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School Choice Trade-Offs

Deborah Meier continues her conversation with Harry Boyte and David Randall, director of communications for the National Association of Scholars. To read their full exchange, please visit here.

Dear Harry and Friends,

Ah, Harry, you have a way with words. Stealing "public relations" from the business world (with the addition of "hips"). Having had our language so often stolen to sell the latest products in education, it's fun to see it reversed.

An example is the latest educational software programs sold under the label "personalized learning." The one thing that they eliminate for sure is anything we used to call "personal"—a real connection between two living beings.

But there are trade-offs that your response doesn't help me with. I'm faced, I think, with exploring which path I want to focus on. Where should we place our "organizing" time and resources?  What allies will be most crucial for the long run? Of course the answers are largely contextual but given the state and federal role in education some decisions are stark—for or against choice. For or against neighborhood schools.

There are serious educational benefits to choice—and it makes the benefits of a public community, a space where we all join together out of common interests and build ties that bind us together, very obvious.

But, it separates families and children from each other, even though there are ways to mitigate this if everyone wants to. It makes it easy to avoid difficult disagreements—for good and bad, and often leads others to find ways of dividing people who should be allies. Surely it makes it harder to empathize and learn about each other across lines of race, class, and ideology.

Some of the ugliest fights take place between neighbors arguing over their share of insufficient resources.

How is it working out in Minnesota, that has a pretty good charter law—no for-profits and maybe no national chains, I believe.


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