Tuesday, December 21, 2010
School Choice - All the Way Around
School choice advocates are seriously committed to the idea that parents and children know what is best for them in terms of their education - at least when it comes to choosing a school and where they want tax dollars allocated. The logical extension of this is the right and authority to choose how much or how little - or if any - school they want. And, there is something, maybe "ethical," in nearly all of us - save the most liberty-oriented of libertarians - that is reluctant to make schooling completely optional. And I wonder about that.
When I first entered public education, and began encountering issues of student motivation and truancy despite the best efforts of committed teachers and counselors, I briefly entertained the idea that schools need to back off on forcing education upon anyone. Of course, the benefits of a well-educated population and the responsibility of adults to guide children to the best long-term decisions are nearly indisputable. Society certainly needs to encourage - and perhaps at times require - that parents and children submit to mandatory education not only for "their own good" but for the good and stability of society.
But how much to "mandate" is the issue. It's no secret that I believe high school "graduation" should come at the age of sixteen, with the final two years of education reserved for academically motivated students. The expansion of career and technical education should become much more prominent, and the number of students who qualify for taxpayer-funded higher education should be limited based on much higher standards for admission into bachelor and master degree programs. Beyond that, I wonder about core requirements in middle and high school curricula.
Think about school choice. How serious are we? Should education be much more a la carte?