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Re: [Phys-L] Economist Kern Alexander Explains the Problem with School Choice

An old refrain from me, but the goals and procedures of public education need always be viewed through the lenses of the 'public good'. This is why public education exists--to serve the society...NOT THE INDIVIDUAL. It is why we all PAY for this education. Now whether or not it is better to give parents full choice largely depends on the character of the parents....and that seems to be a problem in the U.S. such that I'm not sure that using Sweden and Belgium as models is valid. I would suggest that much of we we see in the way of 'well educated' versus 'poorly educated' children has a high degree of correlation to the involvement of parent(s) with that education. The debate can rage on about why large discrepencies in parental encouragement exists, but it is certainly not clear to me that simply giving more school choices will fix that problem. Ultimately there is always a 'choice'--public schools, private (including parochial) schools, or home schooling. While clearly that choice may be limited by economic situations, at least in the case of 'religious' schools, there are sometimes low cost paths for parents. In the end though, tax payers have a right to control the nature of public education.

Professor of Physics
Saint Mary's College

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So yes, we need to agree on the goals of education, and on the meaning
of "good" (or "better") schooling. But it will still come down to the
question whether it is the right of the *state* to decide for your
where he or she should go and what type of education he or she would
get, or whether it should be largely *your* choice. Clearly, Sweden
Belgium decided they can trust parents and they only seem better for

If you really want to make education more equitable and not
disenfranchise parents, you should direct your focus to make sure that
there is transparency of information for parents, rather than forcing
them into what *you* think is right. After all, we do not stop trading
on the stock market because some people buy or sell stock while
uninformed. Instead, we try to make sure that information *is*
transparently available to anyone who wants to trade. And if they
want to bother, they can always buy mutual funds or treasuries.


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