TO BE FAIR, IT’S NOT MEANT TO HELP EDUCATION, IT’S MEANT TO HELP TEACHERS’ UNIONS MAINTAIN SCHOOLS AS DEMOCRATIC PARTY VOTE FARMS: Megan McArdle: Demonizing School Choice Won’t Help Education: Critics of public schools aren’t the Bible-thumping racists that some liberals make them out to be.
Liberals who think that ad hominem is a sufficient rebuttal to a policy proposal should first stop to consider the role of Hitler’s Germany in spreading national health insurance programs to the countries they invaded. If you think “But Hitler” does not really constitute a useful argument about universal health coverage, then you should probably not resort to “But Jim Crow” in a disagreement over school funding.And, of course, calling their opponents Bible-thumping racists while feathering the nests of the upper classes and hardcore Democrat constituencies is what the progressive project is all about, these days.
Nor is it accurate, or useful, to imply that critics of failing “government schools” today are the direct descendants of those groups, who “really mean” that they want shelter for a racist and anti-gay agenda. No doubt there are people out there who want school choice for just this reason, just as some people out there want a national health program because it will be a more efficient way to implement their eugenics program. After 15 years of writing on the internet, I can guarantee you this: In a country of more than 300 million, at any given moment someone will be saying whatever appalling things you can imagine, and quite a few you couldn’t. Many of them will have taken the trouble to write down and publish their musings, at which point their ideological opponents will pounce to declare that this is obviously the secret key to the thinking of anyone who ever agreed with the author about anything.
None of these super-secret keys has ever opened the door to deeper understanding about anything except the mind of the person waving them. And Stewart’s plaint about the school choice movement is no exception. For many critics of failing government schools, myself among them, have drawn their support for school choice from quite a different source: failing government schools. Some of us actually attended those schools, and were fortunate enough to have parents with enough social or financial capital to get them out when the school broke down.
As we see it, members of the middle class in this country already enjoy quite a lot of school choice; if their local school is awful, they either send their kids to private school, or move. This allows nice liberal parents to proclaim their support for the democratic ideal of a common, public education, while sticking their own kids in an exclusive school. That school may be nominally “public,” but it comes bundled with granite countertops. . . . Time after time, more money was poured into schools, but produced little in the way of better results for anyone who didn’t happen to be employed by the school district. Time after time, when deeper institutional change was tried, the bureaucracies beat back the reformers. Failing teachers kept collecting their paychecks, and failing students ended up out on the street with no useful skills.