From a reader:
Dear Jonah, I think I want to focus on your last arguments in PUBLIC ED 101. (full disclosure: I’m a retired public school teacher.) The primary force that drives the whole structure of education is the health and interest of the family. In Washington DC, it’s the kids of the families that are mired (for whatever reason, and whoever is at fault) in disfunction that make the schools unsafe and untenable. $20,000 per kid wouldn’t change that. You’re right that the good public schools–ubran, suburban, rural–are driven by functional, caring families that support the teachers and administrators who know how to do what they do, but aren’t weighted down with fights, drug abuse, etc. Where I come up short is that if we went to a private system of education, funded by the government, the same kids who are left behind now, would be left behind then. The biggest difference would be that they’d by farther behind than today. We don’t really have an education problem. I taught for 32 years and we know so much more about children and subject matter, and teaching methods, and technology, etc. than we did in the early 70′s. Not to mention the years when I went to school with the Sisters of Mercy. If the social structure of the 50′s and 60′s and early 70′s was still intact and moving together with what teachers (by and large) know how to do today, NCLB wouldn’t be part of the lexicon at all. I’m not smart enough to know how to reestablish that social support structure given the Bill of Rights. Maybe this: The Marines are government empoyees, but nobody is beating them up for not being able to quell Iraq. No one is suggesting privatizing the Marines.
Update: Lots of readers are cross that I let the Marines comment go by without comment. For example:
Your reader says: “Maybe this: The Marines are government empoyees, but nobody is beating them up for not being able to quell Iraq. No one is suggesting privatizing the Marines.”
And you posted that without comment? Attempting the analogy of the nation’s defense forces to el-hi education facilities is fundamentally and breathtakingly wrongheaded. The reader is implying that encouraging the competition of private schools with the obviously dysfunctional public school systems is as questionable as the idea of privatizing the projection of national power and the defense of the nation, its citizens and interests.
Clearly, the encouragement of private and home schooling is not in any way comparable to the outsourcing of national defense to mercenaries.
Me: I agree with all of that. Also, it should be noted that the Marines have a pretty amazing success record, something you can’t quite say about the urban public school system.