July 18, 2011 10:38AM

The Frightening Philosophy of Public Schooling, in a Nutshell

From a New York Times article on wealthy suburbanites opposing charter schools in their districts:

Millburn offers Mandarin only in high school, fueling the arguments of those seeking the new charters. “Kids are like sponges,” said Yanbin Ma, a Hanyu founder. “There are so many things they can absorb and become good at, and I feel that our public schools haven’t done enough to take advantage of that.”

But to Mr. Stewart, a leader in a growing opposition that includes Livingston mothers who have helped collect more than 800 petition signatures, this sounds “selfish.”

“Public education is basically a social contract — we all pool our money, so I don’t think I should be able to custom‐​design it to my needs,” he said, noting that he pays $15,000 a year in property taxes. “With these charter schools, people are trying to say, ‘I want a custom‐​tailored education for my children, and I want you, as my neighbor, to pay for it.’ ”

Could there be a philosophy of education any less compatible with a free society — or any society composed of unique individuals — than the one‐​size‐​must‐​fit‐​all, communal model championed by Mr. Stewart ? No way — yet that is exactly what we’ve got.