A CLEAN START: THE MANDATE FOR EDUCATION
Americans bathe everyday, and in doing so set themselves apart from almost all other peoples and, indeed, from their own forbears not much longer than a generation ago. The fact of Americans' frequent bathing is a triumph of public education which challenges the evidence of public schools' pervasive failure to generate avid learners with equal facility. Increasingly, however, people conceive that "common" schools perform certain tasks (such as the indoctrination crucial to personal hygiene) better than others (such as the inspiration needed to launch a career of learning).
The current political season offers the spectacle of a major candidate whose strongest constituency is the National Education Association (NEA) but who calls on volunteers to teach third graders how to read, while another major candidate demands educational choice independent of the teachers and who attacks the NEA in language usually reserved for the NRA (National Rifle Association).
Nevertheless, it is still the case that we may anticipate a mandate to do something regarding the
perceived failures of public education. That mandate will doubtless center on the incongruity
identified above, namely that public schools, when they undertook to inculcate habits of personal
hygiene succeeded beyond imagination but have not attained like success with respect to inculcating
habits of personal mental hygiene. We may fairly conclude that a monolithic organization and
lock-step approach for some reason work in the one case but not in the other. That, in turn, will
produce a demand for devolution and decentralization in education, precisely in proportion as
people conceive that the goal of producing avid learners is infinitely more valuable than that of
producing bodily cleanliness. The model of welfare reform will constitute the basis of education
reform hereafter, the important exception being that the locus of reform will be the state house
rather than Congress.
A Brief History of Education
Mass education has been this country's most important domestic social policy. The idea of schooling for all has had a powerful hold on American political consciousness since the founding era. In large part, both American political culture and educational policy have been shaped by a commitment to equality. Thus, the rise of common schools in the United States in the 1830s is attributed to Jacksonian notions of social equality as the means to uplift all Americans by providing free elementary education for every child. A second goal of educational theorists in the Jacksonian period was to create a trained educational corps to instill notions of a common American culture among an ever-increasing immigrant population. Third, and finally, educators of the Jacksonian era sought to ensure a role for state governments in controlling educational policy. For without central control over curricula, attendance, quality of teachers, and infrastructure, the entire Jacksonian enterprise would have fallen apart.(1)
The rise of common schools throughout the United States in the Jacksonian period was partly
inspired by elites who also sought to educate children for the developing industrial society. They
relied on democratic political institutions and thus embraced the view that education had to be
compulsory. Yet compulsory education had its opponents. Agricultural families saw no benefit in
sending their children to schools when there was work to be done at home. Theorists of
individualism opposed approaches that required state coercion. What could not be denied,
however, was that, by the 1830s, work was no longer the preserve of the home. The separation of
work and home life, though in its initial stage of development during the Jacksonian period, was
already being noted by politicians and educational reformers. In fact, by the end of the 1830s,
industrial states such as New York and Massachusetts had adopted compulsory attendance laws
aimed specifically at poor and agricultural families. After the Civil War, many other states followed.
When Mississippi passed a compulsory education law in 1918, the process was complete.(2)
The idea of social harmony among classes and ethnic groups further informs the common school movement in ante-bellum America. To Horace Mann, for example, free public schools would inculcate and spread the salutary virtue of hard work, which, he envisioned, would lead to the elimination of poverty. Mann dreamed of the day when the lot of the common man would be so uplifted by the benefits of public education that crime would be eliminated, class conflict would abate, and the destiny of the young republic would be fulfilled as a nineteenth century version of an Athenian polis.
Mann's approach to education was a mixture of Jeffersonian republicanism, Christian evangelism, and Emersonian idealism. He followed Thomas Jefferson in believing that freedom can best be advanced through the mass distribution of education. Unlike Jefferson, however, Mann emphasized the moral requirements of education. The discipline of the free schools must be the discipline of the individual. Calvin Stowe, commissioned by the Ohio legislature to study the Prussian school system, reported that its success was based on the rigorous training of a committed teachers corps.(3)
To Mann, "Never will wisdom preside in the halls of legislation and its profound utterances be
recorded on the pages of the statute book, until Common schools...create a more far-seeing
intelligence and a purer morality than has ever existed among communities of men."(4)
American reformers in the ante-bellum period were largely concerned with instilling morality in children. To Orestes Brownson, a critic of Stowe and Mann, true morality lay close to home. He advocated localism and the control of school districts by local district leaders.(5)
Yet despite deep difference between Brownson and Mann, they both agreed that education should be universal. The real question, Brownson noted, is not, "Shall our children be educated?, but To what end shall they be educated, and by what means?"(6)
Theories of educational development during this period, though not without content, were more concerned with grand images of republican reformation rhetoric. The general agreement as to what constituted a liberal education and the need to reorient Americans' attitudes after the American Revolution was shared by intellectuals of all political persuasions, having been initiated by Daniel Webster in the immediate environment of the Founding.
