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Ignoring the Elephant

In today’s New York Times, education guru Diane Ravitch and seven letter-writers combine to compose 1,800 words on the parlous state of K-12 education.  In this geyser of platitudes mixed with opinions on testing, charter schools, and class size, never mentioned is the word “competition” or any of its variants.  Not once.  (“Choice” appears twice, irrelevantly: first in the phrase “college of their choice”; second in the term “multiple-choice tests.”)

Debating how to improve education, the writers focus only on the relative merits of testing, various funding formulas, and class size while ignoring the fact that each government school has a captive pool of students, and that government schools get their revenues not from paying customers but from taxed property owners.

This debate is as useful to the cause of education reform as would be a debate on how to rescue occupants of a burning building that focuses only on the relative merits of the various sorts of fire-retardant clothing that these occupants might be given while ignoring the possibility of breaking openings in the building to create escape routes.