A reader explains why local control works in her community’s public schools. She realizes the downside of local control. She knows that local control can be a way of maintaining ignorance and rejecting science and knowledge. But there is a danger in standardization, and she explains why we must seek to find the right balance between the forces of localism and the forces of standardization. If we don’t, we lose something of value.
|Local control also allows for some pretty different and interesting curricula options. Our local high school, a rural school in California, has a vineyard, an orchard, pigs, and sheep. The program is very successful at this school. I daresay if I proposed this as a statewide standard and suggested that LAUSD implement it at all their high schools the suggestion would be laughed away as absurd. And yet, rarely does anyone wonder if choices that originate at urban schools fit for the rural ones.It would be wonderful if every kid in every zip code had access to every type of school. I’m sure there are many urban kids who would be totally on board with the idea of sheep or having recess under the redwoods. There are kids in our community who would benefit from an all-gifted STEM magnet. Neither school can fit in every neighborhood. But we as parents also need to appreciate that we make school choices based on where we choose to work and to live whether we mean to or not.Local control can be a source of ignorance and oppression. It can also be a source of freedom and creativity. Making all schools the same in the name of avoiding oppression is probably not going to turn out well… and it probably won’t serve the interests of the kids, either. Teaching a reading unit that’s all about playing in the snow is one thing in Michigan and something altogether different in Phoenix. Kids in California learn California history that kids in New England never even thought to ask about. Kids in small villages in Alaska take field trips by airplane where part of the adventure may be learning to order in a restaurant.
Education is about giving kids tools to unlock the world around them. It’s only right that they start by practicing on the problems and the history and the science and the geology of their own local community. Schools need the freedom to do that, and to gauge the needs and desires of their local students, parents, and communities.