Benjamin Rush, for example, had noted that a people founded on a revolutionary morality is ill prepared for the task of governance. The instilling of codes of behavior had to be directed from the perch of the common schools and tied to notions of frugality, industry and equality. Fearing the rise of inequalities fostered by unrestrained commercial activity at home, and a desire to imitate the great monarchies of Europe abroad, early American reformers of education such as Rush sought to channel the passions of young Americans (male and female) in the direction of inclusiveness and moderation. Early educators, then, sought to free children from the vainglory of European educational practices, while at the same time, shaping American children through the power of a common American culture committed to the simple virtues of a free people.
The Civil War largely threatened notions of Americans as a people of simple virtues. The onslaught of industrialization, the rise and displacement of a working class, the influence of business leaders in government and on local educational boards, the use of patronage to distribute government jobs, the dispersal of whole communities in search of work, the influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, and the 1863 emancipation of American blacks tested every notion reformers had about the ease of implementing a common moral code in the school system.
Following the Civil War, New England, whose public and private schools had been
essentially indistinguishable, began to develop sharply distinguished public and private
schools (except in Vermont). This event, in a region known for its public spiritedness, is
attributable to a reaction among New England Protestant elites to the increasing presence
of Irish and German Catholics in the school system. Indeed, in time these Catholic groups,
convinced that the prevailing school system was not designed for them, would soon abandon
the system in search of their own religious schools. The same developments characterized
early school efforts in the Midwest, which had benefitted from educational "missionaries"
from New England. Still, in the Midwest in particular, and partially in the South (that is, to a
much lesser degree because of its overall homogeneity and its ante-bellum hostility toward
governmental enterprises), support for public education (among Protestants) at the primary
and secondary level remained high. Indeed, in the post-War period, many mid-western
states, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, took pride in capping their public school systems
with public universities.(7)
The uniformity of the development of common schools throughout the United States, both before the Civil War and immediately after, was the product of reformist attempts to create an educational system that could accommodate an increasingly diverse population situated within an increasingly industrialized society. In an attempt to come to grips with these changes, largely Protestant reformers sought to institute a program, on a state by state basis, to meet the demands of federalism, assimilation, standardization, and centralization. In large part, this process was to be achieved through non-intrusive uses of state power. In other words, the state was not to act in opposition to societal demands but in response to such demands. The use of state and local governments in directing educational policy in the post-Civil War period was largely the result of the increasingly diverse membership of school boards that had come about through the changing demographics of urban centers.
Throughout the nineteenth century, school districts became susceptible to interest group influence. Business leaders, who largely controlled school boards in most major cities by the twentieth century,(8)
were interested in vocational training and efficiency.(9)
German Catholics in Chicago were intent on maintaining their language in the public school
system in the face of Polish Catholic attempts for neutrality on language requirements in
schools. And nativist Protestants created a backlash against immigrant populations by
putting increasing pressure on school boards to maintain their own notions of morality,
which were rooted in republicanism.(10)
With the introduction of industrialization into American political life in the latter half of the nineteenth century, educational reformers became increasingly diversified in their approaches to schooling. Support for public schools increased throughout the nineteenth century (again, mainly among Protestants), but proposals to maintain standards, or to reform schools outright, garnered less support from the general populace. Rural towns, for example, became disenchanted with compulsory education. In a survey of 500 school-aged children outside of Chicago on their attitudes toward school and work in 1909, a reporter noted that 412 preferred working in a factory to a day in school.(11)
Moreover, the class-based arguments of the reformers for increasing centralization and
standardization, based on corporate models of efficiency that operated in big cities, was
revealed to be of little use to large immigrant communities. Catholics revolted against
Protestant-controlled school boards by turning to church-run schools. Indeed, to Protestant
reformers in general, the purpose of public education at the turn of the century was to
control the behavior of the unruly, new (Catholic) masses.(12)
By the turn of this century, the direction of educational reform was toward utilitarianism. As America completed its expansion westward, business leaders recognized the opportunity to recast education in terms of the demands of the factory age. Andrew Carnegie hailed the twentieth century as a "new age of education." He wanted education at the primary and secondary levels to reject scholarship and instead focus on the demands of everyday life. As Benjamin Rush before him, Carnegie rejected the teaching of Greek and Latin in grade schools as a giant waste of time. But Carnegie was not alone. The Governor of Michigan hailed the twentieth century as a "practical age." The state superintendent of Michigan declared that nineteenth century educational practices had overlooked "the fact that in about four times out of five the practical man expresses his thought by the hand rather than by the words."(13)
As utilitarian notions of education spread throughout the country, specialist professionals arose to direct the administration of schools. By the 1930s, all states had elaborate certification laws, a division of functional responsibility among principals, teachers, and administrators, and special programs for handicapped and disadvantaged children.(14)
The dominant view among educational reformers was that the old way of thinking about education, which relied on neighborhood schools, an emphasis on common cultural landmarks increasingly familiar to Protestants only, untrained and unskilled teachers, harsh treatment of children, poorly designed schools, and the domination of nativist, class-based, anti-immigrant sentiments among educational elites was no longer tenable.
