Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Educational Choice: The Ponderings of My Latest Interest

Americans are all about freedom, justice, fairness and opportunity. We are very much opposed to subliminal mind games, bureaucratic restrictions, and cookie cutter opportunities. It is possible I have “stumbled” upon one of the most significant, yet broadly unrecognized, tools to perpetuate our American ideals for personal success and individual value and liberty. Educational Choice.

I recently attended a conference on the matter that has garnered my long, overdue attention to the subject. While I’ve worked in the political and public policy arena for a decade, it is a topic I have not personally zeroed in on.

My mind and emotions usually get enthused on the topics regarding the dignity of life, natural marriage and the fundamental principle of responsible civic engagement. But, I do acknowledge that I am a product of school choice and I come from a family that is very focused on education and possess a love of life-long learning. With a dad that earned a doctorate in his sixties, a mom with a college degree that came from three Universities and 3 siblings and spouses that have participated in collegiate education, it is a topic that is a natural piece of my family narrative.

Yet, I have put this topic on the proverbial back burner. Until now.

Because of this conference, I started to inquire after some basic, perhaps rudimentary questions to the learned expert in this field. I am curious with lots of objective questions:

What is school choice, really? What are the different educational “choices” to “choose” from?

Why is it so controversial? What did education “used” to be that now requires educational options, or that the idea of expanding opportunities causes so much reverberation?

If it’s best for the children, why is there a struggle for the movement to thrive? Is there a struggle for the movement, or is the opposition to educational choice just good at disseminating their message louder over the din of everyday life?

What, or who, is the hold up to moving this effort forward? What do we do to get around the roadblock?

And, if it’s important as people make it out to be, how do I help drive the movement?

Now that I have passed the initial inquiries, my ponderings continue: Is the friction caused by the philosophy of school choice simply because there is an allegiance to the mainline, public school institutions? Is there something the administrators and teachers of established public schools see and know as experts in the field as to why school choice is damaging to our youngest generations? Or is it that the institution of public education has become a culture of “group-think” that the mere discussion of operating or educating outside the traditional ranks is causing a ripple in the force? Is it possible that teachers who are caught up in animosity towards school choice do not truly understand the movement?

And, if the topic is so vital to the growth of our children, why are more people not engaged in the topic in their local community? Do they not consider that it is their money being spent on public education? Or, that the students who come through American education will make up our own business, healthcare, legislative, sports league (and more!) leadership down the road?

Do citizens not consider that by our tax dollars being used, we as neighborhood residents already have personal capitol in the local education market place? And because of our financial investments alone, should we not care how public education is doing both in process, and production quality?

My inquisitive mind spins on: If America does not have school choice, what’s the alternative? Choice suggests freedom, indicates individual will, and acknowledges that, by having the very opportunity of a choice, there are other options to be considered besides just one.

Why do said opponents of school choice stand hard against it? Is it a poor break down of communication between the established educational system and those attempting to expand the borders of learning?

I feel as though the significance of educational choice could be one of the greatest tools in our toolbox to preparing children for a better future. And if the aforementioned statement is true, we have a responsibility to the next generation to consider and ponder the topic! We must regard it as more than just a talking point and then together determine how to confront the road blocks and then cause it to flourish in our own neighborhoods!

To those who have been trying to get my attention on the significance of the topic all this time, I’m sorry for my slow arrival to the classroom. But I’ve found my seat and I’m ready to learn. So, educational choice – let the journey begin.

- ajh