The issue of school choice is often framed as a partisan one. Republicans are generally viewed as the party which supports school choice, while Democrats are viewed as the party that opposes the concept.
But things look a little different when the rubber meets the road and parents are pulled into the equation.
In a recent survey from the National School Choice Awareness Foundation, it was revealed that Democrat parents were more likely than Republican parents to choose new schools for their kids. As the graphic below shows, 56% of Democrat parents chose new schools in the last year, while only 40% of Republicans did the same.
True, it’s possible that many Republican parents have already chosen schools in previous years where their children have found success and happiness, and as such, their numbers are lower in this most recent survey. Nevertheless, such a trend still demonstrates that, at least among parents, the issue of choice in education is a no-brainer and one that’s gaining steam.
Unfortunately, the powers-that-be remain unconvinced. They are the experts, their stance seems to say, and as such, they—not parents—know what’s best for children.
Sadly, this is not a new thought, for English writer and philosopher G. K. Chesterton pointed out the tendency to ignore parental thought, intuition, and knowledge in the education realm over a century ago.
“Modern education is founded on the principle that a parent is more likely to be cruel than anybody else,” Chesterton wrote in his book, The Superstition of Divorce. “It passes over the obvious fact that he is less likely to be cruel than anybody else.” Why? Because that parent is closest to the child and loves him most—far more than any expert does:
Anybody may happen to be cruel; but the first chances of cruelty come with the whole colourless and indifferent crowd of total strangers and mechanical mercenaries, whom it is now the custom to call in as infallible agents of improvement; policemen, doctors, detectives, inspectors, instructors, and so on. They are automatically given arbitrary power because there are here and there such things as criminal parents; as if there were no such things as criminal doctors or criminal school-masters.
In other words, we have a double standard. When it comes to the parents, we always grow alarmed over the very few exceptions which may not act in the best interest of their children—such as those who might not pick the best school for their child if they had the opportunity of school choice. But when it comes to education experts or other public officials, we practically ignore the possibility that any of them could ever harm or do a child wrong. And in so doing, we ignore common sense, for common sense tells us that the parent, not the expert, is likely the one who loves the child most and will therefore do the utmost to ensure that he gets the very best—education or otherwise.
Thus, when it comes to school choice, perhaps it’s time we start trusting parents—both Democrats and Republicans—to make the best educational choices for their children. When it comes to education, it’s time to give the power back to the parents.
Image Credit: Flickr-HomeAid National Capital Region, CC BY 2.0