Peter Greene discovered a conservative making a case for public education. Was it inadvertent?

Peter writes:

Okay–where do you think this next excerpt came from?

Our public schools are one of the few unifying institutions that we have left. If we allow [something] to continue to individualize and atomize the classroom, we shouldn’t be surprised if our culture and political climate follow suit. In a traditional classroom with central texts, common knowledge, and routinized behavioral norms, our children learn to let another finish speaking before interrupting, no matter how much they might disagree. How many complete strangers could spark up a conversation over their shared love—or perhaps disdain—for the Great Gatsby because so many of us have read it in high school?

Traditional literature classrooms in particular seem all the more important as technology advances. When children spend ever more timeisolated in their rooms, endlessly scrolling on their phone, depressed and anxious, the act of putting a phone away, reading together, and then making eye contact to discuss the text could be the very “social and emotional” support that they need. When artificial technology can accomplish evermore tasks, enjoying a book with friends is one of the few remaining, distinctly human pleasures.

Is this me, arguing against current versions of school choice, particularly tech-based versions like micro-schools?

Nope. This is Daniel Buck, rising star conservative education writer on the AEI/Fordham circuit. I’ve written about him before, and you can check that out if you want more of his story or the story of his website, but for right now, mostly what you need to know is that Buck’s specialty is arguing against straw versions of progressive education stuff, which is what he says he’s railing at. My impression is that Buck means well, but doesn’t spend near enough time reading actual non-conservatives about education.

Here he’s railing against progressives who, in his telling, are out there letting students in classes pick all sort of different texts and do different things and follow different muses and while I have no doubt such teachers exist (in a pool of 4 million, you can find examples of anything), I’ll bet that most teachers, conservative or not, find the idea of overseeing 130 different individual reading units the stuff of nightmares.

No, the place you’re much more likely to find an array of students following an atomized assortment of varied educational paths would be a city that offers dozens of school choices, from “classical” whiteness to computer-driven whatever to contemporary diverse authors to neo-Nazi home schooling.

The argument he makes in this latest piece–that the nation benefits from having students share core experiences together while learning some of the same material even as they learn how to function in a mini-community of different people from different backgrounds–that’s an argument familiar to advocates of public education. The “agonizing individualism” and personalized selfishness that he argues against are, for many people, features of modern school choice–not public schools.

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