Nuggets of Wisdom

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I Support School Choice

I Support School Choice by ~BlameThe1st on deviantART

Like most other American children, my education began in public school. I performed exceptionally well in my school subjects, and because of this, my teachers placed me on an advanced curriculum. But my mother felt I wasn't being challenged enough, and by the third grade, she had me transferred to a private school. Even there, she still felt I wasn't being thoroughly challenged. So from the fourth grade onward, she had me homeschooled. Following my high school graduation, I received a Pell Grant to attend the college of my choice. I went to a junior college for a year before transferring to a private four-year college where I obtained my bachelor's degree.

I have been privileged enough to experience a wide variety of schooling from public to private to home, but only because my parents and grandparents could afford to send me to different schools until they discovered the right one for me. Unfortunately, not every child has this privilege. Most can only afford to receive a basic K-12 education in public school. If they're able to afford college, they're typically limited to attending community college, or at best, a state university. Considering the state of public education in this country, this means that these children are unable to receive the best education that they possibly can. I had the opportunity to seek a good education. Why can't other children have that same opportunity?

Every child should have the freedom to attend the school that best meets their personal educational needs, whether that school be public, private, parochial, charter, magnet, or home. In most other Western countries, children have such autonomy over their education--and no surprise, those countries tend to perform better in education.

In this county, however, no such autonomy exists. Children are forced to attend the public schools that exist in their own school district, regardless of how well those schools perform academically. If a much better public school exists in another district, unless their parents plan to move to that district, they will be unable to go to school there. Children still have private school and homeschooling as options--if their parents can afford it! If they can't, public school remains the only option for them.

The end result is that only wealthy children can afford private school while middle and lower class children are stuck with public school. This creates both an educational and economic disparity where rich children receive a better education--and with it, better job opportunities, while poor children receive substandard education and grow up to work minimum wage jobs or rely on government assistance or both.

One step forward in correcting this problem is through school vouchers and educational tax breaks, which would allow children, who otherwise couldn't afford anything other than public school, a wider selection of options.

There are two common objections to this proposal: first, that only wealthy children would be granted vouchers, leaving poor children behind in failing public schools; and second, that these vouchers could be used for private religious schools, which would violate church-state separation because taxpayer money would be used to fund religious institutions. But these are easily corrected problems, as a simple solution would be to limit vouchers only to middle and lower class children and for non-religious schools only.

Despite such a common sense solution, school choice is still opposed by many, mostly Democrats and teacher unions. They demonize school choice as a "radical" and "regressive" concept, a "corporate conspiracy" cooked up by "right-wing think tanks" and "plutocrats" like the Koch Brothers in order to "defund public education" by "funneling money from public schools," and that by doing so, ensuring that only the children of the "1 percent" have the "privilege" of a decent education while the "99 percent" are stuck without one, dooming them to a future as mindless, obedient "wage slaves" to the "corporatocracy."

But when one sees through such blatant fear-mongering, they realize that the exact opposite is true: the rich already have the "privilege" of receiving a decent education because they can afford to send their children to private schools while the poor are doomed to attend failing public schools--and not because public schools are "underfunded." On the contrary, America already spends more on education per student than any other country save Switzerland; but despite this, test scores remain stagnant.

"But wait," I hear you cry, "You just said that Switzerland spends more on education than we do, and they have better test scores than us. So wouldn't we have the same outcome if we spent the same as them?"

In a word, no. Switzerland has a much different educational system than our own. For starters--and this is most important, they have school vouchers! That's right: school vouchers, smeared as a far-right Ponzi scheme, are offered in Switzerland and other European countries, all which excel in education. School choice isn't "radical," it's common practice.

One would assume that the political left, which always looks across the pond for inspiration, would wish to emulate the educational policies of Europe; and yet, when such policies are proposed in this country, they are smeared as far-right corporate schemes, despite originating from left-wing social democracies.

The painful irony is that these policies are opposed by teacher unions--the same people who are entrusted with the educational interests of our children. It really makes you wonder who really has the best interests of our children's education in mind.