(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
Over at City Journal Sol Stern revives his complaint that billionaires should be busily imposing his favorite curriculum on as many people as possible rather than supporting parental choice. I’ve explained previously how choice mechanisms serve as the main vehicle for advancing this sort of curriculum in my neck of the cacti. The dream of the one true way however apparently dies hard.
I actually share Sol’s curricular preferences, but I’m happy to note that AZ’s charter school 8th graders went to the wire with Massachusetts on the three 8th grade NAEP exams while spending far less per pupil and with a far more diverse student body than MA public schools. Attendance at such schools is delightfully voluntary, with the only problem being long wait lists at high demand schools- something that billionaires could help with far more easily that wresting control of curriculum away from the Blob. Arizona charter schools are still growing, MA’s widely admired academic standards alas are no longer with us. I may be missing something here, but it looks to me like an embrace of pluralism represents a more effective strategy than yearning for benevolent technocrats who share your preferences indefinitely despite the unrelenting hostility of powerful incumbent interests.
Sol’s piece is silent on just how the bad curriculum is to be overthrown, but giving people more choice seems like a swell method to me, albeit one that needs speeding up. Sol relates a tale of the famously centralized French K-12 system adopting damaging progressive curriculum to the detriment of students. This sounds like par for the course with central planning to these ears. The fact that well-meaning people like Sol want E.D. Hirsch curriculum means little-Sol is almost always going to find himself outnumbered in the universe of people deciding these sort of things.
The fact that parents beat down the doors to get a classical education when offered through choice mechanisms however represents a viable path forward imo.