February 21 2012
Good progressives should send their kids to failing public schools to reinforce progressive values. Or at least, that's what Dana Goldstein said at Slate last week, admonishing her fellow progs who choose to home school their children rather than leave them in the government’s charge:
Lefty homeschoolers might be preaching sound social values to their children, but they aren’t practicing them. If progressives want to improve schools, we shouldn’t empty them out. We ought to flood them with our kids, and then debate vociferously what they ought to be doing.
Before we get any further, it’s best to stop and point out the obvious: another serious violation of ‘progressive’ values is the forced education/incarceration of the country’s most disadvantaged children in failing schools. I realize that for most progressives, the answer to this one is easy – more money for and more control over the public education system. The sorry state of the federal and state budgets aside, it’s important to remember that giving more control to bureaucrats over the public education system opens the door for the other guys to throw their weight around. The last thing I'm sure Dana Goldstein wants is for decidedly un-progressive policies to be implemented by school boards. She must not have read Rolling Stone's heartbreaking feature last month detailing how religious activists in a Minnesota school district took over the PTA and implemented anti-LGBT policies, as well as the string of LGBT teen suicides that followed.
It’s worth pointing out, as Goldstein does, that homeschooling may not be an option for many children, as 70 percent of mothers of school-age children are working full-time (funny how the progressive voice mysteriously leaves fathers out of the assumption of which parent should do the schooling). Moreover, most parents of low-income families and heads of single-parent households don’t have the option to quit work and become a full-time unpaid teacher. And of course, not every parent is qualified for, or even personally up to the task. The solution therefore isn’t necessarily homeschooling, but a real liberalization (in the classic sense of the word) of the market for education.
Contrary to the common progressive counter-arguments, school choice isn’t about class, or race, or some nefarious plot to de-segregate American education. Rather, school choice empowers families and strips control from powerful union interests and bureaucrats. In a freer education market, parents would be free to choose among schools (big, small, religious, secular, public, private, accredited, independent, etc), while educators would be accountable to families, and less hobbled by bureaucratic policies and procedures. It seems that if the goal is “progress,” then a vision of dynamic markets with millions of buyers and sellers is more forward-thinking than the same-old top-down state controlled system.