School Choice and Vouchers are Bad
I have spent considerable time reading the literature on the topic of school choice and tuition vouchers. I was initially in favor of the idea simply because it seems to be common sense. After just a little reading, I am now an advid supporter. After all, our entire standard of living is based on the idea of choice. The more choices we have, and the means to pursue those choices, the higher the standard of living we enjoy. In our lives, simply stated, choice means everything. When it comes to public schooling is there a choice? David Kirkpatrick, in his book, Choice In Schooling, argues that choice already exists de facto in our system and it is not regulated. It is because of this lack of regulation such inequality exists.
Let us not kid ourselves, education may profess to be about equity and equal opportunity, but this has never been the case in America or any other country. Education is about power. Power is a tool guarded by those who have it. Those with the means in this society already have exercised their choice and have built their own schools based on choice and in turn new opportunities. The masses have then been left to the confines of a limited system. Make no mistake, in a capitalist society, this is by design.
I remember reading the America at Risk report on Education in America, there was one line in there that summed up the educational system in this country and the lack of effort to change it. “If this current educational system was instituted in America by a foreign nation, it would be cause for a social revolution and a formal declaration of war.” Yet it is accepted by those in power and justified for its existence through laws and coercion of the masses.
Why then do schools stay relatively unchanged? The article, A School for Choice, by Debra Viadero, outlines some “red flags” that are meant to caution for school choice. In my opinion, taken together, these make a weak argument at best to counter the need for choice. The concern of parents being good consumers is a good example of a ridiculous red flags. I suppose it is better to have no choice than to have any choice? Given time, parents will become savvy to the market and make good consumer decisions. Another argument against school choice is that it will create inequalities. HELLO, look around, where is the equality now? Bottom line, parents of white middle class suburbs, with a wealthy tax base do not want black or other minority students with low incomes in their schools period. Let’s not pretend here, this is fact and as long as there is choice for the few, and the ones with the power, they are not going to give that up.
It seems that in the literature the theoretical foundation for choice is strong, it is the design that would need to be examined and modified to avoid some issues. The question remains, is choice for the few ever going to solve inequalities or will it just foster it? I argue it will prevent any reform or systemic change and only widen the desparity we see in today’s schools. Systemic change requires a catalyst, those in power will never provide it, it would be unrealistic to ever think they will.
School choice will provide that catalyst, initially there might be some problems, but in time adjustments could be made to even out the difficulties. I feel the system has reached critical mass and those at the bottom are aware of their situation more so than ever. The weak arguments against choice are just attempts to preserve the status quo and maintain the current power structure and limited access to choice. There is no evidence that I could see, in the history of school reform, even segregation, that has made a significant systemic change and leveled the field. Because of the lack of choice and free or regulated market forces, those with the means have always found a way to limit the access and strengthen their position. I contend that “hey what have we, the masses, to lose? Anything is better than this mess were in.” The answer, “Nothing.” However, what do the few or the privileged have to lose?
When I read the articles on the web about choice that were done by Harvard, I had to laugh. If there was ever an example of the inequality of education, it is the elitist position of schools like Harvard that should be the last to say anything on choice, talk about research bias. Harvard embodies the very fundamental ideas of access for the few. Give me a break, if anybody knows about the value of choice it is those attending or teaching at Harvard. This school values its position of elite education for the privileged, enough said, think abut it…
In conclusion, I challenge any and all arguments for choice. With these arguments, I look forward to the theoretical foundation for any plan that says if you have no choice but the few do, you are better off. If there is any other way to release the majority of people from the massive inequalities within the current system, I’ll be the first in line, but remember, you are trying to convince me that our entire standard of living is not based on the ability of the masses to choose. Good luck.
Note: This poor-quality essay was written by a high school teacher! Just another example of how pitiful our educational system has become.