Saturday, December 31, 2011
I've long been a big fan of Charles Glenn. I think he's an outstanding scholar of public and private education. His "The Myth of the Common School" is a must-read. Here, in First Things, he makes the case for "disestablishing our secular schools." A taste:
. . . We have reason to hope that America may achieve a degree of pluralism in its schools, but important changes are needed. American public education should be disestablished and demythologized, liberated to provide a true education and not simply instruction, to be as concerned about the character of its students as it is about their academic accomplishments. Government should play a significant role, setting standards for essential outcomes on which there is a societal consensus and ensuring that family circumstances never prevent a child from receiving an adequate education, but public education should be no more synonymous with government-operated schools than public health is with government-operated hospitals. Parents should be free to choose the school their children attend without financial penalty.
This is only possible if we give up the fruitless effort to make public education “neutral,” as though anything so intimately associated with the shaping of human beings could ever avoid choices among alternative views of human flourishing. The sort of lowest common denominator schooling into which public schools have been forced, the “defensive teaching” in which their teachers engage to avoid controversy, can never provide a rich educational environment. Indeed, the false belief in neutrality has fostered an idea of teachers as a kind of secular clergy . . . .