Have we lost sight of the promise of public schools?

by Courtney | February 21, 2017

Nikole Hannah-Jones…  Perfect read for a Tuesday morning.  She offers up a brief history of our notion of the “common good” of our public institutions… and how systemic racism has continued to shape which “common” the “good” should be publicly available for.

One of the problems with the conversation we’ve been increasingly having around choice and vouchers is that as we rage at our our grizzly-shooting Education secretary, OUR accountability as parents remains in the shadows. WE have undermined school integration time and again (gerrymandering districts, shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to move to the “good school neighborhoods, protesting busing, etc etc etc); this DeVos business is only another iteration. She wins because we fail.

So, yeah, it’s on us.


So, from NH-J:

“Public schools became widespread in the 1800s, not to provide an advantage for particular individuals but with the understanding that shuffling the wealthy and working class together (though not black Americans and other racial minorities) would create a common sense of citizenship and national identity, that it would tie together the fates of the haves and the have-nots and that doing so benefited the nation. A sense of the public good was a unifying force because it meant that the rich and the poor, the powerful and the meek, shared the spoils — as well as the burdens — of this messy democracy.

“But as black Americans became part of the public, white Americans began to pull away.”

Quoting Bonnie Honig “The attractiveness of private schools and other forms of privatization are not just driven by economization but by the desire to control the community with which you interact.”

“If there is hope for a renewal of our belief in public institutions and a common good, it may reside in the public schools. Nine of 10 children attend one, a rate of participation that few, if any, other public bodies can claim, and schools, as segregated as many are, remain one of the few institutions where Americans of different classes and races mix. The vast multiracial, socioeconomically diverse defense of public schools that DeVos set off may show that we have not yet given up on the ideals of the public — and on ourselves.”

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