Administrative reformers in the first quarter of the twentieth century accepted corporate methods of educational administration (that is to say, the appropriateness of centralization), without accepting its reductionist conclusions. Specialization, they argued, had created separate classes of people within school systems. The influence, not only of business leaders on school boards, but of their control over school curricula, had radically changed educational notions rooted in ideas of republican self-sufficiency for all. These twentieth century Progressive reformers, then, saw the state in other terms than their nineteenth century counterparts.
By mid-twentieth century, it became necessary for educational reformers to defend public schools on the basis of their ability to transcend class conflicts. For public schools to survive, the working classes, had to be seen as potential citizens, rather than as potential enemies of the dominant culture. This drive for inclusiveness was facilitated by the openness of American electoral politics, especially after women were admitted to the suffrage. In Europe whole classes of people were deprived either of the vote or of the privileges of common education. Not surprisingly, class-based notions of exclusion dominated European educational reform rhetoric. In the United States, by contrast, with the large exception of American blacks, access to the ballot box and to public schools was (relatively speaking) easily achieved.
But at the same time that America was taking in greater numbers of people from abroad, and education was becoming more widespread, it became possible to speak of the eclipse of democratic schooling before mid century.(15)
Specifically, public school boards viewed their constituents with increasing suspicion. Catholics were "romanists" and "papists" who fought to purge schools of the King James version of the Bible, while Jews were anarchists and socialists, who were poisoning America's values. Increasingly, in what can only be seen as a rearguard action, educators focused on narrow topics of American civic life to instill children with versions of America that were consensus-laden and devoid of real learning, while a rising cultural relativism began to undermine the notion of a specific republican heritage to be preserved.
By mid-century, the relationship between the development of industrialization in America and its effect on local school districts could no longer be denied. Neighborhoods became increasingly fragmented as ethnic groups shifted around urban centers only to be replaced by other ethnic groups. Blacks, historically marginalized both politically and economically, were denied quality education, and in some cases, education outright. Throughout the first quarter of the twentieth century, blacks had only limited access to high schools throughout Georgia(16)
(despite the fact that several of the historically black colleges and universities operated in the state). Moreover, neighborhoods throughout America were no longer the homogenous, small-town entities they once were. In the absence of federal and state funding, communities had to go in search of infusions of money from businessmen, who, in turn, sought control over their finances. The introduction of automobiles and the trolley, and the mass distribution of radio and other communication devices all contributed to the breakdown of traditional neighborhoods. Life, suddenly, was elsewhere. The fragmentation of urban life, spurned on by industrialization and the rapidity of economic development in the first quarter of the twentieth century, did as much to force educators to rethink traditional educational practices as any other force in American life.
The response by educators to the problems in American social life following the 1930s was in several directions. The first response was moral. In the 1920s and '30s, in the face of increasing social fragmentation, schools instituted dress and moral codes: girls were taught to be lady-like, and boys were taught to act like men. The introduction of mass culture and its appeal to the young in the 1920s was a further source of trouble for educators. The increasing ease of American life following World War I, generated by turning citizens into purchasers through the spread of commercial activity, in fact further threatened homogeneous communities who had put their faith in an educational system dedicated to ensuring the betterment of their condition. The return to normalcy in the 1920s meant that Americans could partake of their individual pleasures and engage in private life without regard to the outside world. To meet the challenges of social anomie that was increasingly apparent among those under 25, school hours were increased "to insure a smooth transition from youth to adulthood and from dependence to productivity."(17)
As Church and Sedlak have noted, "Keeping these youths under the control of the school
would protect them from alienation, radicalism, and the lure of crime until they were old
enough to find jobs and become productive workers."(18)
Yet another response to changes in the American economy and its effect on education was to make secondary schools better so that high schoolers could get into more prestigious (often, private) colleges. This was meant to be a return to "standards." This movement was largely undertaken by non-elites who wanted what elites had been achieving for years: access to the best schools regardless of religion or race.
