In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts talks with historian Diane Ravitch about her new book, Slaying Goliath.

Ravitch, a former proponent of charter schools, now bemoans what she sees as their broken promise to American students. Charters promised to be R&D centers for best educational practices, which they would then share with the traditional public schools. Instead, argues Ravitch, they have become part of a billionaires’ plan to defund public education. Charters and traditional publics, Ravitch says, compete for funds and for the best students, leaving traditional public schools in an impossible position.

So what do you think? There are a plethora of questions that arise from this contentious episode. Now it’s your turn to share your reactions and experiences.



1- What makes Ravitch so critical of the billionaires’ motivation? To what extent do you find her criticism persuasive? What does she think they ought to focus on instead? Roberts counters with the question, why should I be in favor of higher expenditures for public schools that don’t seem to spend the money well? How does she respond, and again, to what extent are you convinced?


2- Ravitch says, “I think policy makers, whether it’s the Secretary of Education or the State Superintendent, have an obligation to strengthen and improve the public school system which enrolls anywhere from 80-90% of the children.” How does this include charter schools? What sort of measures does Ravitch suggest, and how effective do you think they might be?


3- What do you think principals could do to do a better job? Do you think America’s schools are well-run? And, if not, what might be done that would be different?


4- What is Ravitch’s fundamental argument as to why charters should not receive public funds? To what extent do you agree, and why?


5- The conversation ends on the topic of teacher education. Would you agree with Roberts that we’ve got to get rid of certification as a requirement? Do you think it’s useful that teachers get a degree in education to be able to teach in a public school? How do Roberts’s and Ravitch’s perspectives on this issue compare?