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In a segment called “Waiting for Superman: Fact or Fiction?” on the BAM! Radio Network this Monday, education historian Diane Ravitch and four members of the media (including yours truly) discussed Davis Guggenheim’s latest documentary, Waiting for “Superman.”

Our host, Errol St. Clair Smith, wanted to know whether we thought the film would lead to productive discussions about how to reform public education in this country. Is there an emerging consensus in education reform today?

If so, Diane Ravitch suggested it’s not a good one. She said that the reforms now being undertaken by the Obama administration aren’t terribly different from reforms that date back to the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Ravitch, who’s been a fierce critic of Waiting for “Superman,” says the film pushes the “conservative, right-wing [education] agenda” of the Obama administration.

Jay Mathews, of The Washington Post, disagreed. He sees many younger Democrats, even within the field of education, jumping on the Obama-Duncan bandwagon of education reform — and so he doesn’t think the agenda can be fairly labeled “conservative” or “right-wing” because those traditionally on the left are embracing it, too.

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Justin Snider is a contributing editor at The Hechinger Report. He is an assistant dean at Columbia University, where he also teaches undergraduate writing. Previously, Snider taught high-school English...

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