Another and related response was the attack on the quality of public schools just after World
War II. Reformers in this case claimed that schools had become too professionalized and too
bureaucratic. Too much emphasis had been placed on training teachers to teach without
telling them what to teach. In large part, the emphasis of this group of reformers was on
scientific achievement. The arms race and Sputnik were crucial to the development of
American educational practices throughout the 1950s and '60s. Not surprisingly, physicists
such as Harvard's president James Bryant Conant and Naval Admiral Hyman Rickover
wrote books on the crisis of American education.(19)
Educational changes throughout the 1950s and early 1960s were designed to meet the claims of an increasingly suburban population concerned with achieving status and financial success. Not surprisingly, suburban schools, which were supported by a growing tax base, met the challenges of Rickover and Conant quicker and with less difficulty than urban schools. As families moved to "Levittown" and "Middletown," city schools suffered from a shrinking tax base and an immigrant population that lacked language and technical skills. Consequently, suburban schools became what suburban parents hoped for: preparatory schools for the best colleges, while city schools were abandoned by taxpayers and fell into desuetude. Coupled with the rush to consolidated school districts, this produced a concentration of difficulties which constitute, even today, the source of most of the problems discussed in the discourse about education reform, and which at length has encompassed even the suburban asylums.
The next substantial phase of education reform consisted of what has come to be called the "home schooling" movement -- in fact a return to an earlier educational tradition. This movement has been notable primarily for focusing educational reform outside of the primary structures of institutional education. Beginning where the reforms of the 1950s and 1960s left off, this movement challenges the very premises of the "modern" educational developments which had served to enhance state control over education. Having originated in critiques of the Orwellian, "organization man" approach to education by liberal, secular humanists, it eventuated in the development of fundamental, religiously oriented concerns.(20)
The "home schooling" movement is particularly instructive for our purposes, not only because its increasing numbers (estimates run to one million students currently) but because it illustrates in a concrete manner the role of parents as consumers even under circumstances which do not vigorously encourage such a role. Despite powerful official resistance to the movement and the early criminalization of such conduct, its growth and increasing acceptability led eventuality to the adoption of a recommended approach, adopted by the National Association of State Boards of Education, which suggests fertile grounds for the development of principles supportive of education in general. The Association recommended five basic standards for dealing with home schools:
(A) home-schooled children be required to register with the local school system, county, or state;
(B) minimal criteria such as teacher certification and approved curriculum materials be established by states;
(C) parents be required to report student progress to school officials quarterly for two years;
(D) a system of evaluation be adopted for home schoolers; and
(E) a system of probation and remediation be instituted for students who do not make adequate progress during the school year.(21)
We cite these standards here not in order to recommend them, but to illustrate the manner in which a decidedly non-public mode of education may nonetheless be conceived as operating within a framework of public regard and support for education. One may indeed argue that the entire burden of all the education reform movements has been to identify the correct mode of articulating the concept of public education even more than to identify the "one best" manner of educating children. In that context, what "home schooling" offers is the lesson that the ends of public education do not necessarily prescribe public means of education. Nor will it serve to reason from the potential for this or that parent to fail in the enterprise. Because one set of parents cannot provide all that their child needs in the way of education, must it follow that one thousand parents must not be permitted to provide any of their children's educational needs? It suffices to pose the question to answer it, of course not. The only task, then, is to accommodate public responsibility to provide for unusual cases along with private responsibility for the ordinary cases.
In a short history of schooling in America, it is impossible to include all the influences and programs for reform that exist. We have concentrated on the highlights of the dominant reform efforts as they met a society that was in continuous flux. A word, however, must be said about the role of markets in American educational theory. John Chubb's and Terry Moe's work, Politics, Markets, and America's Schools (Brookings, 1990) advocates replacing educational establishments with a market approach that would allow parents and children the freedom to choose their own schools, regardless of residency. The thrust of their work is that as schools will have to survive on the basis of treating students as consumers, only the best schools will survive. The end result will be innovative approaches to education and an overall improvement in educational capacities. In the context of the history of education reform movements, this may be seen as a fairly modest proposition.
On the other hand, Kevin Smith and Kenneth Meier have written The Case Against School Choice: Politics, Markets, and Fools (M.E. Sharpe, 1995), which argues not only that school choice can not work, but that Chubb's and Moe's research is so fundamentally flawed that it is impossible to make the case that they can work. Without going deeply into their respective arguments, it suffices to say that Chubb's and Moe's work is advances the discussion of efforts at reform. In our era the dominant strain in American educational development has been mildly statist at the state and local level (the federal government's role in education is both insignificant and relatively new), with a bow toward localism and decentralization.
