To her credit, Diane Ravitch has offered an apology to Deborah Gist for having accused her of gross misbehavior. Here is what she wrote:
… 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.
While this is a very positive development, it does not fully address the issue. The main issue at this point is not Deborah Gist’s hurt feelings for having been accused (apparently wrongly) of exceptional rudeness and incivility; the main issue is Diane Ravitch’s credibility. It is not enough for Ravitch to say that she is imperfect if the imperfection is about the very thing that makes everyone pay attention to her — her authority as an accurate chronicler of events.
To maintain her credibility Ravitch needs to give permission for the videotape of her meeting with Gist to be released. Even if she is sorry or believes that she wrote in anger, she has still not spoken to the basic accuracy of her account. If the video confirms her account, she could still be sorry but also be vindicated as a reliable source. If the video does not confirm her account, she would be sorry and unreliable. We still need to see the video and Ravitch should agree to release it.
In addition, there is something self-serving and potentially insincere about Ravitch’s generic denunciation of “the spirit of meanness that now permeates so much of our public discourse” coming only after she is potentially caught in making inaccurate allegations against others. Ravitch’s meanness toward “the billionaire boys,” Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, etc… has existed for some time without any concern from her about the nature of public discourse.
My concern about the sincerity of her newly expressed opposition to meanness is compounded by her use of the phrase: ”[t]hose of us who truly care about children…” by which I can only imagine that she includes herself and excludes her opponents. Self-righteousness does not normally accompany contrition.
But perhaps Ravitch has turned a new leaf and is truly sorry for her own role in the meanness of public discourse. The credibility of that contrition will have to be determined in light of her future writing and speaking, just as her credibility as a chronicler of events will have to be determined when she agrees to release the video.