The mother sea turtle struggles to shore to lay her eggs.
A typical clutch includes anywhere from 50–350 eggs, which the mother hides under the sand. Her sole contribution to their future complete, she swims away.
They incubate underground for 50-60 days. Then just at dusk, the tiny sea turtle hatchlings emerge and struggle their way to the waiting sea and surf.
Well they try to get to the sea. Most of them don’t make it.
Predators are always lurking in the shadows to pluck up these movable hors d’oeuvres. Sea gulls, crabs, small fish – all are waiting to enjoy a meal of fresh baby sea turtle.
It’s estimated that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survive into adulthood.
Is that really the model we should be using for our public schools?
Because – make no mistake – it is exactly the kind of thing the market-driven model of education is based on.
The idea goes something like this: schools should be run like a business. Parents and students should choose between educational institutions, which would then compete for their budget allotments.
Some schools would thrive but most would fail – just like in business, athletics or other competitive pursuits. And while these fledgling schools struggle to make ends meet, predators will be waiting in the wings to benefit from their failure and perfidy.
To be fair, it’s a model that works well in many circumstances. In business, it ensures that only the best enterprises stay open. In sports, it translates to athletes striving to give there all to prove superiority over competitors.
But if we look at it through clear eyes, it’s obvious that this is really just the same as baby sea turtles struggling to get to the ocean. Many will compete. Few will win.
That’s a terrible way to run a school. Think about it.
We don’t want only our best students to get an education. Nor do we want only our best schools to provide one. We want all schools to provide the best education possible to the highest number possible. Clearly some schools will be better than others. That can’t be helped. However, we can maximize the quality of the education each provides. We can ensure that none fail.
That isn’t what the market-driven approach does. It forces schools to compete for their very existence. They have to spend a considerable amount of time and money attracting students to enroll. That’s time and money that doesn’t go to education. It goes to advertising.
Moreover, any school that attracts a surplus of students can choose which ones its wants to enroll. The choice becomes the school’s – not the parents’ or students’. In fact, administrators can turn away students for any reason – race, religion, behavior, special needs, how difficult it would be to teach him or her. This is much different from traditional public schools. There, any student who lives in the district may attend regardless of factors such as how easy or difficult he or she is to educate.
Another major change with this approach is how these schools will be run. Many of these institutions will be operated privately without the input of a duly-elected school board, without transparency for how they spend tax dollars, without even the guide rails of most regulations.
Like in the charter school sector, these schools will get almost free reign to do whatever they want. And we can see the results of this bold experiment already. The predators are lining up to make a meal of their students.
Corporate interests offer to run charter schools while cutting services and increasing profits. In fact, administrative costs at charter schools are much higher than at traditional public schools. Students lose, the market wins.
Moreover, many charter schools provide a sub-par education. To put it more bluntly, they do things that would be impossible for public schools to do. One in Philadelphia literally transformed into a nightclub after dark. Another funneled profits into the CEO’s personal bank account to be used as a slush fund to buy gifts and pay for rent at an apartment for his girlfriend. Another CEO used tax dollars to buy a yacht cheekily called “Fishin’ 4 Schools.” A study found that cyber-charters provide almost less education than not going to school at all. Even brick and mortar charter schools can close on a moments notice leaving students in the lurch.
It’s a Darwinian model made to benefit the predators, not the prey. It’s a boon for any unselfconscious businessman who doesn’t mind getting rich stealing an education from children.
By contrast, our traditional public schools are modeled after something else entirely. Instead of offering various kinds of school competing with each other, they provide one basic type that is shielded from predation.
In short, public schools are modeled after primate childcare practices – not the egg-laying habits of reptiles. Primates usually have a very limited number of offspring per pregnancy – often just one. Unlike sea turtles, they don’t just lay their eggs and leave their offspring to their own devices. Primates provide excellent care and nurture for their child making sure it is safe from those that would hurt it.
This is exactly what public schools do. They provide one basic kind of school. The public gathers twice a month with an elected school board to decide how the school should be run. Most functions of the school are open to public view as are expenditures, documents, etc. And there are regulations that stop the most extreme practices that put students at risk.
Public schools aren’t perfect. Neither are primate parents. But the model is child-centered where the goal is all about what’s best for the next generation – every member of that generation.
In short, the entire debate about school choice really has little to do with choosing this or that school. It’s about choosing a style of education – public or private, primate or reptilian, one that favors prey or predator.
Deep down, the public knows this. That’s why school vouchers have never passed a public referendum despite obscene spending from advocates. That’s why the money behind school choice is almost entirely from the same would-be predators who would benefit from opening our tax dollars and our children to such harm.
The media churns out the myth of failing schools and this has had a damaging effect on public perception of public education in general. However, when you ask people about their neighborhood school, opinion is generally high. People like their schools the way they are. Ninety percent of American students attend public school and that’s just the way we like it.
We aren’t about to take a chance on a system that instinctually reminds us of neglect. For school choice advocates, it really comes down to ideology. They hate anything public. They hate government in all its forms and wish for the freedom to do as they wish.
They wish for the freedom to be a predator – a predator of children.