The dynamic aspect of Chubb's and Moe's work is that a market system will improve the quality of education. As we have seen, however, education encompasses civic functions as well as intellectual and technical aspects. It is, then, an open question how this broad notion of education plays out in their work. The proof, as we say, is in the pudding. Even a critic of American education, such as Diane Ravitch, who has found much to criticize about education in this century, is hopeful that educational reform is still possible "through the disciplined use of intelligence, allied with cooperation and good will."
For the purposes of this study, accordingly, the important aspect to consider is whether public education requires the direct, public administration of educational enterprises. What gives urgency to this question is the compelling evidence that public schooling has been driven off of virtually every conceivable argument in its behalf, there remaining only the "safety net" fallacy to sustain it. The "safety net" argument holds that there will always be children whose special needs cannot be met by any conceivable array of voluntaristic instrumentalities. But that argument holds up no better than those that preceded it. The argument for civic mindedness has fallen before the recognition that the necessary standards of moral and cultural neutrality in our society are incompatible with any attempt at genuine civic instruction in public schools. The argument for common language has been dethroned by the demands for multilingual instruction, recognized as a trump that defeats any public goal of unilingualism. The argument for democratic socialization has been embarrassed by the reality of wide-spread drug use and other social dysfunctions in public schools. Clearly, socialization in bad habits is not a defense of public schools. And the argument for universal literacy has encountered the reality that, in proportion as public schooling has become more universal literacy levels have become less universal. That leaves only the "safety net" fallacy, since no one has ever argued that public schools were in themselves necessary for any learning whatever.
The "safety net" argument deserves respect, insofar as it maintains that students of extraordinary
needs deserve the support of the society at large. And it is true that the instrumentalities of public
schooling have often been capable of making generous efforts on behalf of such children in a way
that it is difficult for one to conceive of having been accomplished otherwise. In context, however,
we are forced to consider the evidence -- repeated in this study -- that public schools fail a far
greater number of children whose educational needs are ordinary than any conceivable number of
special needs children we can expect to see. Thus, the "safety net" argument seems to require a
trade-off which no one should willingly make -- a sacrifice of the many for the few. Indeed, it
suffices merely to articulate the reality to recognize that it is unacceptable if not unthinkable.
Therefore, apart from the fact that public schooling exists, there is no general argument in its behalf
which is compelling today.
What is Public Education?
Pubic Education may be defined instrumentally as the provision for well nigh universal literacy and numeracy. Such a goal is eminently attainable, no less than the eradication of polio. Where that goal is accepted, there remains but to consider the means of pursuing it, in relation to which the first acknowledgment that is necessary is that public resources must be applied to the purpose. However, it would be well not to confuse the public purpose with the public means. Public education is not reducible to the amount of money the public spends on education.
The instrumental definition of public education will prove unsatisfactory to some. They will desire a
nobler statement to justify the public's hopes from education. The instrumental definition, however,
by no means responds to the question of what hopes justified the adoption of such a definition. We
conceive that the original republican conception of an educated citizenry remains the principal
motivation for public concern with education. Further, we do not doubt that the idea of an educated
citizen includes thoughtful familiarity with the founding principles of American life, an appreciation
for the fundamental human rights and liberties whose existence precedes the establishment of
republican institutions, devotion to and pride in the responsibility of self-government, and
recognition of an obligation to the well-being of free society. We maintain, however, that those
goals are achieved by means of the application of skills of literacy and numeracy, early attained and
applied to the texts and opportunities that reinforce the centrality of self-sufficiency in navigating
republican existence. We are confident that a free people who possess those fundamental tools will
not fail to apply them to these objectives. In that sense, public education must be willing to trust to
skilled individuals the acquisition of those understandings necessary to the life of freedom, rather
than to presuppose a ritual of indoctrination as the only means to convey them. When the public has
provided for the acquisition of such skills, it has done all that can reasonably be called public
education. When the Constitution of the State of Michigan declared (Article VIII, Sec. 1) that
"Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of
mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged," it understood that the
power of government could not extend beyond encouraging the existence of such means; the
power of government could not directly purvey the goal of "good government," which results from
the exertions of educated citizens. When the Constitution of the State of Michigan further
committed itself (Sec.2, same article) to "maintain and support a system of free public elementary
and secondary schools," it understood that the support it had to give must justify itself in light of the
obligation to encourage "means" of education which could further the purpose. For all practical
purposes, schools are free when available to parents of children without cost. Nothing more is
required to establish a "system" of public education.
