Arthur Camins retired recently as Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology. He has taught and been an administrator in New York City, Massachusetts, and Louisville, Kentucky. Unlike Betsy Dezvos and other ersatz “reformers,” he knows quite a lot about teaching and innovation.

In this post, he explains the fraud of school choice.

He writes:

“Segregation and the evil twins–racism and inequity– are the divide and conquer gifts that keep on giving­ to the rich and taking from everyone else. Over the decades, the wealthy and empowered have found ways to dress up their barely concealed essential messages: We deserve what we have. Inequality is the natural order of the world. Caring about others is for losers. Winners care about themselves. If you are unhappy with your station in life, blame yourself. Some of you would be better off if was it not for Them.

“The latest incarnation of message obfuscation is the vaguely democratic-sounding term, school choice. The push for expansion of charter schools- publicly funded, but privately controlled– and for vouchers to offset a portion of the tuition for private schools is the old wolf in new sheep’s clothing.

“Equity and universal high quality have never been the goals of school choice, the roots of which are resistance to desegregation. Its latest advocates do not suggest vouchers so that the poor can attend elite, expensive private schools. They do not demand adequate funding for all schools. They do not want to give students experience interacting with one another across class or race. They certainly do not want to end the defining characteristic of the status quo, rationing of quality by socioeconomic status.

“Their rhetoric notwithstanding, they have other goals: Undermine public sector unions to reduce their political power, as well as members’ pay and health and retirement benefits; Pander to subgroups to undermine political unity; Undercut the power of unified organizing by offering an escape hatch for the so-called “deserving poor.” Advance the advantages of privilege.

“Segregation is the simple enabling strategy. Contrary to popular mythology, post-Brown v. Board of education segregation was not so much the product of individual choices, but rather intentionally segregative transportation, zoning, housing and employment policies. Policy and preexisting bias were mutually reinforcing. Increased isolation was the inevitable result. People naturally trust folks they know and interact with regularly. Economic and racial isolation turns the distant “them” into an abstraction, easily stereotyped in the absence of countervailing evidence informed by direct contact and shared struggle. It is the empowered’s Tower of Babel tactic. Sow distrust and hatred, so that even when diverse citizens speak the same language, building for the common good becomes too challenging and threatening….

“Rather than addressing the structural causes of growing inequity, appeals to market-based education play on parents’ anxieties about their children losing out in the intense competition for well-paying jobs. Similarly, school choice rhetoric reinforces some parents’ bias that going to school with certain others will hurt their children. It encourages parents to take a belligerent, you can’t-make-me, stance…

“Coupled with the exaltation of selfishness, segregation is a time-tested way for the privileged to remain in control. School choice is the latest euphemism for leaving everyone to fend for themselves in a dystopian world of ruthless competition.

“When centrists Democrats adopt choice rhetoric, they abet conservative ideology. They enable labeling of legislative solutions to help people as being about Them, not us. If the last presidential election is any indication, Democratic politicians are reluctant to take on the rhetoric of choice and the segregation and inequity it supports. That will only change when voters demand that candidates adopt a different, explicitly pro-integration, stance.

“It is time to bring back the old labor slogan: An injury to one is an injury to all.”