PUBLIC SCHOOLS are commonly described as engines of democracy and citizenship, and a bulwark against social strife. Which makes the Democrats’ bitter and unremitting campaign against Betsy DeVos all the more ironic.
Protesters gathered outside a public middle school in Washington, D.C., to block Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from entering.
DeVos, the next secretary of education, is a billionaire who has for years channeled her money and energy into the cause of education reform, especially for the underprivileged. Yet her nomination drove the left to a frenzy of opposition evoked by no other Cabinet nominee.
The confirmation of the new secretary was a blow to the powerful teachers unions that exercise so much clout in Democratic Party circles. The unions depend for their wealth and influence on the public education monopoly that keeps millions of students trapped in chronically failing schools, and like all monopolists they have a visceral antipathy to competition. They despise DeVos because of her passion for dramatically expanding school choice — through charter schools, online “virtual” teaching, homeschooling, or vouchers to pay for private or parochial school tuition.
The benefits of school choice, especially for kids in the poorest districts, have been confirmed and reconfirmed. Polls routinely find that substantial majorities of Americans favor more school choice. And as the stunning number of student names on charter school waiting lists demonstrates, the hunger for a better option than the local public school is anything but theoretical.
Yet the reasons to liberate Americans from the monopoly of government-run schooling go beyond educational outcomes and academic success. School choice also promotes peace.
Public schools, it is said, bring together children from differing backgrounds and imbue them with the shared values that unite our pluralist society and prevent balkanization. It’s a pretty theory, but it has never been true.
“Throughout American history,” observes Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute, “public schooling has produced political disputes, animosity, and sometimes…