Opinion
Education Opinion

The power of self-governance

By Deborah Meier — March 21, 2007 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Dear Diane,

Ah, mandates. My flirtation with libertarianism is deep-seated and may be related to having grown up at a time when two absolutes—fascism and communism—were at their heights. Both dismissed the sloppy bourgeois democracies with their tepid ideals. I knew the Left-side of this better than the Fascist one, and found myself on occasion uneasy about claims that one had to sacrifice democracy for higher ends—albeit temporarily. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. The masses have been brain-washed and until we can clear their heads of foolishness “we” must rule in their place.

But in the end, I think it explains why my “religion” became democracy itself. (P.S. It may have been unwise—but not undemocratic—for unions to have fought for the check off.)

Naturally I was often tempted to abandon democracy, because “the people” seemed so often wrong. But who would I choose in their place? Thus my love of that Churchillian quotation: Democracy is a thoroughly flawed idea until one considers the alternatives (or words to that effect).

So I’m always glad for the existence of good alternatives—sometimes I prefer local rights, sometimes state rights, sometimes private rights, and other times federal rights. Just not all in one place. I know I’m inconsistent. So then is the Constitution. I admit, to start with, I’m both an uncertainty AND an inconsistency fan.

But when it comes to how we “raise” our children, when it comes to whose History is True, I fall back stubbornly on being as close as I can to viewing localism as my bottom line, with a few exceptions.

There are, I realize, some Friedmanite libertarians who agree with me and suggest a private free-market solution—competition solves all! They would be hard put, of course, to argue that such measures raise test-scores. So far the evidence is clear: privatization does not raise scores. But, mostly they argue for it based on their belief in the market place as the highest form of democracy. That’s where I disagree.

My experience in the 70s, 80s and 90s in NYC’s East Harlem community however sold me on public choice as a fitting response to public accountability! Families and teachers values re schooling are sufficiently varied that they cannot always be “compromised” without compromising a decent and coherent educational setting. Perhaps we will discover that the important thinking—about means and ends—must rest with the constituents of each and every school: the familiar idea of self-governance. Not only is self-governance efficient, but it’s educational.

While management experts search for “the best system”, we’ve abandoned the common ingredient that “beat the odds” share, the power of self-governance (even when no one officially gave it to them). Schools that connect with their immediate public, not pull away from it, serve kids best.

What are the limits of such localism? What kind of loving lay public stewardship is needed? In the name of the larger public good what must we have consensus on? What trade-offs could we live with? It might be useful, Diane, if you and I—committed as we both are to public education—discussed what such limits might be like in the public sphere?

Deborah

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP