Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What About Everyone Else?

With all the moaning and wailing about how hypocritical liberals are opposed to school vouchers - which, of course, have a proven record of success - it's nice to see someone in the press gently tap the breaks on that runaway train by pointing out that vouchers (like charter schools) don't help nearly the number of children we need to if we want to dramatically reform education in the country.

The argument is pretty simple and I'm surprised that it's not made more often. It boils down to this: vouchers (and charter schools) may benefit those who are lucky enough to be part of the program. (Though there is some evidence to suggest that this is not the case.) However, even if those students benefit, what about the kids who are left in the traditional schools? What do we do about those kids? We've learned from the Milwaukee voucher experiment that the overall school system doesn't improve. Choice will breeding competition breeding success hasn't worked so far.

If we focus our efforts on saving a few kids while ignoring the rest, we aren't actually doing anything to close the achievement gap. All we're doing is adding another variable to the haves and have nots equation.

BONUS: Check out this article on the roots of urban poverty. According to the author, the ghetto culture that traps people into poverty should be viewed as a learned behavior. If true (and I think it is), it means that the behaviors can be unlearned and other attitudes put in their place. Ultimately, it's a very hopeful premise.

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