel (with Obama)
9) Paul Vallas (Philadelphia)
10) Paul Vallas (New Orleans, Bridgeport)
11) David Coleman and the Common Core
12) Chester Finn and Frederick Hess
13) Jeb Bush (Florida miracle)
14) Jeb Bush (beyond the miracle)
15) Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education and Chiefs for Change
16) TNTP and StudentsFirst
17) Democrats for Education Reform and Education Reform Now
18) National Council on Teacher Quality
19) Stand for Children
20) Black Alliance for Education Options and Parents Revolution
21) Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP)
22) Aspen and Pahara Institutes
23) The Big Three Foundations: Gates, Walton and Broad
Followed by almost 100 pages of endnotes (just in case you doubt her research chops.
The chapters are all stand-alone. Although an overall narrative emerges in the book, what Schneider has really written here is a reference book, an encyclopedia of reformster leaders and organizations. With meticulous research and plenty of quotes excavated throughout, this is a book to return to when one of your colleagues or even a civilian asks, "So what's that ALEC thing?" or "But doesn't TFA do great work?" or "Why do you turn purple and bulgy-eyed when I bring up David Coleman?"
The book is, in short, great arsenal support for you as you try to educate yourself or others.
A word of warning about Schneider's tone. I'm a big fan of her powerful mix of scathing wit and damning facts, but it is likely that someone who is new to these, a casual civilian, or just generally on the fence about ed reform issues may be put off by her tone. This is not a dispassionate attempt to lead the reader to a conclusion; this is "I'm pissed and I'm going to tell you why." It's justified, it's powerful, and it's appropriate, but not all audiences are going to make it past her anger to the mountain of facts it rests on.
If you are the kind of person who wishes everyone would just talk nicely about these things, I'm not going to have that argument with you now, but I am going to encourage you as strongly as possible to get this book and read for the facts and the details. If you know that person, your best approach may not be to simply hand them the book, but to share the facts from it.
Like Schneider's blog, this book is hugely important because it empowers a whole world of people in the resistance with facts, dates, details, quotes-- all the specifics that show what is really happening. It's the facts and figures, names and places, connections and quotes that help build a case and distinguish us from crazy-pants conspiracy theorists. This is a book to read and to keep on your shelf for ready reference. This is a book that tells you who did this, and how they did it.
If you weren't sure about picking this up when it first came out, or you meant to but didn't get around to it, I am telling you now-- buy this book. Mercedes Schneider is pissed, and she is also smart, witty, and well-grounded in facts and research. This is essential reading for anyone who supports public education. Get a copy today-- here, I'll even make it easy for you.