Why Conservatives Lose in Education

Jul 15, 2021 by

Guest post by Greg Forster

In case you missed it, Samuel Goldman had a great article in The Week about why conservative efforts to change the content of education always fail:

Laws and regulations aren’t self-enforcing, after all. They have to be interpreted at the district, school, and classroom level….A challenge to CRT bans in particular is that they’re unpopular among the people responsible for enforcing them. Although not uniformly liberal, teachers tend to support Democrats. Party leaning doesn’t determine opinions on any particular issue, of course. But Democrats report overwhelmingly positive opinions about CRT in particular and “structural” accounts of racism in general.

Raw numbers don’t tell the whole story, either. As Richard Hanania has argued, motivated minorities outweigh passive majorities. In particular, it’s likely that the teachers most active in administration, professional development, and union affairs are more left-leaning than their colleagues. Recent decisions by the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers to emphasize “anti-racist” policies support this assumption.

Goldman correctly concludes that in education, there are only two realistic political alternatives for the right, if they are really interested in winning. One would be a right-wing reenactment of the left’s “long march through the institutions,” which would allow the great-grandchildren of today’s right-wingers to exercise the kind of cultural power progressives now wield. The other is “radical…educational pluralism,” by which Goldman means school choice as a revolutionary challenge to the very idea of monopolization of schools, rather than school choice as merely the welfare state by other means – an escape hatch for the most needy kids in the worst schools.

Goldman also correctly concludes that school choice is the more plausible option.

Milton used to talk about the stark difference between “charity vouchers,” offered only to the poor, and “educational vouchers,” offered to everyone: “Charity vouchers help the poor but will not produce any real reform of the educational system. And what we need is a real reform.”

Goldman has seen what Milton saw – the real value of school choice is that universal school choice makes the government school system accountable to parents, and nothing else will.

It seems like Goldman feels obligated to say some negative things about the prospects for choice, because he throws in some easily refuted canards:

  • There is, contrary to Goldman’s unsupported suggestions, no ambiguity about the legal status of school choice programs. Choice has won a long string of solid Supreme Court victories that have established its legal standing unambiguously.
  • School choice is popular, and growing more so.
  • Most egregiously, Goldman suggests that parents don’t want choice, because exercising choice is hard. But Goldman himself notes that the kind of educational pluralism he envisions is “common around the world.” Are U.S. parents uniquely lazy and/or stupid, incapable of doing what parents routinely do in the other countries Goldman mentions?

Still, the article is definitely worth your time if you’re interested in a close look at what doesn’t work to change education, and why.

Source: Why Conservatives Lose in Education | Jay P. Greene’s Blog

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