Monday, November 5, 2007

Who can "vouch" for schools as they currently are?

Vouchers…should we or shouldn’t we? It is probably a moot point because it won’t pass anyhow. However, just for fun let’s kick this around. I can afford to be a little objective and dispassionate because I home school my kids and would thus be unaffected either way.

But here is what I know to be true…any bureaucratic or government organization is about power and self preservation, even if they claim to have altruistic intentions. The other thing I know that, albeit ugly, capitalism works. Money is power. If the schools have the money they have the power (the individuals at the top, anyway) and if the children do, then they are upgraded to consumer, and thus have clout. Would the voucher give under privileged children a choice for once? It would appear so. I suppose if the special needs children or the immigrant children suddenly were armed with money there would magically appear out of a vapor a “product” that suited their needs. Supply and demand. The “one size fits all” of a public school cannot work in today’s society of diversity and growing numbers. I think there should be schools all over. All shapes, sizes and kinds to fit the needs of children of every ilk and disposition.

Would vouchers leave special needs children behind? Behind where? In the public schools where they are stuck already? Not if they have the dough to go somewhere better. (This concern is an example of where it seems the schools are more interested in staying in business than whether the children get what they need.) I question why the schools are fomenting the argument that all our hopes and dreams for a brighter future would be shattered if there were a voucher. Well, there isn’t a voucher now- where are all these great programs the possible voucher is preventing? Also I have heard the argument that schools would loose money when they loose students- I guess so- however if in the unlikely event that half the students opted out the school would only have the other half to afford educating. The scale would probably balance out. I suppose there would finally be some incentive for schools to be very good and competitive. And the free money they get whether they were any good or not would suddenly be something they would need to earn.

On the other hand- it could be a huge disaster if people were allowed options- chaos might ensue if we did not have the steadying hand of a government institution to maintain the status quo. I think it is important that we stay unemotional in the face of conjecture on either side. It could work and it may be a bust- at which point we scrap the whole idea and go back to the way it has always been.

Most people agree that some change is needed. The complaint against the current state of affairs has led to this idea of vouchers in the first place. But, change will rarely come about without a catalyst. With 30% of American kids dropping out before graduation and about half of the graduates going on to college one could argue that it is good enough, or one could argue it could be better. I guess we won’t know until we try.

In the end I have to say that it very well could be an awful idea to have a voucher…but I just can’t help smelling a rat when fear and false compassion are used as the argument to keep in business an institution who have long been incompetent and ambivalent, while the tip toppers are glutting themselves on ill gotten monopoly money. It has never been the public school system that has been great, it has always been outstanding teachers, individuals and students who have succeed in spite of it; I guess it is because of this that I have no particular loyalty to the antiquated, socialist regime we are all so afraid to let go of. Much in the way the Chinese fear loosing Communism- it is all they know and they have always been told they would fall apart if left to their own devices in a Democratic society. (Okay, that may have been an overblown comparison.)

Is a change risky? You bet. But that is what America has always been about from overthrowing the King onward…If the voucher bites the dust that is okay. It is just nice to know that somebody somewhere is getting creative and bucking the system. Or we can keep hoping things will change without actually trying anything new. Failure in risk, if it comes, is always a sign of progress.

1 comment:

Kathleen and Stephan Seable said...

Amen, sistah! Love, mom and dad