15 Comments

Loved this part “education isn’t just about what we want for our own children. It’s about the citizenry our schools are collectively creating.”

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The kids belong to the parents not to the state

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Congratulations! Well written and well argued. An appropriately tentative approach to a difficult issue that involves balancing philosophies of educational achievement with personal "political" variables.

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We've spent decades trying to improve public schools. We've greatly increased per pupil spending (after accounting for inflation) and yet not seen much improvement.

There are numerous reasons for this, but I think the core of it is lack of competition. Unless you are very well off sending your kids to a private school simply isn't affordable. So we doom millions and millions of kids to failing public schools each year. With many schools having less than a third of students meeting grade level expectations. Just like in EVERY other aspect of life real competition is needed. Competition keeps quality up and costs down.

All schools (public, private and homeschooled) should be held to the same standard. If they can't meet them they should be reformed or shut down. Students should have to pass tests each year to make sure that they have learned the required information, if they don't they shouldn't move on to the next grade. All that being said, even without those strict standards I have a LOT more faith in private religious schools to properly educate kids than I do with our current public schools.

And the parent should be able to put the child into the school of their choice, that includes religious schools as long as they meet the basic standards. The child belongs to the parent NOT the state.

Regarding evolution it's very easy to teach. Evolution within species is readily observable. You can take dogs and breed them big and small, hairy and not hairy. Evolution OF species, and in particular evolution of man is not. There's still huge gaps between what a lot of scientists suspect and what we actually know.

It's quite possible for people to be familiar with a scientific theory even if they disagree with some or all of the conclusions.

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After 80 years of failing to fix something as basic as reading instruction, you'd think we would have figured out that the "public" schools will not and cannot be reformed: "My Child Will Read": http://mychildwillread.org/

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You are correct: "No, we are not going to fix the public schools": https://daveziffer.substack.com/p/no-we-are-not-going-to-fix-the-public

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I have the impression that the biggest problem with "standards" is that a growing number of parents (and thus families) don't trust government any more. At all. What exactly they distrust varies, and the reasons for their distrust vary, but whichever way, for pluralism to work government involvement needs to be near zero. Lots of things need to get tried. It's the only way to find best practices.

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An easier solution is minimalism. Return to the pre-1946 norm when most people finished public school at 8th grade. Just stop the public aspect after that, let apprenticeships or plain old jobs or specialized trade schools take over the rest. Reading and writing are the only skills that NEED to be taught in a common way. Everything else that happens in public schools has always been political.

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I don't think 8th grade education is sufficient for most people to succeed in today's world.

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While Berner’s vision of educational pluralism perilously skirts several hard truths. The notion of funding ideologically driven schools under the guise of choice is less a solution and more an invitation to deepen societal rifts. Public funding for religious schools, irrespective of indirect channels, violates the essential principle of separating church and state.

Natalie, your analysis is thought-provoking, particularly in highlighting the historical context and the nuanced challenges of implementing pluralism. However, historical precedents of educational pluralism in America are not necessarily models for contemporary policy, especially given the strides we’ve made in secular education. Creating ideologically homogeneous schools does not lower societal conflict but rather entrenches divisions by educating children in echo chambers. The practicality of implementing such a system in the diverse and expansive U.S. context seems fraught with challenges and risks further entrenching ideological divides. Real progress demands that we wrestle with the complexities of consensus and foster a unified, secular educational framework that promotes critical inquiry and democratic integrity.

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Unfortunately your idealism falls totally flat in the real world. Our secular, pluralistic wonders have now produced three or four generations of people who largely cannot even read, and whose thoughts are therefore largely confined to the crap they ingest daily from their TVs. Jerry Springer reruns, anyone? "My Child Will Read": http://mychildwillread.org/

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Thanks for the—as usual—cogent and clear analysis. The 1000 flowers reference reminded me of Mao; I wonder about “100 schools of thought” in that quotation, too. I wondered, too, about the plight of students with disabilities were 1000 schools to materialize. What would become of the concept of “free and appropriate public education?” (Although that term is US centric, I think many other countries have a comparable idea in education law.) Would it be necessary for all those 1000 schools to provide FAPE? How would FAPE be ensured? Might some schools that cater specifically to students with disabilities pop up? Of course, some specialized schools already exist. In what way are they (or are they not) important in consideration of the 1000 flowers proposal?

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Today there are no visible bread lines because many of your fellow shoppers carry EBT cards. They are not constrained to use these cards at a nationwide collection of government-run groceries; rather they have full access to the 1000 groceries of food provided by the largely free marketplace. Their special dietary needs are met in the same way the rest of us meet them. But because we are so thoroughly brainwashed in the idealistic BS of our centuries-old tradition of "public education", whose true originators never intended to create what we have today, we cannot imagine anything else: "No, we are not going to fix the public schools": https://daveziffer.substack.com/p/no-we-are-not-going-to-fix-the-public

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Ontario has 4 publicly funded school boards: English/French/Public/Catholic. The history of how we ended up with this system is… specific. While there are some pros to the system, I’m not convinced it has mended any divides. (I grew up resenting Catholic schools for getting more funding/student than public schools; my now friend grew up thinking that anti-francophone language laws repealed in the nineties were still in effect!)

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Is it any surprise that the Manhattan Institute loves her?

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