Perhaps this is too much to take in at once. It may be that the idea of
moving to a market-based system of education seems too big a departure from the
school system we have grown accustomed to.
But the system we have grown accustomed to has failed us. If we truly care about
our children we must take a long, hard look at the underlying reasons for its
failure. Our school system is not falling short academically because of the
people who staff it or the curricula they teach. It is not falling short due to
lack of funds or good ideas. It is falling short academically because it lacks a
mechanism that consistently promotes, identifies, perpetuates and disseminates
Our school system is falling short of our social goals because parents do not
have a choice, a freedom they should have in the United States of America. By
its very design, the prevalent system of public schooling forces a needless
conformity on a vibrant, diverse and dynamic society.
We need to learn to live happily and harmoniously with one another. But people
do not learn the value of liberty and mutual respect from a monolithic school
apparatus that forces them to either accept the views of the dominant group or
to impose their own views instead. We have enjoyed religious harmony in this
nation not because we have forced all our citizens to attend an established
Church, but precisely because we have not done so. The social conflicts that
arise around public schooling do so precisely because public schooling is an
establishment of education.
Yes, market-based education, coupled with financial assistance for low-income
families, is a bold idea. But the time has come for bold ideas. At the very
least, we owe it to our children to openly discuss the merits of reintroducing
market incentives in education – not in the hostile fashion that has become the
norm in recent reform debates, but with care, civility and wisdom.
Their future – our future – depends on it.