By Ray Pinney
Like many people, I am highly competitive. As a kid playing sports, I played to win. Even as a parent, when I noticed my children had a talent for music, I began looking for opportunities for them to be surrounded by skilled musicians so they could improve their own skills. I think we all believe that competition can bring out the best in us. In fact, I can think of very little that is more ingrained in the American ethos than the belief that competition is the answer to almost any problem. It is the fuel that drives the engine of capitalism.
Last week in my blog (Summertime is for Relaxing – But Not Completely), I mentioned that the national and state conversation on education is turning to the topics of vouchers, charter schools and school choice. These proposals – especially vouchers and school choice – do not have many proponents within the public education community. While I do not dismiss choice as being always wrong for public education, I also don’t believe that it is the panacea it is often touted to be.
I would even say that some of the arguments for choice are compelling. For example, it is hard to argue with a parent who has no choice but to send their child to a school that is failing almost all of its students. I do, however disagree with one of the core arguments for choice and that is the notion that the “competition” that vouchers provide will force public schools to improve.
If I am such a believer in competition, why do I think that find myself doing an about-face when discussing vouchers and choice in public education? (more…)