Updates: Vouchers & Brown

New York Times takes a look at the whole Campbell Brown debate.  It has gotten nasty, but I still think part of the heat here stems from the attention it’s putting on the broken arbitration system.  Like “rubber rooms” it’s one of these dirty secrets that doesn’t get a lot of attention and where tacit understandings between both “sides” – city and union – thwart easy solutions.

Ron Matus points out that vouchers are not exclusively a right-wing idea.  He’s right, but he could have gone further back than when it was in vogue for people like Matt Miller, Bill Galston, Diane Ravitch, etc…to step up and support them.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s vouchers were a popular idea among progressives as a way to equalize opportunity and address fiscal disparities affecting low-income students.  The idea became perceived as a solely conservative one because of its association with Milton Friedman – especially after his TV show and Nobel Prize – not because he exclusively cooked it up. The merits are a different conversation, but when you hear vouchers exclusively characterized as right-wing your BS detector should go off, the history is more complicated.

3 Replies to “Updates: Vouchers & Brown”

  1. For a trip back in time and some historical context, here are some important articles, reports, books that followed up Milton Friedman’s original voucher proposal (which he first published in 1955/Economics and the Public Interest, and again restated in 1962/Capitalism and Freedom).

    Center for the Study of Public Policy (Christopher Jencks et al), Education Vouchers: A Report on Financing Elementary Education by Grants to Parents (1970)

    Christopher Jencks, “Giving Parents Money for Schooling: Education Vouchers,” The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 52, No. 1, (Sep., 1970), pp. 49-52

    John E. Coons, Stephen D. Sugarman, Charles S. Benson, “Family Choice in Education: A Model State System for Vouchers,” California Law Review, Vol. 59, No. 2 (Mar., 1971), pp. 321-438

    John E. Coons and Stephen D. Sugarman, Education by Choice: The Case for Family Control (1979)

    In a historical perspective, James Coleman’s foreword in the latter is pretty fascinating (at least to me). Fwiw, for people who like the values-balance of education vouchers, I’d say the essential readings start with Milton Friedman, James Coleman, Sandy Jencks, John Coons, and Stephen Sugarman.

  2. The NYT article reads like People magazine?
    I see that Andy and Campbell still can’t back up the teacher unions protect sexual predators charge.

    As for the “it has gotten nasty” line, we can take that to mean Andy and Campbell don’t like being called full of shit.

    Or in the more erudite world, the modern day Lillian Hellmans.

    Keeping Childen First.

  3. One of the issues we on the rational side have with Brown is that she is taking some legitimate questions and piling them up into one big political firestorm to take down the unions. THAT is what upsets us. It is a typical tactic of a political hack and she adds insult to false generalization by having made a rather good living as a formerly-respected journalist.

    If Campbell Brown wants to be the Michelle Malkin of education, that is her own lookout. Me, I want investigative journalism by a professional with integrity.

    The history of vouchers is indeed convoluted. First, I want to say that just because people who may have been what we would call progressives 40 YEARS AGO thought vouchers “might” work out of desperation to subvert the system then does not mean you can hold up history to modern progressives and assume we will fall for such a rhetorical trick. Nice try, Andrew, not biting. No biscuit for you.

    Second, the people pushing vouchers TODAY are conservatives and corporate reformers and so it is entirely appropriate for my BS detector to ring. Vouchers have always been a quick or cheap way out. A way around the current system. The argument then as now rested upon a foundation of competition–a false interpretation of essential human nature and motivation. That is the underlying difference between progressives and conservatives. How do we all think other people think?

    It is not altruism that drives Bill Gates to give of his billions for noble causes; he may care, but he is not giving of himself in the way a soldier takes a grenade for his buddies. His heart may be with certain progressive causes but that does not automatically qualify him for progressive sainthood–he could just be making a rational decision. Progressive liberals are not all going to jump on grenades but we have a rather different starting point for assuming what motivates other human beings while being quite competitive at times, when the time is appropriate.

    Milton Friedman? Yes, I know about his influence. What’s interesting to note here is the inclusion of an economist into a discussion about education. I’ll give economists their due concerning their studies of how people decide to use finite resources. I just don’t want them to be the sole arbiters of educational policy as is going on now. Think I’m overstating their influence? Go ahead, make my day. I’m getting really tired and annoyed at economists and their think tanks and their university departments being citing by every Tom, Dick, and Michelle Rhee who think they know something about teaching children.

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