Michigan Plan for School Improvement
The Michigan plan for school improvement must begin where the State's Constitution drafters left off, placing confidence in the citizens of a democratic society. When parents instead of third parties can make the crucial decision regarding where their children will be schooled, one increases the likelihood of good fit between the needs of children and the resources of citizens. This principle constitutes the foundation of the recommendations in this study, and it requires some explanation since it may seem counter-intuitive.
It is a common place that the theory of democratic society calls for an educated citizenry. What is less often noted, however, is that the citizens themselves bear the responsibility to acquire that education not matter what their station in life. Because democracy emphasizes collective decision making, it is sometimes easy for people to neglect the connection between individual decisions and collective decisions. Thus, they may come to form hopes based on the outcome of democratic decision making that ought properly to be founded in their own decisions. Today, people most often speak of empowering citizens where the Founders spoke of self-government as the fundamental condition of democracy. It comes to the same thing, however; namely, that unless individuals retain the power, and exercise the right, to decide the basic conditions of life on their own, there is no hope that they can ever govern effectively acting together.
With regard to Michigan education we found that it is mainly confusion about the responsibilities of citizens and the responsibilities of the State that causes anxiety about the system of education. Because they believe that education should be democratic, they imagine that it will become so only if directly provided by the democratic state. They imagine that what they do on their own is somehow not a art of democratic governing. Thus, even when they have confidence in their own judgment, and reasonable anxieties regarding the effectiveness of education, they incline to imagine no means of improving education separate from further reliance upon State provision -- skipping over altogether the possibility of making a difference themselves.
This portrait is amply demonstrated in the responses of two separate groups of informed citizens
whom we gathered in a focus group study in order to evaluate the conditions likely to be prevalent
in the State with respect to undertaking the fundamental framework reform we now recommend.
Among the points these citizens made, a general summary highlights the following:(22)
Good things about Public Schools
Teachers care about teaching
School environment is an extension of the community
Extra curricular activities
Multiculturalism and respect are taught
Caliber of teachers
Have seen other schools without parent participation
Parents need to encourage other parents
Parent participation helps keep students quiet
Great communication with teachers
Parents are a great resource, need better participation, thinks there is a fear factor
Unsatisfactory things in Public Schools
Non focus on Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic
No difference in education for all levels with combined classes
School system is afraid to discipline
Moved because wanted kids to go to a good school
Found school with better MEAP scores
American educational system is behind international competitors
Schools don't think about pleasing customers
Schools are afraid to discipline
Son went to 4 high schools. Had a difficult time and teachers were difficult
Big difference between public and private
Horrendous difference between school resources
Disparity between school systems
All children deserve the best
How does community pay for the best?
Administrative change might help
Too much waste
Things are not available to kids. Majority of kids are not being provided with basics
Other Types of Schools
Private non-profit parochial children do not get exposed to a diverse population
Private for profit is good because school is more responsible to parents
Part-owner of school would make a difference
Would be working to make the best school available
Discipline problems are the parent's fault
Too many people would not use money for children
Tax credit isn't good
Schools do not receive financing equally
Financing is equal among students within a school but not between districts
All children should be financed, not just ones below certain income level
Financial caps won't work because circumstances change for individuals
All children should get the same amount
Schools of choice are an example of pleasing the parents
Control - Where do you place your confidence
Local Department of Education should be in control
Don't like the school board all being from similar backgrounds
There are big government employees and no common people running for board
Do not want anonymous state level people making choices for local children
Local government might have the same stigma
There is a perception that state government and state department of education are
Who should be more involved in school government and decision making
Taxpayers in local schools
Shouldn't go to taxpayers for approval because veto mileage
Decisions shouldn't be made by taxpayers
Local businesses because they know what type of employees they are looking for
Not local political leaders
Yes, local leaders i.e. parents
Put together your favorite school board
local business leaders
Local School Systems
Parental environment is the most important determinant of education outcome
Ridiculous to revamp system - - not a solution
Mr. Durant has a conservative perspective
Going in the wrong direction
Don't throw more money at the school systems
Already have something that works, why fix it?
Parents should be made to attend one day a month of school
More likely for parent-teacher interaction
Parents need to insure that kids are given quality work i.e. Xeroxing, copying
Parents need to complain at schools
Teacher morale is low
Don't like salary
Don't feel support from management/school board
If money were no object, choice of schools:
Private-for-profit with profit going back into the school. Need business heads working in
the educational community.
Mt. Clemens put money back into system with company
Likes public schools but just went to a charter. Top notch materials, computers in every
home, laptop for every teacher. Education ideas in charter are wonderful. Wants public
schools to back off.
