I have recently discovered an Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speaketh to the folly of charter schools.”
When I explain that charter schools perform no better than public schools, and in many cases, create problems worse than the ones we need to reform in our current system (see my recent primer), I incite the ire of charter advocates, many of whom are middle-class and progressive. And this has led to another realization: Charter schools allow middle-class progressives the ability to appease guilt-free their inner (and closeted) Libertarian.
When I offer accurate, evidence-based generalizations about charter schools, they respond, “But my child’s charter school is wonderful and much better than the school we were zoned for!”
Setting aside that one example doesn’t disprove a generalization (or that we could easily find a parent of a child who would say the exact same thing but with zoned school and charter switched), this comment is about a really important question: Shouldn’t all parents be able to secure a good school for their children?
The answer is, “Of course,” but the problem lies in a much harder question of how.
In our capitalistic system where we see most things in terms of commodities and investments, we often tend also to speak of our glorious Market as if the Commons do not exist, as if the Commons do not serve as the foundation upon which that Market (might) work.
And therein is the problem for progressive parents seeking a good school for their children, and the paradox of getting mine while all others are left to fend for themselves.
This is a fact we like to ignore: It is in the best interest of any parents’ child that all children receive the best schooling possible, the most equitable schooling possible. For any parents to get their children a great school while ignoring other people’s children is also to disregard their own children.
As long as any of us fail to see that all children are our most precious Commons, as long as any of us are eager to get ours while others don’t, as long as we view the possibility of communities demanding that no parent or child should need school choice, as long as the public remains trapped in the culture of competition, choice, and rugged individualism—then calls for “they’re all our children” will remain mere idealism, mere sloganism.
Ignoring that each child is our child doesn’t deny that this is true, but it certainly creates a culture that fails its most basic human potential.