Educational Feudalism

I apologize for the sparse posting of late, as I do have to do school research every once in a while. (Shocking, but true…) Most recently I have been researching the general issue of school choice, focusing in on vouchers, charter schools, and school districting. One point in particular has me absolutely horrified.

Not having gone to public school, I had naively assumed that students could attend any public school within their school district. In fact, the districts themselves are carved up into geographical blocs for each school. Students are assigned to one particular school based on where they live; it is possible to request admission to another school, but there must be special circumstances and the status quo is very much against the student asking to transfer.

According the the numbers I have seen, only 25% of students go to "schools of choice," i.e. schools to which they were not assigned. This includes the 11% of students who attend private school; so only about 15% of public school students have chosen their school (often via magnet schools, charter schools, etc). The other 85% attend the school to which they have been geographically assigned.

Is it any surprise that people speak of "escaping" poor schools? If a school provides a poor education, most students have no choice but to suck it up and accept the destruction of their dreams for the future. This is a classic government-mandated monopoly, where the fate of our children is written in the very earth on which they live, much like that of the feudal serfs of old. To escape the educational liegelord is admittedly easier now than was escaping the real nobles of old, but not much.

This guarantees that wealthier families will be forced to move away from poorer neighborhoods in search of decent educations for their children. The emergence of gentrification on the one hand, and poverty-stricken ghettos on the other, is due in large part to this indefensible partitioning of our cities into those areas assured of decent schools, and those denied them.

To allow students to attend any public school in their district should be an obvious move. It forces the schools to compete against each other, while not reducing the resources of the district as a whole. It also makes no statement on educational or political philosophy as do voucher programs and the like, aside from an antipathy to the emergence of petty fiefdoms who lord it over our children. (If we are to have fiefdoms, they should at least be BIG fiefdoms; it's the American way…) Moreover, it reduces the desperate need for families to move out of certain neighborhoods because of the abysmal schools there.

Can anyone think of a reason why any thinking person, of any political party, would oppose ending this geographic segregation?

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