Likes public school education. Brother and sister went to private. Private does not have
diversity. People learn from diverse groups. Aesthetics and resources are a plus, but
prefers public because not limited
Students need to live in real world and private schools are not real world
Public schools offer diverse courses and clubs private cannot.
If you were a share holder of school?
We are shareholders, taxpayer owns public schools
still prefer public schools
strives for equality; wants people to show up at board meetings and voice opinions
In larger communities, parents are afraid to voice opinion, parents feel lost
If parents complain the school will change
Wants someone else to take the reins
Parents need knowledge in education
Parents need to be involved
Parents have more power than they know
What would help make a transition for parents to become involved?
Hard issue, may parents are struggling for survival. Don't have employment skills, may
not be literate. Can't meet the needs of kids. Love kids but don't get involved. Might
mean hand holding. Takes outreach from one parent to another like driving neighbor up to
sign child up for club. Do outreach, ask other parents to help out. Communities need to
empower each other
Everyone might leave one particular school and is not fair to the school
Doesn't want kids in violent schools
Inner city schools would move
violence and drugs are every where, not just inner city schools
Administrator's kids don't go to public schools. There is a great disconnect
Business leaders need to be involved. Have them buy into our schools
Had a hard time accessing administrators
Business owner contribute to schools
They have a vested interest in kids coming out of schools
Everyone has a vested interest
Thinks government is trying to destroy public education more at the state level
Difficult to agree how to get well educated people
State government people are not in touch with reality. Have goals but don't know how to
get there or have a plan
Financing and Caps
It will never happen
Won't happen because policy makers make more than $150K
Who will regulate? Will children with special disabilities get extra money?
Not workable and is a bad idea
Won't float; should be democratic in nature
Despite the dispiriting effect of reviewing some of these reservations by thoughtful citizens,
there is a glimmer of hope to be found here. It is apparent that these citizens, at least,
believe that the State's commitment to public education is a good thing, and they are open to
demonstration regarding how best to do it (despite a habit of expecting the State to do it
directly). The New Framework for Public Education in Michigan answers their questions
regarding the efficacy of parental decision, equitable State funding, and educational
improvement. In the last analysis, the Michigan plan for school improvement must enlist the
faithful participation of citizens such as these, not only to pave the way for a renewal of
hope in public education but also in order to vindicate our well founded hopes in democracy.
In Michigan we find reason to expect timely intervention in the evidence of successful
models and the opinions of state leaders who recognize the need to provide greater flexibility
in order to assure opportunities for educational success for all children in the State. A case
study of compelling simplicity may be seen in the form of the Reading and Language Arts
Center in Bloomfield. Janet Beales reports that the Center began in 1991, with an
entrepreneur and two tutors whom she trained in the Orton-Gillingham method. In the five
years since they have enjoyed 110% annual revenue increases and now operate three centers
in suburban Detroit serving 800 clients.(23) Earlier this year State Superintendent Ellis
summed up the task in an interview:
We read most today about the cultural difference between east and west Michigan, not only
north and south. And in an educational sense, I think the aspirations of parents in the
eastern part of the state are different from the aspirations of parents in the western part of
the state. Not that they want better or less educated children, but they want their children
educated in a different way, and perhaps even in different subject matters and emphasis.(24)
Superintendent Ellis indicates that Michigan needs to reconsider the locus of decision
making, in order to facilitate the process of fitting resources to needs. In the same interview
he urged that "education is the only important thing government does"and that previous
efforts to focus resources on needs (MEAP redistributions) failed because of a system failure
to build consensus on getting "money in the hands of the districts that were perceived to
have the greatest needs." In this light the present occasion is an opportunity to rethink the
fundamental terms of the distribution of education resources, but in such a manner as to
prevent the competition among schools from skewing the distribution to students.
The present study demonstrates how Michigan will accomplish this lofty goal, all within the
context of restructuring the governance of education in the State while reinforcing the
State's commitment to public education. The ultimate story here is the story of new
dimensions in the privatization movement, a movement which has attracted detractors as
well as advocates. Later in this study we respond specifically to the legitimate concerns of
people who fear excessive privatization. Here, however, we borrow the language of
thoughtful detractors to reinforce the very reason we have chosen this path. We locate the
correct expression of our views precisely in the words of three Spanish commentators who
declare themselves not "converted to the ideas of Hayek -- the implacable exterminator of
the public realm:"
Lo público no es deleznable por si mismo, ni lo privado es la panacea que resuelve todos los
problemas. Ni las empresas privadas son siempre eficaces, ni las públicas --
desgraciadamente -- se identifican con el interés general. Existen empresas públicas
ineficientes, pero hay muchas empresas públicas que también lo son... Sobre todo...en una
economia desarrolada e integrada..., hay pocos sectorés strategicos que justifiquen una
presencia pública, y muchos servicios basicos pueden ser gesticionados por la initiative
privada con una regulación conveniente, supervisada por los poderes públicos.(25)
This is the identical insight reported by Faverman and Starks, when they argued that "the
number one target yet to be addressed for re-engineering, restructuring, and reform is our
governmental service agencies...,"(26) chief among which is the system of public schooling.
