Friday, May 15, 2015

Numbing Ideas to Destroy Public Education

A review by Edd Doerr

A Democratic Constitution for Public Education, by Paul T. Hill and Ashley E. Jochim. University of Chicago Press, 2015, 152 pp, $22.50.

This strange book, paradoxically, is at once mind-numbingly simplistic and almost infinitely complex. While purporting to “reform” American K-12 education inside-and-out, top-to-bottom, it actually makes anarchy look well organized by comparison. Fortunately, this vehicle is so Cloud-Nine Twilight-Zone weird that its proposal is unlikely to get off the ground, except maybe in places like Louisiana. One clue to its far-out-ness is its paying respect to such as Chester Finn, Bruno Manno, Milton Friedman, Joel  Klein, and Chubb and Moe while ignoring educators like Diane Ravitch, David Berliner, Mercedes Schneider, and the Lubienskis.

While the book does  not overtly plug vouchers, charters, online teaching for children, and similar bad ideas, Hill is a long time avid promoter of such devices for undermining public education and the teaching profession, while blithely oblivious to state constitutions and well established laws and institutions. He has even gone so far as to propose coalitions of religious groups to start tax-supported schools. Nowhere in this awful opus do the authors demonstrate the slightest concern that their bizarre scheme would do other than fragment our school population and society along religious, ideological, class, ethnic, linguistic, ability level, and other lines; create logistical, financial and traffic nightmares; and siphon public funds to rapacious private pockets while reducing teachers to the level of transient hamburger flippers.

The University of Chicago Press would do well to disown this clunker and avoid further embarrassment.

(Edd Doerr, a former history and Spanish teacher, is president of Americans for Religious Liberty.)

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