Choose Families, Choose Choice

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(Guest post by Greg Forster)

The new OCPA Perspective carries my argument that the government monopoly on schools undermines the institution of the family, and school choice would strengthen the family:

Are schools an extension of the family, helping parents raise their children the way the parents want them raised? Or are schools an autonomous branch of the technocratic state, answering not to parents but to professional experts who know how children ought to be raised better than parents do?

The creation of the government school monopoly was one part of a general inversion of the social order going on in the 19th century:

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the family had been understood as the primary unit of society; larger political and economic structures existed to mediate relations between households, not between individuals as such. Relations between individuals within a household—such as the work of childrearing—were the family’s business, except in extreme cases. All that was now gone. The family was no longer primary; the technocratic state was primary.

The failure of the school monopoly has reoped the question of whom schools work for:

School choice and federal centralization of power are both responses to this failure. Some are seeking to reverse course, hoping that the moribund school system can be revitalized by putting parents back in charge. Others are seeking a stronger technocracy that will be more capable of achieving its goals.

I close with the reflection that social conservatives could bring something important to the school choice coalition not currently provided by the two factions that now dominate it, progressives and libertarians. As always, your comments are most welcome!

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2 Responses to Choose Families, Choose Choice

  1. Barry Stern says:

    To ensure responsiveness of schools to customers, most of all parents, funds should follow students to the public school they attend. The amount would be determined by a weighted student average, i.e. more for those who have disabilities, are low income and/or limited English proficient. An entity independent of the schools but accountable to the state would determine the amount of funds for which each child would be eligible. Parents could also use their child’s grant to send him/her to a private school that is willing to accept a few state measures of accountability and allow their data to be rolled into research studies that attempt to determine the antecedents of group performance both during and after their school years.Of course, the devil is in the details of how to make such a funding protocol work, but it is essential find a way to re-empower parents in order to make them full partners in the education of their children.

    • Greg Forster says:

      “Accountable to the state” is the problem. The state should regulate for health and safety and other exogenous concerns, but for educational content and performance, schools should be accountable to parents. Unless you believe in the technocratic social model, in which case why offer choice at all?

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