Thursday, June 23, 2005

Separating school and state - The Boston Globe

Jeff Jacoby writes:

"Once there was a solid consensus about how public schools should be run.... But... that day is past.

"From issues of sexuality and religion to the broad themes of US history and politics, public opinion is fractured... No longer is there a common understanding of the mission of public education. To the extent that one camp's vision prevails, parents in the opposing camp are embittered. And there is no prospect that this will change -- not as long as the government remains in charge of educating American children.

"Which is why it's time to put an end to government control of the schools.

"There is nothing indispensable about a state role in education. Parents don't expect the government to provide their children's food or clothing or medical care; there is no reason why it must provide their schooling. An educated citizenry is a vital public good, of course. But like most such goods, a competitive and responsive private sector can do a much better job of supplying it than the public sector can.

"Imagine how diverse and lively American education would be if it were liberated from government control. There would be schools of every description -- just as there are restaurants, websites, and clothing styles of every description. Parents who wanted their children to be taught Darwinian evolution unsullied by leaps of faith about an Intelligent Designer would be able to choose schools in which religious notions would play no role. Those who wanted their children to see God's hand in the miraculous tapestry of life all around them would send them to schools in which faith played a prominent role.

"Rather than fight over whether reading should be taught with Phonics or Whole Language, parents who felt strongly either way could choose a school that shared their outlook. Those who wanted their kids to learn in single-sex classes would send them to schools organized on that model; other parents would be free to pick schools in which boys and girls learned together. Some schools would reflect a Christian or Jewish or Muslim philosophy; others would be quite secular. In some, athletics would have a high priority; in others, there might be an emphasis on music, language, technology, or art. And no doubt many parents would stick with schools that resembled the ones their children attend now.

"With separation of school and state, the education battles would come to a peaceful end. Robust competition and innovation would dramatically lower costs. Teachers, released from their one-size-fits-all straitjacket, would be happier in their chosen profession. Children would be happier, too -- and, perhaps best of all, better-educated to boot."

Separating school and state - The Boston Globe