School & District Management Opinion

Should We Risk a Free Market in Education?

By Diane Ravitch — October 14, 2008 1 min read
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Dear Deborah,

Over the time that we have been blogging, we have found many issues on which we disagree—mostly having to do with externally set curriculum, standards, and tests—and many on which we agree—mostly having to do with autocratic school leadership and efforts to force a business model on the schools.

Since I am writing you on a day when the world economic system is in disarray, I would like to focus on the relevance of the business model for the nation’s public schools.

For the past 15 years or more, we have heard a steady drumbeat from the business community and their allies that the schools need a strong dose of businesslike methods. They need choice, competition, accountability. They need to be more like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King, they need to fight for consumers, they need to be shuttered if they can’t get customers. In short, let’s turn the schools over to the free market. And, of course, we must measure relentlessly, shaming and humiliating those teachers whose students are not constantly getting ever higher test scores. Test scores, I suppose, are the equivalent of a sales target or profit margins.

And of course schools should be deregulated, so that the competition can be as fierce as possible.

As the free market lies in shambles around us, bringing down with it many people’s life savings, I wonder if its advocates in the education arena will stop and reconsider whether they are importing free-market chaos and free-market punishments into the lives of children? And who will stop them before it is too late?


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.