Because we may readily comprehend that public delivery of goods does not "always identify with the general interest or common good," we have greater title to listen to proposals that as much attention be devoted to the "supply" side of the educational market as heretofore has been focused on the "demand" side in discussions of educational choice.(27) We recognize that to ask entrepreneurial/missionary educators to go into urban and suburban schools under present constraints would be the same as having asked 1960s "Freedom Riders" to go into the south to work for the segregationist governments of the era. They won't do it. What is more, we should not ask them to do it. We should far rather push the goal of restructuring as far as it is possible now to go.
Table of Contents
1. 0 Robert Church and Michael Sedlak, Education in the United States: An Interpretative History (New York: The Free Press, 1976), pp. 55-56.
2. 0 Church and Sedlak, Education in the United States, p. 59.
3. 0 Quoted in David Nasaw, Schooled to Order: A Social History of Public Schooling in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 61.
4. 0 Lawrence Cremin, The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876-1857 (New York: Knopf, 1964), pp. 8-14.
5. 0 Nasaw, Schooled to Order, p. 61.
6. 0 Nasaw, Schooled to Order, p. 65.
7. 0 Cremin, The Transformation of the School, p.13.
8. 0 See Ira Katznelson and Margaret Weir, Schooling for All: Class, Race, and the Decline of the Democratic Ideal (New York: Basic Books, 1985), chapter four.
9. 0 See Raymond Callahan, Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of the Social Forces That Have Shaped the Administration of the Public Schools (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).
10. 0 Carl Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic: Common Schools and American Society, 1780-1860 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983), p. 135.
11. 0 David Tyack, The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974), p. 177.
12. 0 Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic, p. 137.
13. 0 Callahan, Cult of Efficiency, p. 9.
14. 0 Tyack, The One Best System, p. 193
15. 0 Katznelson and Weir, Schooling for All, chapter four.
16. 0 Katznelson and Weir, Schooling for All, p. 191.
17. 0 Church and Sedlak, Education in the United States, p. 371.
18. 0 Church and Sedlak, Education in the United States, p. 371.
19. 0 See Church and Sedlak, Education in the United States, pp. 402-412.
20. J. Garry Knowles, Stacey E. Marlow, and James Muchmore, "From Pedagogy to Ideology: Origins and Phases of Home Education in the United States, 1970--1990, American Journal of Education(1992: 100,2) pp. 195-241.
21. Cited in Jennie F. Rakestraw and Donald A. Rakestraw, "Home Schooling: A Question of Quality, An Issue of Rights," The Educational Forum, (1990: 55, 1), pp. 67-77.
22. Question One: What is the most satisfactory aspect of the public school that your children are attending?
Question Two: What isn't satisfactory about the public schools?
Question Three: What motivated your decision to place your children in certain schools/districts?
Question Four: What Impact does the type of school have on where you send your children for school?
Question five: If you were in a position of having shares in a private school, would this have an impact?
Question Six: What do you think about an alternative financial arrangement of providing parents with the money that would have been formerly allocated to the school district?
Question seven: In which individuals, (1) elected/appointed State Govt.. officials, (2) Staff of the MI Dept of Education, (3) Elected local govt. officials, (4) Staff of local school districts, do you place your confidence?
Question Eight: Are there other groups who should be more involved in the governance of schools?
Question Nine: What keeps qualified people from participation?
Question Ten: Who would be on your favorite school board?
Question Eleven: Is there anything else that you would like to share on the subject of education?
23. Janet R. Beales, "Teacher, Inc.: A Private Practice Option for Educators," Mackinac Center Report, August, 1995, p. 5.
24. Hon. Arthur Ellis, "Interview," The Faverman Group Letter, May, 1996, Vol. II, no. 8, pp. 11-15.
25. Juan Muñoz, Santiago Roldán, Ángel Serrano, "Privatizaciones: del Estado a los bancos," El País, sábado, 13 Julio 1996, p. 48.
26. Gerald Faverman and Gregory J. Starks, "School Reform: A Prescription for Future Success," The Faverman Group Letter, September, 1995, vol. II, no. 2, pp. 6-7.
27. Michael F. Addonizio, "Perspectives: School Choices," The Faverman Group Letter, February, 1995, vol. 1, no. 7, p. 3.