School change: Are parents capable of choosing an appropriate education for their kids?

by Steve Wyckoff on April 28, 2010

In writing about school change the other day my blog post included a suggestion for parental choice. Well that blog post prompted comment from a friend who asked, “Who would question a parent’s ability to choose an appropriate education for their kid?” I literally laughed out loud.

Being a proponent of school choice I have had numerous conversations/arguments with educators over the years about the appropriateness and viability of parental choice. I have had an educator go so far as to say, “Parents are too stupid to pick their kids school!” That individual was the most outspoken, and the most politically incorrect, but I’ve had many, many educators suggest to me that a valid reason for not having school choice is the inability of parents to make good choices for their kids.

I would admit that most parents, in fact the vast majority of parents, have very little if any experience making educational choices for their kids. But that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t become savvy educational consumers in a very short period of time.

Parents making good choices isn’t at all a concern of mine. I’m much more concerned with the establishment educators who make most of the important decisions based on an out-of-date paradigm. I recently heard a high ranking educational bureaucrat when asked about the viability of a new educational strategy, without thinking, respond, “Bad idea! Next question!”

This is the narrow thinking, without consideration, that has made, and continues to make, our educational system more obsolete by the day. If parents had true choice, and assuming schools could actually do something different without bureaucrats punishing them, school change, real school change, what happened rapidly.

I often use as an example the East German Trabant. The Trabant was the automobile built by East Germany. The car in 1990 looked exactly as it had in 1950. Automobile consumers in East Germany had no idea what to look for in a car. But once the Berlin wall fell it took less than two years for the Trabant to disappear and for East Germans to become savvy automobile consumers. Parents would become savvy consumers of education just as fast, and they would force real school change. – Steve Wyckoff

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