I know I've been promising to write some posts explaining some of the concepts I am covering in class. Unfortunately, all of the things I have thought about discussing involve me being much more familiar with the Latex formatting syntax than I currently am. For now, you'll just have to read another one of my extemporaneous ramblings.
My schedule has kept me off of the blogosphere lately. The only discussion I have really been able to participate in lately is one about school choice over at Mindless Math Mutterings. I thought I would take a few minutes to elaborate on that issue here.
There are a few misconceptions about school choice and what it can and can't do. The idea is that simply creating a competitive environment will force schools to fix all their problems and become successful. They will either sink or swim. Here is the problem with that reasoning. The choice model is patterned after good old-fashioned natural selection. Whether you prefer the metaphor of a biological system or the business world, the simple fact is this. The vast majority of species and businesses that have ever existed have failed. They are extinct. They caved under the competitive pressures.
Selection pressures do force the cream to rise, but it happens through a process that can best be titled "creative destruction." If you implement that kind of system, you have to accept the fact that most of the schools will fail and be forced to close. Most of them will not be able to magically adapt overnight. That will leave legions of children looking for a new educational institution.
That population overflow will cause the second major problem. Will the few remaining schools be able to scale up their success? Most of the schools that are doing really well are small schools. Whether they are private, public, or charter, they have small teacher to student ratios and they are able to cater to specific demographics. They do creative things like using students to clean up the physical plant instead of hiring full-time janitorial staff. But will they be able to do the same things with a student body that's been increased tenfold?
If you have any experience in the kitchen, you know that some recipes can be doubled or tripled, while others can't. What was exquisitely delicious when prepared for two is revolting when prepared for two hundred. Or a political example, if you prefer. Communism works extremely well in small groups. Contained familial styled villages can live quite happily using that political system. But I think we all remember what happened when that compound was scaled up to the size of a country.
Choosing "choice" would provide our nation with better schools over the long run, of that I have little doubt. But in the meantime, we will be closing a lot of schools and failing a lot of kids. I just don't think it's the answer.