Thursday, April 14, 2005

Dr. Travis' Class 

Dr. Travis is a professor of political science at George Mason University's Department of Public and International Affairs. I met her several years ago when she hosted a television show at the school and my name was suggested for a program on charter schools. I then linked her up with Irasema Salcido from the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy to see if both schools could begin to work together. Nothing really came of it except that Miss Travis donated a ton of books to the charter school and she and I became friends.

Recently she asked me to be a guest lecturer for an undergraduate local government class she is teaching this semester. This past Tuesday it was my turn to present. What an experience.

For two hours I had an open discussion with about 26 smart and engaged students. I took them on an intellectual journey beginning with an introduction to libertarian politics to its relationship to the issue of school choice to my six year involvement with the Washington D.C. charter school movement. I asked them not to be afraid of challenging everything I was telling them. They were not.

Most of the conversation revolved around the issue of school choice. All understood the value of competition to improving education but the majority did not like the idea. There seemed to be almost universal agreement that vouchers would allow some students to leave failing public schools to receive a better education, but the end result is that many would be left behind in a school system that would be facing declining funding due to the money lost from some kids transferring to private institutions. There was a general sense of frustration expressed by many that the problems of urban education could not be fixed by those within the system.

In two hours I introduced them to the ideas and writing of Ayn Rand, Frederick Hayek, Colbert King, Anne Applebaum, and Walter Williams. As Dr. Travis said when class was over, "You certainly got them thinking!"

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