Making Up Our MindWhat School Choice Is Really About

Making Up Our MindWhat School Choice Is Really About

Sigal R. Ben-Porath and Michael C. Johanek

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226619460

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


If free market advocates had total control over education policy, would the shared public system of education collapse? Or would school choice revitalize schooling with its innovative force? In either case, would the US make a dramatic break with its past? That’s not only the wrong question—it’s the wrong premise. Market-driven school choices aren’t new. They predate the republic, and for generations parents have chosen to educate their children through an evolving mix of publicly supported, private, charitable, and entrepreneurial enterprises. This process has arguably always been influenced by market forces, especially those of parental demand, and, more recently, by the impact of coordinated corporate and philanthropic influence. The question is not whether to have school choice. It is how to regulate who has which choices in our mixed schooling market—and what we, as a nation, hope to accomplish with those choices. The book examines three key eras in the nation’s educational history – colonial/early republic, late 19th century and post-World War II – and considers three central philosophical considerations toward making a normative assessment of school choice today. The book looks beyond the simple divide between those who oppose government intervention and those who support public education as a way to nurture a democratic, integrated public sphere. Instead, the authors make the case for a structured landscape of choice in schooling, one that protects the interests of children and of society, while also identifying key shared values on which a broadly acceptable policy could rest.