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Arthur Camins Warns Democrats about Dangers of School Choice

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Author: dianeravitch

Arthur Camins, director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., has a warning for Democrats that school choice is a bad choice.

He omits Republicans because they have become the party of school choice and privatization.

School choice is an alluring term, but the reality is far different from the rhetoric.

He writes:

“In our culture the “the right to choose” suggests an almost inalienable individual right, making for powerfully resonant political rhetoric. However, behind the easy-to-swallow positive connotation of choice, there is underlying message in its use in the context of education. If stated explicitly, the message might cause a little indigestion: Be out for yourself and don’t worry so much about your neighbors or community…

“However, what is moral or sensible for an individual does not make for sound or just education policy for a society. The moral burden falls not on parents, but on those who knowingly advance the wellbeing of the few at the expense of the many….

“Supporters of equity and democracy must depend upon and develop agency and hope for community solutions because when there is only despair, the only rational course of action is individual survival. Ideological supporters of privatization understand this and actively undermine democratic participation and the promise of collective solutions. That is why since the 1980’s they have followed an explicit starve-the-beast strategy to defund public institutions in order to undermine quality, public trust, and confidence. That is why they favor private charter boards over elected school boards.
I have come to believe that the struggle for equity must include a tandem strategy of opposition and advocacy.
Friends of equity need to oppose funding charter school, not because choice is inherently a bad idea but because the spread of charter schools is morally corrosive and drains money from other local schools. Since funds are always limited, the opportunities for the few come with the sacrifice of others. “They are stealing your child’s future,” might be an appropriate opposition slogan. …

“Progress requires an opt-in campaign for local public schools based on community rather than individualist values. Advocacy should highlight the fundamental characteristics of effective public schools both in the U.S. and abroad and contrast these with prevalent market-based solutions….

“Candidates need to hear from the public: There are better choices than school choice to improve education.”

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