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School Choice Undermining “Our Schools” by Siphoning Off Engaged Parents

October 25, 2018

Atlantic writer Amy Lueck’s recent article describes the history of the high school in the United States from Horace Mann’s inception of the idea through today and concludes that the injection of “choice” could undercut the high-minded community building mission of high schools. She opens her essay with this:

In 2016, shortly after she was appointed to the position, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declared American public schools a “dead end.” Instead, DeVos advocates for “school choice,” code for charter schools, vouchers, and other privatization efforts.

Families who have watched their local schools struggle might agree with DeVos, but her characterization is still troubling. It reflects a distrust of education as a communal goal, not just an individual one. That’s a big change from the objective of American public schools during their first two centuries. Far from being a “dead end,” for a long time the public school—particularly the public high school—served an important civic purpose: not only as an academic training ground, but also as a center for community and activity in American cities.

Ms. Lueck’s essay then describes how high schools evolved into the focal point of many communities and how, for better or worse, they socialized teenagers, as she described in this paragraph that appears early in her essay:

Public schools have also perpetuated racial and economic inequity. But the high school still galvanized a shared, American society. It helped people aspire toward greater equality together, and it used education to bring together diverse interests and people to forge social bonds of support. That effort shaped the American city of the 19th and early-20th centuries. High schools can continue to do this, so long as they can resist being dismantled.

Ms. Lueck doesn’t develop a description of how “choice” IS eroding the broader mission of public education, the mission of helping “…people aspire toward greater equality together”. The consequences of choice, as outlined in yesterday’s post, is that  the children of engaged parents flee the high school leaving “other children” behind thereby undercutting the idea that “OUR children” are in public education together.

So I offer an edit to Ms. Lueck’s subheading to her article, which read:

Public education and its traditions united communities. But “school choice” could put is putting that legacy at risk.

There… fixed it!

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