Wednesday, March 04, 2009

School Choice

Responding to Joanne Jacobs:

Without school choice, Ty’Sheoma Bethea will stay in her second-rate school

What does she think would happen if 'school choice' should suddenly appear? That this one person - and no other - would go to the first-rate school? No, of course not - but then, would everyone go to the first rate school? No, that wouldn't work either - there aren't enough spaces, and creating them would ruin the first-rate school.

The reasoning, of course, is that choice would create competition, which would magically make underpaid and underfunded schools suddenly become better. As good as the first-rate schools, even - because, otherwise, the logic simply doesn't work.

In fact, it doesn't work at all. The idea if school choice being the answer to someone stuck in a 'second-rate' school is a farce. You won't make all schools first-rate, and you won't get nearly all of the students into the first rate school.

The only way school choice makes sense is in supporting the *type* of education that is more appropriate for people (this, though, doesn't fly with the standards crowd because it allows that people have different learning styles, different needs, different interests, and that these could be served by the school board).

The fact is, "school choice" - at least how it is being used here - is code for "private". And these days, the people supporting privatization bear the onus of proof. The privatization crowd has basically wrecked the economy and the parts of the school system they touch - like, say, Edison schools - often end up as a wreck as well.

There is such a thing as genuine choice. I wrote about it here: http://www.downes.ca/post/44259 But it has nothing to do with privatization, and everything to do with quality education. So it's probably not of interest here.

4 comments:

  1. You had me scared for a moment - I thought this woman was talking about Canada. But then again, given how things are going with the CPC in power, I am sure it won't be long before this rhetoric and movement slips in here. Just look at the mess we have with "childcare choice". The only beneficiaries are well-off families who get a credit against their nannies or stay-at-home wives.

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  2. You can see the logical result of this thinking in middle class UK. Increased dissatisfaction with an educational system that wont provide the school places everyone wants. When there was the money this was leading to an exodus of parents who cared from so called sink schools leaving only the parents less engaged or less able to work the system.
    This damages school and community, and really very few are any happier and on the whole we are worse off. But the market is a religion and we are ruled by economists who continue to happily offer us up to it with no real thought about when it is appropriate.

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  3. The reasoning, of course, is that choice would create competition, which would magically make underpaid and underfunded schools suddenly become better. As good as the first-rate schools, even - because, otherwise, the logic simply doesn't work.

    This is a good example of not being able to think critically about a topic without domain knowledge.

    Your understanding of the market and competition is faulty.

    Competition works because the stronger competitor atracts more customers from the weaker competitor. This is an increase in demand which causes an increases in resources for the stronger competitor and permits the stronger competitor to grow at the expense of the weaker competitor, ultimately driving the weaker competitor out of business.

    Your underlying premise is faulty, invalidating your conclusion.

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  4. @ KDeRosa
    The experience in the UK is the system rewards "excellent" schools with additional resources. Sink schools sink further and the reality is not everyone can get a place in one of the better schools.
    This is further complicated by geographical, financial, measurable ability and religious restrictions on entry. The market is frequently offered as a simple solution to a complex problem and is frequently the wrong one.

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