First Place:  Michelle Heitz

School Choice:A Bad Choice in Education

Writing Course in the Elementary Education Major

Donna Peters

18 April 2007

    When one opens a U.S. history book, it is not difficult to find the words “equal opportunity.”  The premise of equality and freedom is responsible for establishing the country that we live in today.  Many different groups of people, including social class, ethnic, religious, and gender groups, have been notorious for fighting for their right to be granted equal opportunity.  Today, there is a struggle among our nation’s pupils to attain equal opportunity in education, and the government has responded with a plan that is defined by allowing students a choice in the school they attend.  However, the movie entitled Children in America’s Schools makes known the fact that often times a disparity exists among schools (Hayden & Cauthen, 1995).  Hence school choice is a bad system based on social class that is beginning to have crippling effects on multicultural curriculum and schools established on religion.

    There is evidence that school choice often means the rich will keep getting richly educated and the poor will keep getting poorly educated no matter if they are offered a choice in schooling or not.  Across the nation, this disparity among the wealthy and poor schools is quite evident in the building structures, classroom materials, teacher education, and attitudes among different schools.  In the article entitled The Perils of School Vouchers, Robert Lowe (1995) confirms the inequality among schools by stating that “throwing schools open to the marketplace will promote neither excellence nor equality for all.  Rather, it will enhance the freedom of the privileged to pursue their advancement unfettered by obligation to community” (p. 191).  Although the government is promoting school choice among our nation’s pupils, often there is no choice in economically deficient areas.  What are families supposed to choose when they are surrounded by miles and miles of unsatisfactory schools?  For these economically disadvantaged students, there is no school choice, and a sad fact exists about their betterment:  they do not have the opportunities like the wealthy schools.  In fact, the government has decided to take money away from struggling schools and award the achieving schools!  How are disadvantaged schools supposed to get better when they are stripped of the money needed to build a safe and appealing structure, attain better classroom resources, or provide professional development for their teachers?  Seemingly the government has made the school choice for these students.

     School choice is having negative effects on multicultural curriculum in many of our nation’s schools.  It is quite obvious that if a family were given the choice of sending their child to a failing or achieving school, the parent would choose the achieving school.  As evidenced before, however, in some areas poorer parents do not have much of a choice.  Hence does this not mean that the rich are typically segregated in a culturally homogenous Caucasian environment, and the poor are segregated into a possibly more racially heterogeneous environment?  Since the richer schools have more resources, one can correctly assume that they will be able to sustain a multicultural curriculum better than poorer schools.  However, a common problem exists in multicultural education in that it is treated as a tourist topic and not integrated correctly into other subjects (Levine et al, 1995, p. 20).  Thus would it not be more beneficial for these students to actually socialize and learn within a culturally diverse environment rather than learn about other cultures in such an alienated, textbook way?  On the flip side, although poor schools may encompass more diversity than their rich counterparts, they are ironically at a multicultural disadvantage as well.  Author Enid Lee summed this ideology up well by stating, “I have met some teachers who think that just because they have kids from different races and backgrounds, they have a multicultural classroom.  Bodies of kids are not enough” (Levine et al, 1995, p. 10).  The mere presence of diverse students within a classroom is not enough to constitute multicultural education when one does not delve into these students’ unique cultures!  Often teachers in poor districts that may encompass diversity are not able to broaden their students’ horizons due to the sad fact that “it is a pattern to underfund antiracist initiatives” (Levine et al, 1995, p. 12).  Hence if there are not sufficient funds within a school, this “extra” area of curriculum is one of the first to get tied off from funds!

    Private schools that were established on the basis of religion are also being affected by school choice.  These effects are evident right here in Lima, as non-Catholic students are using EduChoice scholarships to attend Lima’s Catholic schools.  Many families are simply looking at these schools’ often superior test score results and not paying attention to “smaller class and school size, teacher training, multicultural curricula, teacher-parent collaboration, youth services, or equal and adequate funding” (Levine et al, 1995, p. 208).  These attributes- along with religious values within the classroom- are the criteria that are truly setting Catholic schools apart and allowing their test results to be of good standing!  However, when an influx of students enters these schools, the aforementioned unique attributes will be compromised and consequently negatively affect these esteemed test scores.

    In conclusion, one may find it evident that if the federal government is going to grant its citizens a so-called choice in their education, it needs to afford all schools with equal opportunity to exist on the same playing field.  There is no reason why pupils who are born into money simply should be granted more opportunities than those who were dealt an unfair hand in life!  If the government can not establish more equally qualitative schools across the whole nation, the least they can do is “restrict choice programs to the underserved” (Levine et al, 1995, p. 203).  Only when educational opportunity among all pupils is truly equal, is it possible for the gap between the rich and poor to close and a truly good choice in education be made!

References

Hayden, J., & Cauthen, K. (Producers). (1995). Children in America’s Schools [Motion picture].   United States.

Levine, D., Lowe, R., Peterson, B., & Tenorio, R. (Eds.). (1995). Rethinking schools: An agenda for change. New York: The New Press.