Archive | January, 2012

The Real Opponents of School Vouchers: Republicans

26 Jan
Yep. That’s my rather unconventional theory. Republicans are the biggest obstacle to school vouchers. Here is my argument. Ask yourself, if conservative Republicans want school vouchers, and Texas is a conservative Republican state, why don’t we have vouchers in Texas?I think the reason is this. When it comes to evaluating schools, people who have no idea how to measure a good education are prone to seize some alternative measure: how big is the football stadium? how many computers does the school have in its computer lab? does it have a computer lab? how many books are in the school library? how pretty and well maintained in the school building? how big is the school budget? (most importantly) what school does everyone else want to send their kids to?Let’s call these criteria “pseudo criteria” because they don’t measure anything except how much tax money the district is wasting. Nonetheless, many parents, for lack of anything better, judge schools using these criteria. But they don’t stop there. The next thing they do is take careful note of how well their school district is doing according to all these pseudo-criteria compared toother districts.Now, if you come from a neighborhood with expensive homes, then your school district will probably be well endowed, and according to the pseudo-criteria just mentioned, it will offer a “superior education.” This will make you reluctant to change the system, because you believe that the current system favors you. You are on the top. Whoooppeeeee!!Maybe you are on top, even by real measures such as test scores, but only marginally so. There are plenty of studies showing that when it comes to real measures, even the nice-looking suburban schools in America are way behind schools in nations that have voucher systems (such as France, Belgium and Sweden). They are also behind private (charter) schools with rundown ugly buildings, such as Kipps Academy, as Davis Guggenheim showed in his marvelous documentary, “Waiting for Superman”.
In any case, you don’t care about any of this, because (1) you just don’t know how to evaluate a school and have no choice but to follow the pack and (2) you know that your kids “have it better” than the kids in the poorer districts and that, apparently, is what really matters. So, the most important enemies of school vouchers and competition in the provision of education are not teachers’ unions or anti-voucher democrats; the most important enemy, the fatal enemy that gives the coup de grace to any attempt at educational reform in America, are well-healed Republicans who actually believe that their god-awful schools are “better” than everyone else’s, and so they are reluctant to rock the boat.
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