Friday, April 13, 2007

I'm Stuck 

on Andrew Coulson's comment the other day. Mr. Coulson is the Cato Institutes Director of the Center for Educational Freedom and here is an excerpt of what he said in a recent post on the Institute's blog:

While a monopoly school system can certainly have bright spots, they tend to be isolated and transitory. Brilliant government school teachers are at best given a plaque, and at worst driven out of the system (as happened to Jaime Escalante). Pointing to isolated public school successes from decades past - successes that were not replicated elsewhere, not expanded, and usually not even sustained for more than a generation - is proof that our government monopoly lacks the market’s excellence engine.

In education markets, like the Asian tutoring industry, top teachers are superstars who get to design curricula for thousands or even millions of students and train scores or hundreds of other teachers to use their effective methods. Quality providers expand and are emulated by competitors, and there is a powerful incentive for meaningful innovation.
For all of us who care about improving inner city public education and who want to accomplish this through choice then we cannot place enough emphasis on these thoughts. What has been going through my mind recently is how are we going to get out of constantly talking about NCLB, making AYP, and the debate over whether there should be national standards? Add to this concern my worry that as charter schools (and some private schools accepting vouchers) concentrate on test scores these institutions will become less innovative and begin to look more and more like the crap they were intended to replace.

Mr. Coulson has provided our escape hatch.

Let's just stop talking about standards and simply put our faith back in the market that has created all of the great inventions that we enjoy on a daily basis. Let's demand that the educational choice be expanded as much as possible. We need more charter schools in D.C. We need to immediately expand the Opportunity Scholarship program (school vouchers). We should give schools greater latitude in deciding who they admit. Let's reject NCLB as a constraint on entrepreneurs who need to figure out the very best way to educate children.

Looking at this another way, substitute the word "school" for the word "man" in this quote by Ayn Rand, "“Every man is free to rise as far as he's able or willing, but the degree to which he thinks determines the degree to which he'll rise.”

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