Center for a Stateless Society
A Left Market Anarchist Think Tank & Media Center
“School Choice” is a Stopgap Measure for the Ruling Class

So, January 25-31 is “National School Choice Week.” Break out the bubbly! The event, put on annually by a coalition of lobbying groups, advertises itself as “an unprecedented opportunity, every January, to shine a positive spotlight on the need for effective education options for all children.” I’m sure most “school choice” advocates firmly and honestly support that goal. Unfortunately, their policy proposals serve a very different outcome.

The purpose of “public” — read “government” — education hasn’t changed much in 150 years. If you don’t believe me on that, believe Horace Mann and other architects and advocates of the existing system. What is that purpose? To produce docile citizens who do as they are told to do by their ruling class masters.

Our masters expect the average “educated” American to, as a matter of course, undertake four or five decades of drudgery at wages, benefits and retirement options largely negotiated not between worker and employer but between employer and state. They expect that “educated” American to unstintingly shell out a portion of his or her income to the state, to shoulder a rifle without complaint in defense of the state or pursuant to its goals when so called upon, and of course to periodically pull a lever in favor of some pre-selected candidates to “represent” him or her in political institutions wholly owned and operated by the ruling class.

Apart from those things, our masters mostly expect “educated” Americans to sit down and shut up (apart from perhaps expressing gratitude for whatever bread and circuses the ruling class might care to bestow upon them to produce a contented state).

That’s the program for most of us. But there are always some who don’t do well in the combination day care centers, minimum security prisons and bureaucratic money sinks sold to us as “schools.” And an increasingly high-tech economy requires new layers of workers with skill sets that require more cultivation than such “public” institutions can provide.

Enter “school choice” programs, through which students (via their parents) can take “their” government funding to institutions other than the one-size-fits-all schools laid out by geographic districts. Government-run “charter schools.” Private schools. Even, possibly, parochial schools.

At first blush, it sounds great. Children freed to “rise to their own level” of academic accomplishment and qualify themselves for more lucrative employment. Schools, including “public” schools, forced to compete for tax dollars instead of raking in the money whether they perform or not. A rising tide lifts all boats and so forth.

But there are problems.

One  is that “public” schools and their advocates don’t WANT to compete for tax money. They’re quite happy carrying out their mission of producing graduates whose options are limited to pressing the button with the picture of a cheeseburger on it at your local fast food emporium or the equivalent and settling in at night for re-runs of Duck Dynasty. No, I’m not putting down “burger flippers” — I’ve been one myself! — but I want to see as many people as possible enter adulthood equipped with skill sets making such work optional rather than limiting them to it (incidentally putting “burger flippers” in better bargaining position for wages and benefits).

Another is that when tax dollars flow out of the existing system and into alternative educational institutions, those tax dollars come with all kinds of restrictions. Schools that look like great alternatives find themselves dragged down into the red tape and “standards” imbroglios associated with “public” schools. What, you thought tax dollars could come without strings attached?

At the end of the day, “school choice” isn’t the solution. It’s yet another way of avoiding the solution. Homeschooling and non-government cooperative community schools are a start; if the goal is real, meaningful education for a free people, the solution is eventual complete separation of school (and everything else!) and state. Anything less is a dodge and a scam.

Citations to this article:

Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist