Old Verbiage, New Problems

Sam Freedman turns in an interesting column about Joel Klein’s reform efforts in New York. He argues that the new schools Klein is creating are less than public. Not at all sure that’s right, they may a different kind of public.

This is complicated though. First, what Klein is trying to do is create disruptive innovation within the system, that’s hard as hell to do. Worth noting that one of the theoretical underpinnings of vouchers is that you have to do that from outside the system so voucher foes should be cheering not jeering Klein’s efforts to show that the public system can reform itself. In other words the irony here is that this “not so public” may hold the key to reinvigorating urban public schools.

In addition, the stark delineations between “public” and “privatization” really don’t work. There are a lot of gradations between the traditional public system and what I think you could reasonably consider a private one. So, while I obviously think it’s vital to maintain strong linkages between wellsprings of democratic input into schooling and schooling itself, that can take a lot of forms besides the traditional district arrangements.

Finally, in the case of New York, Bloomberg, in concert with Klein, staked his reelection on education and voters apparently strongly approved. So, there is (a) some accountability there and (b) a signal on where a lot of people are on this.

Not saying this is all perfect, just that it’s more complicated than the “public” – “private” debate lets on.

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