Adding a Private Element to Public Schooling Boosts Diversity
This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.
During the 2016 Amplify School Choice event promoted and organized by the nonprofit news organization Franklin Center, bloggers and journalists from across the country had the opportunity to visit two public schools in the Denver, Colorado area.
While the event brought several options of schooling to light, one of the programs most speakers focused on is known as a charter.
Charter schools are public schools. What makes them uniquely different from traditional schools is that they share a private element with for-profit organizations.
Instead of being run like a public school, charters are given the freedom to refrain from following regulations imposed on traditional schools, allowing leadership to resort to different educational methods. Charters usually hire teachers who are not unionized and often use unique educational techniques, giving students with special needs an opportunity to adapt.
But because these schools are publicly funded, students who would otherwise be stuck in the neighborhood’s traditional school are given the opportunity to choose.
Charters, which are often smaller, are able to work with students in a more direct way than traditional school teachers can. And low-income families with access to the charter option are often thankful in the long run.
During a conversation with Bill Kurtz, the CEO of DSST Public Schools—a local charter—we were lucky to get to know three DSST students, all who happened to be the children of immigrants.
According to Kurtz, the idea behind DSST is to boost the community. “As you can see,” he told the audience of bloggers and journalists, “the school is very diverse. [It] largely mirrors the population of Denver.”
With a 100 percent success rate in sending students to college, DSST stands out for the diversity of its students and its success rate in following its mission. But during the conversation, Kurtz didn’t go into the economic or praxeological reasons why his school excels in bringing diverse people together.
In the book The Liberal Archipelago: A Theory Of Diversity And Freedom, author Chandran Kukathas contends that the state has no place promoting any set of values. Kukathas argues that, if the government imposes values by force, individuals will feel compelled to rebel or to act against their conscience.
The author adds that the “most important source of human motivation is principle—or, better still, conscience. … not because conscience always overcomes or overrules other motives … [but because conscience is] what we think should guide us.”
In an environment where private elements come together, eliminating the need to follow the values imposed by a governmental body, individuals are compelled to follow their heart, so to speak.
Adding the private element to a traditional school removes many of the impositions traditional educators, parents, and students are often faced with, boosting efficacy and yes, diversity. Not only because schools might be effectively targeting minorities, but because children stuck with bad educational choices due to their zip code are now given the opportunity to choose.
Students may come from a variety of backgrounds, but they also resort to charters because they have specific goals in mind: get a better education.
Schools with the private element are freer to experiment, giving students who are willing to follow their style an opportunity to grow while “weeding out” those who are not particularly fond of that school’s mission.
In the traditional school system, a child’s fate is set by his or her zip code. But where choice abides, so does conscience. And that’s why the removal of value imposition through government often produces great results.