Review of School Choice: The Findings
School Choice: The Findings by Herbert J. Walberg deals with one of the most controversial subjects (with regards to education) today. Emotions run high whenever and wherever school choice and its potential possible effects are mentioned. Pro-choice experts and citizens often argue that the government should have no right to determine what school children attend. Anti-choice experts and citizens often claim that abolishing the current system and letting schools compete will result in de fact segregation and in low quality schools in poor areas, and high quality schools in rich areas. In School Choice: The Findings, however, Walberg decides to ignore the emotional aspects of the debate and only looks at the measurable effects of choice (except for in the sixth chapter). This non-emotional, fact based, approach is highly refreshing and required reading material for all involved in the greater debate about this issue.
When the Cato Institute published a book about school choice, it will surprise no one that the conclusion of the book (and author) is that school choice improves the quality of schools across the board and that many of the current problems in America’s education system are caused by a lack of choice in this regard. However, that does not mean that one can automatically reject the outcomes and studies cited in such a book. Sometimes ideologues are right. In School Choice: The Findings Walberg proves that libertarian ideologues are indeed right in this regard, or that â€“ at the very least â€“ opponents of school choice have to make a better case from now on if they talk about improving the state of American education without offering parents a choice with regards to what school they send their children.
Walberg starts off by noting that there are serious problems today. American students have performed wore during the last couple of decades and, where they were once leading the world in knowledge they are not lagging behind many other countries. Other countries, yes even European countries, offer high school students a better education which results in a better preparation for a college degree and, as a result, in higher wages once they are done studying and start working. As a result of the detoriation of the educational system, the American government has increasingly invested more money in schools, teachers and students. All, however, to no avail. Efficiency has dropped, students’ knowledge has decreased even more. As Walberg notes, people increasingly believe that school choice might be the solution for the current problems: once parents can choose, they think, competition between schools will increase and the quality of American high schools will increase as a result. After describing the current sad state of American schools, Walberg goes on to take a closer look at (the effects of) charter schools, effects of vouchers, and (the effects of) private schools. Besides looking at those different kind of schools, the author also looks at ‘customer satisfaction’ (of the students and especially their parents) and the influence of geopolitical influences.