Who will choose your child’s education?

In 1976, as a high school newspaper reporter, Robert Maranto asked retiring Baltimore County schools Superintendent Joshua Wheeler why students weren’t required to pass a proficiency test to graduate. ”The purpose of public education is not to educate students,” Wheeler answered. “The purpose of public education is to provide an education for those few who want it.”

Someone will choose your child’s education, so why not you?, writes Maranto, now an University of Arkansas education professor, in the Baltimore Sun.

In college, he asked an education professor how to become a social studies teacher.

He explained that I would need 12 education classes but only four in the social sciences. I had no need to understand the subject I taught, since “the curriculum people will tell you what to teach.” In fact, it would be dangerous to have teachers who loved their subjects, since they might not “relate” to students who didn’t. (I couldn’t help but wonder whether schools would hire football coaches who didn’t love football, and whether such coaches could win any games.)

He gave up on teaching high school.

Who decides which kids get taught and which kids get warehoused? Who decides which schools get AP programs and which don’t? Who pays a price if the school bureaucracy in Towson decides that disadvantaged kids in Woodlawn don’t want to learn, and thus need not be taught?

It struck me that the best way to have schools serve children, rather than just hold them in place, is to give parents their choice of schools.

If parents choose mediocrity — easy classes, little homework, sports and socializing — at least it would be their choice, Maranto writes.

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