This article was published in 2007. David Gelernter, a brilliant computer scientist at Yale with strong conservative views, asked why we could not have a world without public schools.
Imagine every school run by private entrepreneurs, private managers, religious groups, whoever, whatever.
Or every student with a voucher.
Why have public education at all?
Sometimes it seems that this is the true goal of faux reformers today: a world of privatized schools, perhaps with a few public schools remaining as repositories for the students that no one wants. Sort of like New Orleans today.
I read this article when it appeared in 2007 and remember being astonished by its audacity. It basically suggests that democratic control of education is a failure, and that the private sector is superior.
Of course, this was before the collapse of the economy in 2008, caused entirely by deregulated private banks and greedy individuals. It takes a vigorous public sector to rein in the predatory greed of some institutions and individuals. Not every private institution is greedy or predatory, but why should we trust our children to the whim and competence of the private sector?
We now see private equity investors looking at the schools as opportunities to make money. This is alarming, because whatever profit they extract is money taken away from the education of children. And we know that they will aim to cut costs by increasing class sizes or using technology to reduce the number of teachers.
It bears mentioning that every nation with a high-performing education system has a strong public school system.
Public institutions are committed to equity. Private institutions seek excellence, but they operate in a market that is guaranteed to produce winners and losers, not equity. If markets produced equity, no one would ever lose money in the stock market and the market would only go up, never down.
Our challenge is to pursue the changes that strengthen our public schools and nurture both equity and excellence.
As it happens, we have ample evidence that neither charters nor vouchers have produced either equity or excellence.