Sunday, February 22, 2009

School Choice--A Matter of Equality

Michelle Bernard (picture on the right) has written a great editorial in the DC Examiner about school choice, giving me all the more reason to be passionate about education reform:
"The promise of Brown v. Board of Education was to open every school house door to minorities. But many schools remain off-limits for too many black families today. The single most important step that we could take to promote full equality for all Americans would be to ensure that all children benefit from a quality education, and that requires giving parents more options and control over where their children go to school.

Of course, talking about school choice runs against the conventional wisdom of much of the black leadership, which defends the public schools. However, our children's future is too important to avoid uncomfortable truths."
I'm not sure what my black friends would say about this, but I agree with Bernard. The fact is, school vouchers work for everyone, even those who don't leave public school:
"'Contrary to the hypothesis that school choice harms students who remain in public schools, this study finds that students eligible for vouchers who remained in the public schools made greater academic improvements as their school choices increased.'

This should not surprise us, since competition is essential to our economic system, operating as a force to drive down prices while expanding options and promoting innovation.

Choice initiatives force the public schools to better serve their students - all of them. The benefits are particularly significant for minorities, who typically enjoy the fewest alternatives."
I found one reason to be optimistic about Barack Obama's take on this, coming from a blog on school choice:
"'If there was any argument for vouchers, it was "Let's see if the experiment works,"' Obama said. 'And if it does, whatever my preconception, you do what's best for kids.'"
So much the better. My frustration with this issue has been that for some reason "progressives" have been less than progressive on education reform. Supposedly school choice is a "conservative" idea, as if Sweden and the Netherlands are bastions of conservative thought.

I would think conservatives and liberals could agree on this issue. For the conservative, school vouchers put power back in the hands of the individual consumer and allow resources to be used more efficiently. For the liberal, vouchers give power to the less fortunate, enabling social progress. Personally, I find both of these ideas appealing.

In other news, I've started tutoring at a middle school in a lower income part of town through Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries. If anyone else from Charlottesville happens to read this, we're always in need of more tutors.
One lesson I learned recently during this very tutoring program is that freedom in education is essential. This past week I actually heard a student compare coming to school with being sold into slavery.

This was probably an immature comparison, but it does underscore the idea that when students feel they have no choice in going to school, they really don't enjoy it. My hope is that one day school vouchers around the country will help change all that.

There's no denying that when you make your own choice about what to buy, you value it more. The same principle applies to education: when you choose to learn, it becomes infinitely more effective.

I hope that one day the students I tutor will have the same kinds of opportunities I've had. I hope they can make the choice to learn on their own. Then there would be nothing stopping them from having the life they want.

And isn't that what we all want for America?

1 comment:

  1. This is a refreshing, powerful post. Your argument is strong and compelling. I'd not even heard of school vouchers until I first read of them on your blog--and you know how steeped in academia I've been. I guess these ideas haven't reached the pig farms yet. =) Keep up your wonderful blog posts! I always love them!


I love to hear feedback!