Monday, June 7, 2010

The Great Experiment

A few years ago, one of my friends was bemoaning to another that there is no real socialism, or even socialist leanings, in the U.S. anymore.
"Yes there is," the second friend said. "The public schools are our great socialist experiment."

I thought about this over the weekend.
David Jesse wrote an extended piece in about schools of choice, and about how more people are choosing different schools than their district-bounded schools. (The headlines there, by the way, are ridiculous. For instance: "Schools of choice takes financial toll on Washtenaw County school districts." Simply untrue--it's taken a toll on some, and been the saving grace of others.)

And in the Ann Arbor Chronicle, they referenced the socialist blog The World Socialist Web Site, which discusses the proposed transportation consolidation (about which I have written plenty!) and says,
WISD officials have said that those not hired back will lose their pensions. This component of the proposal is aimed at forcing older, better-compensated workers to retire rather than re-apply. Many older bus workers have signaled that they will take early retirement if the plan is enacted.
But I digress (at least from the starting point of this post--the point about the transportation consolidation is very valid). The WSWS post also says, "In reality, there is ample money for education, but it is a question of what class controls it."

I don't actually know if we should call public education the great socialist experiment. If it was or is, I think we could do a lot better.
I don't know if we should call public education the great democratic experiment. If it was or is, I think we could do a lot better.

But in order for a publicly-financed system to be a success, you have to have buy-in. You get buy in when our values and financial system align with local control, because then we see the results, and we live with the results. You get buy in when the majority of the local kids go to the local schools.

Schools have to have investment. There's a part of me that thinks the class analysis is correct. You can't have an anti-millage campaign winning, at least in part, because of financing from a wealthy local corporation.

When we set the control of funding at the state, not local, level...
When we make it advantageous for people to choose to leave their local public schools...

We take away the rationale for taxpayers--most of whom don't have kids--and most of whom are not wealthy--to support the local schools.

And there goes the Great Socialist Experiment.
And there goes the Great Democratic Experiment.
There goes the Great ---- Experiment.
There goes the ------ -------- Experiment.
There goes the ------- -------- --------.
There goes ----- ------ -------- -------.
There ---- ------ ------ -------- -------.
------- ---- ------ ------ -------- -------.

With apologies to B*I*N*G*O.


  1. And at the same time, I should say, I support school choice. I just want to make it the case that people want to choose the schools in their local district.

  2. Blogging for Michigan reminds me that President Obama is speaking tonight at Kalamazoo Central's graduation. One reason for that is the investment of a group of (wealthy) anonymous donors in the Kalamazoo Promise, a guarantee that if you graduate, they will pay for you to go to college. I'm not sure how that fits into the socialist analysis, but I am sure it's a good thing.

  3. Have you read the Opinion piece by L.A. public school teacher Christopher Lock? It is called "Be Carefull what you Wish For" and is in Not only is it food for a lot of thought, it is very well written. It would be interesting to hear what you and others think. Does it apply here? Detroit? Willow Run? The future?

  4. Anon, Thanks for pointing the opinion piece out. If anyone wants to read it, here is the link:

    As for what I think--I agree with a lot of it. Overall, charter schools don't stand out as being better than the local schools. In Detroit, some critics of the emergency financial manager Robert Bobb believe that he is really trying to do away with the Detroit Public Schools and replace them with all charters. I do believe that a strong public school system is essential to our country--it seems hard to get there sometimes! What do others think?

  5. I guess it's about getting what you want, or resource partitioning, socialism vs capitalism.
    Where's the buy in? Buy in occurs when the system delivers consistently and well.
    In some districts, is the buy in only in private school?Or the buy in is in buying such expensive housing guarantee a country club atmosphere?
    Does the US actually do a good job overall? Maybe, maybe just compared to whom?
    Things don't occur in vacuums. If local school districts become corrupt and do not serve their purpose, then competition and the potential subsequent abandonment also serve the purpose of allowing the people to get what they need for their kids elsewhere.
    Them that has, gets, a chemistry professor told our class more than once.
    So are public school left holding the bag, paying out the expense of archaic payment structures, left to deliver substandard education to the unmotivated, unlucky and special ed, while the "best and brightest" kids get a private and real education?
    Depressing article.

  6. There is another related quote in Sunday AA.Com from WISD superintendent Bill Miller. He talks about schools having to distinguish themselves and market their brand. This frightens me tremendously as I have already observed this going on both in a charter school and in AAPS high school. No one wants to be branded as "the school for average kids, the school for kids with social/learning problems, the school for kids whose parents don't care". Everyone wants to be the school/program/teacher for the advanced and there is a huge temptation to devote more and more resources to the students that can perform at the elite level. I hope that every parent that experiences this phenomenon speaks up and continues to speak up until the concerns are addressed (that may take a great deal of persistence).