The rulers of our teacher unions and those of allied non-teaching school staff need at long last identify and explain the justification for their forcing un-monied parents to deliver 5-year-old Mary to P.S. 99 instead of that private, maybe religious, school they preferred but could not afford.
The cost of choice to the taxpayer would not have increased the budget; indeed, a substantial and sufficient parental subsidy can be designed to save public money if that be a civic objective. Religious schools tend to be less expensive anyway.
So, what is the problem? Do we have reason to fear that private schools are bad for inner-city kids? So far at least, test scores suggest the contrary.
And what then does our no-choice military-style draft of the poor for their own “neighborhood” government school gain for either the child or society?
The union sovereigns softly encourage a justification with a more subtle assumption about poor parents. It is one seldom addressed in public or even casual private conversation; yet, from my own experience, it is widely shared by educated middle-class minds, even if seldom uttered in direct conversation.
It is simply the observation of the poor parent as somehow diminished either intellectually, morally, or both. In either case, they are in want of a certain something that only the Hoover public school just down the street can provide.
In short, these parents are viewed as dodos or even bad actors; clearly, that Hoover place is this child’s and society’s single best hope.
Meanwhile, we middle-class folk are sufficiently bright and sophisticated that we are the best judge of just who will serve our own child’s and the state’s interest (and then there is Pierce v. Society of Sisters).
This vague assumption of an incapacity of the low-income parent (combined with unique government insight of this child’s needs) endures today in the unspoken mystique supporting our public school conscription for the children of these impaired city-dwellers. It may constitute a gross defamation of the slum parent, but it continues as one of those subtle diseases of our cultural and civic souls.
It is difficult to recognize its presence and influence in oneself because so often it remains “in the air” but unspoken – an assumption of the true citizen but seldom allowed to emerge as a conscious and express working datum. In the real world, it remains a subtle constant that makes it easier to close our civic eye to the plague we have wrought upon the parent and child of the inner city.
Finally, suppose it to be true that such limited capacity to choose were in fact an authentic characteristic of the poor. We would still have to ask our leaders: Why is it that among all accessible schools, private and public, this one local public school knows best how to maximize the potential of this particular child whom no one of the school folk has even met?
The entire concept is an absurd non-sequitur. The perpetuation of this system of educational strong-arm is strictly a political achievement empowering the teacher unions. It is a uniquely destructive contraption built upon a foundation laid in the 19th century and prospering since.
Truly, it can claim no justification whatsoever for monopolizing education service to the minds of the poor family, its child, or our civic order.