To the Editor:
Denis P. Doyle’s Commentary “Why Markets Are Important (and What They Could Do for Public Education)” (Jan. 16, 2008) could have been written as part of a State of the Union address for President Ronald Reagan. This “business model” idea has been the conservative focus for education since the 1980s (and probably longer). I feel, however, that the philosophy of classic capitalist theory, applied to the public-sector institution of education, is not as neat a fit as this argument always seems to make it.
For years, we have seen what kinds of compromises and shortcuts are taken when the bottom line becomes the primary motivational force of an institution. Whether that bottom line is a test score or a profit margin, the motivation to leave behind those who cannot perform and those who cannot pay often outweighs the compulsion to do what is morally correct.
The business model superimposed on education has brought us an era in which we test kids more often than we teach them, we work hard to undermine teaching as a profession by demonizing unions in hopes of breaking them, and we offer federal grants only to those private-sector publishers who contribute to the campaign fund.
For my ever-shrinking piece of the public-sector pie, I’ll take a model different from the one that brings us closer to the current state of the private sector in this country. Last time I checked, the business model wasn’t even doing well for businesses.
G. Putnam Goodwin-Boyd
A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2008 edition of Education Week