Earlier this week, MSNBC posted a new video on its website. It is from the Melissa Harris-Perry Show, with special guest Diane Ravitch touting her latest book (which in fairness, Eduflack hasn’t read).
While I don’t usually stop for such video segments, I was taken by the headline that MSNBC (the Lean Forward network) was putting on the segment. The piece led with the screamer, “The Case Against School Privatization.”
Those who know Eduflack know that I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the education reform movement. During that time, I got pretty immune to what folks would say about me or about reformers in general. And over time, the repeated accusations of “privatization and profiteering” started to sound like the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon to me.
But I paused when I saw it on a supposed unbiased news network. And it leads to a very important question.
Is anyone out there actually advocating for the privatization of our public schools?
I offer this as a serious question. Who is pro-privatization? At least more privatization than we already have. We have already privatized transportation (bus service) and school lunches and textbooks and professional development. And last I checked utilities and such are still provided by private companies (many of whom actually draw a profit from it as well).
But is there anyone out there looking to turn public schools into private ones?
And please, don’t give me the charter school argument. Whether one wants to accept it or not, charter schools are public schools. Yes, they are an alternative to our traditional public schools. But they are still public schools.
So where are they? Who are these horrible beasts that are looking to take our well-meaning public schools and turn them into private schools? Who is seeking to take a neighborhood school and turn it into a home for J. Crew and the country club set? Who is actually out there converting all of these public schools? Who are these privatizers we should be so fearful of and who we are creating all of these supposed white knights to slay the privatization beasts?
Truth be told, the only thing we have seen in recent years is private schools going public. Look to our nation’s capital. After the U.S. Congress pulled the plug on voucher funding, many of the Catholic schools that were serving the vast majority of voucher kids decided to convert from parochial institutions into public charter schools. These Center City schools saw the need to continue their service to the community and to the kids they were educating, and publicized (if that is the right word) themselves.
While there is plenty in public education that we can debate and argue about, do we really need to throw privatization in the mix? It is a cheap rhetorical trick meant to win over an uneducated population. No one is rushing to convert public schools private. Practically no one (at least no well-meaning reformers) are even talking about it. So why frame what should be an intelligent, well-meaning debate that way?
We need to spend more time engaging in meaningful dialogues about our schools and what we can do together to improve them. Ad hominem attacks, fake arguments, and phony straw men works against that goal. it may sell some books, but it does very little to help ensure that all our students receive a high-quality, meaningful public education.