Wednesday, May 16, 2012

By All Means, Let Parents Lead

In Newark parents must become leaders on school reform, a NJ Star-Ledger guest columnist urges "the one [interest group] that really matters"--the parents--to take the lead in school reform. 

Jody Pittman, a parent, asks:

There are thousands of children in Newark Public Schools and these children have, without question, received a substandard education. The vast majority is failing and we have allowed it to happen for more than 20 years. Shame on us. The argument of charter vs. public is not the issue. The issue is clear: Should a parent have the right to choose how and who takes on the most important job in the lives of our children — their destiny?
At first glance, Pittman appears to be making a call for free market reforms to education. But the key word is her use of the word "our" instead of "his/her" before "children" in the question. It's clear what she means a little later in the article:

We must also remember, as progressive parents, we assume responsibility for the “community of children.”
The article, as it turns out, is merely a call for the preservation of the status quo, with only a new  political interest group labeled "parents" taking the lead over other "stakeholders, politicians, neighbors and friends to turn our system around": 

What should parents do? First, remain hopeful because, given the proper tools, our children have the capacity to learn; demand that all families are engaged via community programming, in order to reach and teach those parents who don’t participate in the education process; allow for very necessary change; and hold all accountable.
What kind of "change" does Pittman suggest should come out of this parental free-for-all? In true Obama-esque spirit, her answer is:

There is no wrong and right — only the definite need for change. And those who are willing to move with the immediacy and urgency that our children deserve and require should be given the opportunity.
No wrong and right in regards to so crucial an issue as children's education? Just the need for blind, groping change? If you want a demonstration of the blind alley at the end of the road that pragmatism paves, there it is, on the editorial page of New Jersey's largest newspaper!

At least Pittman leaves the door open for rationality to enter:

As parents, we should be horrified with the way this is being handled and played to the media by some politicians and community activists. If you have no alternative plan to maximize the genius of our children, please allow someone to try something new, innovative and even uncomfortable.
I controlled my exasperation long enough to leave the following comments (posted under my S/L screen name ""zemack"):

Posted by zemack April 27, 2012 at 1:14PM
Creating another special interest group labeled “parents” is not the answer. The answer, as Ms. Pittman urges, is to “try something new, innovative and even uncomfortable.”
Parents—meaning, as individuals--should be free to pursue their own children’s education with their own money or with scholarships and grants from voluntary charitable organizations. They should be free to contract with educators and schools of their choice, by mutual voluntary agreement. Parents need to be free to do more than merely “express its opinion.” They must be free to act on their own opinions, judgments—and reason. That is their inalienable right. That is true parental empowerment.
Government-run schools cut parents out of the mix, and no amount of “reform” will ever change that fact. When “the community” is in charge, the individual is not. It massively violates individual rights by forcing people to pay for schools, educational philosophies and methods, and curricula they may not use and may not like or agree with. It forcibly diverts educational authority away from the very people to whom it rightfully, morally, and logically belongs—the parents.
Yes, “it is time for parents to lead.” But what if two parents disagree on what’s best for their own children? Whose “opinions” would be forced on whom? Until we recognize that tax-funded, government-run education itself is the problem—and that free market education, which recognizes individual rights, is the only moral alternative—that phrase is just empty rhetoric.
Would liberating parents, taxpayers, and educators in a free market be “uncomfortable” for the establishment “stakeholders?” It would be about time.

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