On the one hand, it’s hard to ‘nay say’ on school choice because why would anyone (without a vested interest in the dominant system) want to restrict the school choice of families? On the other, though, is the question of what constitutes the fulfillment of the provision of a paid-for public education. (I call it “paid-for” because the service isn’t free of charge, it is paid for with taxes)
This question of what constitutes an adequate paid-for education comes up, 1. because there was a discussion on HEM-Networking about ‘free market education’ in which I contributed my two cents, and 2. because a Google alert appeared in my inbox about Missouri being the 25th state with a virtual education program.
Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Missouri, 7 December 2006, Missouri moves toward virtual school
ST. LOUIS – Missouri will open a virtual school on the Internet next year with the promise of advanced instruction for bright students, make-up opportunities for those lagging behind and learning opportunities for home-schooled or sick children.
The plan is to let students take Advanced Placement courses or recover credits from failed classes while offering more classes to home-schooled or private-school children looking to expand their curriculum.
Already interest is high.
The provision of “opportunities” to “home-schooled or private-school” children is curious. There is already a provision for their educations and it is called public schooling. That the parents of these children choose not to use it is a personal decision. If parents voluntarily remove their children from a system, and elect to remain outside of it, why is that system still the go-to place for resources? How did the provision of an education expand to the provision of ‘the kind of education I want for my children?’
I am not in the camp that wants to eliminate the public school system, but I am in the camp of those who ask when enough is enough.
Even though I’ve seen the rationale that the public system provides a more expensive education than a privatized system would, I don’t buy it completely. That argument seems theoretically sound, but there are too many people around the world who languish because, on their own, the initial learning can’t be ‘bootstrapped.’ It would be as if you had not yet learned to read, and you were presented with a text in Chinese. How would you go about assigning meaning to the symbols without someone to teach you? Of course, once the majority of people in a population have been educated, and if that education is passed from parent to child within a culture of learning, then it can be argued that a private system is all that is necessary to maintain the learning. Unfortunately, we have too many examples of where, even with one generation after another being publicly schooled, there are still gaps in the process. The discussion of the mystery of effective education is far from simple.
Providing proto-citizens (children) with a basic education seems to be a reasonable thing to do, although what constitutes “basic” is probably controversial. Would basic literacy be provided via phonics, whole language, or a mixture? Would the study of arithmetic provide basic numerical literacy, or is instruction in higher math functions justified? Where does basic science end and advanced science begin? And what happens when the requirement to learn supplants the desire to learn? The questions, and proposed answers, fuel an industry that consumes billions of dollars each year.
What will ever constitute ‘enough?’ Who is supposed to provide the ‘enough?’ The People? Or, the people? Who will pay for it? The users? Everyone? Those with an interest?
And, given the rise of virtual education providers, is the focus we’re seeing on unschooling merely a transfer to one aspect of homeschooling of generalized ‘civilian’ unease about homeschooling now that the public system is co-opting the concept of education at home?
posted by Valerie