The death of Gerald Bracey is a loss for education

I talk to many education researchers, but none had the passion or conviction of Gerald Bracey, whose e-mails I occasionally shared with you here. He died suddenly in his sleep last week at age 69.

What I admired about Bracey is that he criticized people he once esteemed, including President Obama. His allegiance was not to any political party, but to what he saw as the truth of the matter.

Often, his e-mails to me were stern scoldings about buying the latest “garbage” from Arne Duncan or Kathy Cox. (There would have been a chastising e-mail today from him on my blog entry yesterday on Duncan’s speech here in Atlanta.)

Affable and smart, Bracey was always willing to chat with me and show me the error of my ways.

Here is a wonderful tribute to him in USA Today. The obituary notes Bracey’s take-no- prisoner style, perfected in his annual Rotten Apples in Education award:

In 2006, after then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings compared the No Child Left Behind education reform law to Ivory Soap, saying it was “99.9% pure — there’s not much needed in the way of change,” Bracey awarded Spellings “The 99 and 44/100ths Pure Crap Award.”

Bracey was a wonderful source. He never ducked questions or tough issues, and he never was cowed by people in power.  He was authentic and vital.

11 comments Add your comment

Dr. John Trotter

October 27th, 2009
12:39 pm

It sounds like Mr. Bracey was a character and someone whom I would have like to have known. May he rest in peace. There are indeed many “rotten” theories put forth by educrats, among them are those now espoused by Arne Duncan, currently the biggest educrat of all.

Dr. John Trotter

October 27th, 2009
12:42 pm

It sounds like Mr. Bracey was a character and someone whom I would have like to have known. May he rest in peace. There are indeed many “rotten” theories put forth by educrats, among them are those now espoused by Arne Duncan, currently the biggest educrat of all. Public education is now about the money.

Sarah

October 27th, 2009
12:59 pm

I am always sorry to hear of someone’s death. However, I never heard this man’s name until today. Not sure how I missed him.

jim d

October 27th, 2009
1:07 pm

Mr. Bracey will be sorely missed.

Truth in Education will cease to exist. His opinons were generally pretty close to the mark.

My prayers go out to his family and friends.

Darren

October 27th, 2009
2:21 pm

‘Public education is now about the money’

Especially to those who set up a law practice to fleece public ed of funds they actually do have.

Darren

October 27th, 2009
2:24 pm

‘Public education is now about the money’

Especially to those who set up a law practice for no other purpose than to fleece public education of their funding.

Mac

October 27th, 2009
2:25 pm

One of the best and few truthful people out there. Sad news.

ScienceTeacher671

October 27th, 2009
7:37 pm

I very much admired Dr. Bracey, and have always looked forward to his annual reports. His death doesn’t seem to have gotten much coverage, perhaps because he spent so much time refuting “conventional wisdom” and educational stereotypes perpetuated by the media and politicians.

K Collins

October 28th, 2009
11:11 am

I am a Grad. Assistant doing research for an anthology for one of my professors. As per her request, I was emersing myself in Bracey’s work and literature. As a young teacher, I feel there is a tremendous loss with Bracey’s death. I had been recieving his emails from EDDRA and already I feel the silence from his missing correspondence. Bracey had clarity on these educational situations, which is very hard to find in times like these where the truth is hidden, lied about and swayed. I looked up to and respected this man whom I have never met but recieved daily emails from. For those of you who do not or did not know him, this is truly a tragedy to the world of education.

Caroline Grannan

October 28th, 2009
3:44 pm

Thanks for this post, Maureen. The day he died, Jerry was sending angry e-mails about an education commentary by L.A. Times reporters (he felt, correctly, that the LAT is way too bought in to an ongoing project dismantling L.A. schools and turning them over to private operators — only he put it much more strongly than I do!). I got a group e-mail from him about the TImes at 10:30 p.m. (same time zone), and then he was found dead the next morning.

Interesting tributes to him. Ed Week did an early one on its blog, allowing that Jerry had it right “once in a while.” That brought a string of responses challenging the reporter to cite a time when he WASN’T right.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2009/10/author_alfie_kohn_in_a.html

Jay Mathews’ obit for Jerry in the Washington Post stands out too. It describes how Jerry came to national prominence by rebutting a 1990 column by Post star Richard Cohen that was entirely based on an error that my urban-public-schooled kids could have spotted, easily, by fourth grade or so. (The issue is Cohen’s failure to understand the principle called Simpson’s Paradox.) I’m sure Cohen was entirely unabashed, but Bracey would have appreciated that it was raised again 19 years later so readers like me who missed it the first time could roll our eyes.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/22/AR2009102204549.html

Maureen Downey

October 28th, 2009
3:51 pm

Caroline, Thanks for the references to the pieces on Jerry.
Maureen