Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hyman Serves Up Another Lemon

Mark Hyman revisits the issue of privatizing education in his recent editorial in which he compares failing schools to cars that turn out to be “lemons.”

The metaphor itself is wrongheaded for a number of reasons. First, education is not a product, like cars, toilet paper, or widgets. It’s a communal act of preparing children, all of them, for the future. That’s why those of us who don’t have kids also pay into the education system: it’s serving the good of the nation, not just the individual students and their families.

Having said that, Hyman compounds the inapt metaphor with the fallacy of a false dichotomy, suggesting that the choice is between funding public schools that are failing and allowing parents to use public money to send their child to private school.

The unconstitutionality of that aside, it’s ignoring the far more sensible alternative of allowing greater choice with in public schools. Such choice would truly allow all students to participate. Voucher systems, as we’ve pointed out here a number of times, essentially amount to a tax break for those wealthy enough to pay tuition at private schools.

Public school choice allows everyone to participate in choice (letting that wonderful invisible hand truly do its thing) and does not break our covenant with the next generation.

To put it another way, Hyman advocates a system in which some people could keep their children from riding in a car that was a lemon but didn’t do anything to keep their neighbors’ children from being driven off in a dangerously unsafe car. Is that the sort of morality we want in America?

How about we focus on actually fixing the car so that everyone gets where they’re supposed to go?

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 4.13


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