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School Choice: Those Left Behind

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While there are a variety of arguments advanced in favor of school choice of the sort that transfers public money to private schools, many of them focus on the benefits to those able to chose to leave public schools. Those left behind seem to be largely ignored. This, I contend, is a problem. One stock argument in favor of school choice is based on the claim that it allows students to escape from dangerous public schools. It is true that public schools can be violent places and protecting children from violence is laudable. This approach is analogous to moving away from high-crime areas, ideally to well-policed gated communities. While this is obviously beneficial to those who can chose to escape, it does nothing to address the underlying problems of school violence—it merely allows some to escape, while leaving the rest behind. It could be argued that school choice can still solve the problem. However, the easy and obvious reply is that even if all children are (for example) given vouchers, this will merely recreate the problematic public schools—thus undercutting the safety argument for school choice. To use an analogy, it would be like trying to solve the problem of high crime neighborhoods by creating gated communities—and then moving everyone within the gates. This shows the basic problem with trying to create safety by moving some people away from unsafe areas: it does nothing for those left behind. One could counter that the solution would be dilution: if the problem children could be identified and distributed among various schools, they would be more manageable. This does have some merit, but this could obviously be done without school choice programs. It could be argued that what matters is securing the safety of some, be it in private schools funded by public money or in gated communities. As such, school choice is good—for those who matter. Those left behind do not matter. While this might be appealing to those on the right side of. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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