Education Letter to the Editor

Wanting Public Support, But With Private Control

February 23, 2009 1 min read

To the Editor:

In his Commentary “Rethinking the Notion of Public vs. Private” (Jan. 21, 2009), Doug Tuthill rolls the dough of his horseradish privatization muffin in the sweet oatmeal of President Barack Obama’s political campaign, hoping that no one will notice what he is selling.

Privatization proponents want taxpayers to help pay for their particular educational nostrum. In effect, they want public support and private control. That’s the honest truth about their dishonest deception.

Mr. Tuthill should address the issue directly. Public schools are not succeeding. In a changing world, children must be educated to sustain a strong, healthy society. Society needs an answer.

Schools must change. But each change proposal has different consequences. A change strategy based on the premise that all children are entitled to an educational opportunity will focus on improving existing schools. A strategy based on the swamp-root elixir of privatization that selects those to be educated will produce different results. Mr. Tuthill should show in detail how education will change for all children in his market-force-competition-based “solution.”

Schools can benefit from experimental alternatives—they were called lab schools in the 1940s. Teachers should be given space to try new methods and develop lessons that fit the rapidly changing communications technology. Such research and development does not have to be private, however. Everything that teachers learn from experimentation should be shared, written up in journals for teachers, and demonstrated at workshops so that the entire public school sector can benefit from what works and quickly reject what doesn’t.

Recent history has shown that we should be very cautious about unleashing the predatory practices of Wall Street on the educational needs of children.

Bill Harshbarger

Arcola, Ill.

A version of this article appeared in the February 25, 2009 edition of Education Week as Wanting Public Support, But With Private Control