Trust Parents or the Education Elite?

Education blogger Peter Greene recently criticized Nevada's school voucher plan as a "race to the bottom of the barrel for public education." What he had to say rang true with Diane Ravitche because most of her blog post was either a quote and an endorsement of what he said. I will continue the discussion by saying they are both wrong! Their perspective doesn't seem to be able to get far from their own monolithic thinking about the best schools for ALL children and the selfish character of those who think differently. Here is my response…
I appreciate the concern of those who claim they can better pick a school for my child (or "all children") than I can, but I believe I better know what my child and the public needs educationally - and I will trust other parents with the same broad discretion. In a competitive school system, the children in "loser schools" at least have a choice to go elsewhere - more choice than the government system traditionally allows for those in its "loser schools." However, my bigger concern is your assumption that "better schools" look the same to everyone... and they don't. Obviously, your "bottom" schools stand a good chance of being my "top" schools. I'm less into the efficiency of mass education than into school diversity that meets the concerns and educational needs of caring families.

Further, one of the most vital public interests associated with education is the moral development of children, and First Amendment limitations prevent government schools from effectively working in this area. Nevada is not abandoning public education, it is merely redefining it away from centralized, elitist control. We must redefine public education to include schools that broadly support the public's educational interests... and this new definition will include most "private" schools.

Though I have extensively read arguments for competition as a rationale for school choice, I agree that it is a limited paradigm that has its merits as well as its drawbacks. However, many of
Greene's criticisms fall on the traditional public system as well. It doesn't fit many people's definition of "excellence," it creates "perverse incentives", it "disenfranchises" taxpayers", and look at the "lies and fantasies" that are coming out of many government schools motivated by the pressures of testing and accountability. And Mr. Greene, please avoid the demonization of Nevada's schools choice supporter. It makes little sense for political leaders to intentionally try to undermine their state's education system… unless you think they are merely selfish, bigoted, and stupid. As an American, you should give your fellow citizens a little more confidence then that… Especially since that confidence is not only at the heart of the school choice debate, but at the heart of the "Great American Experiment."
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