School reformers want to privatize public education ‘in the name of choice’. Literally, it means parents should expect to find a ’boutique’ school to match their children’s needs or aspirations all for free. If one cannot find just the right school, parents can get together and create their own using public tax dollars. There is something lurking underneath such an idea. It is an expectation that the individual is more important than the common good. The ‘right’ to exclude dominates a need to include.
This line of reasoning has societal consequences. The stronger the pull toward privatization and profit, the greater the strain on a sense of equality and justice. This is one of those perpetual tug of wars that our democracy experiences. The history of this power struggle is summarized in a New York Times article entitled: Have we lost sight of the Promise of Public Schools?
This theme is central in the debate over school choice. A collection of individual choices does not lead to an equitable system. As our recent history has shown, our schools and neighborhoods are segregated in complex ways. Even within a school, students are grouped into academies and academic levels more intensively than those of our youth. Magnet schools, charters and tax supported private schools accentuate the racial, economic and achievement segregation process. Are we simply running away from one another and/or competing for some elusive advantage we are afraid to share?
Communities are beginning to look at how they are structured. Have they become a collection of silos that have no common core? Or, is there a sense of the ‘common good’ that actually reflects the structure of neighborhoods and the student bodies of schools? How far along the continuum of the individual right vs. the public good have our communities moved? It is a worthwhile conversation. Read the NY Times article and ponder.