Society benefits from institutional diversity too. Goldstein writes, “I benefited from 13 years of public education in one of the most diverse and progressive school districts in the United States. My father, stepmother, stepfather, and grandfather are or were public school educators.” Says deBoer, “What I learned by coming up, K-12, surrounded by children who were not like me on many dimensions was that this diversity is in and of itself the best education.” They seem curiously blind to the fact that many attendees of private schools and homeschooling collectives can speak as eloquently about unique things they learned at school. The Catholic school system, where I was educated, soured me on the faith, but I was able to glean substantial wisdom from the Catholic perspective on the world, and I’d doubtless have learned a different set of valuable lessons had I been educated by Hindus or Muslims or Alan Jacobs.
Would these different sorts of wisdom all survive if an increasingly centralized public school system operated as a monopoly? Aren’t we better off in a society that draws on folks who got different sorts of education? Some progressives seem to think a diverse society is one where every 14-year-old in America arrives at school, pledges allegiance to the nation’s flag, takes out an American history textbook shaped by panels of bureaucrats in California and Texas, and proceeds to be guided by a teacher with a state issued credential in how best to pass a standardized test. Who is celebrating diversity, the champions of putting every kid in the education wonk’s vision of the ideal classroom, or the folks who want some kids to start their day interacting with multi-ethnic classmates while others start their school day praying and still others learn about raising backyard chickens?
The final question is what sort of educational system is likely to produce the best results in the long run, or to be more specific, what system is best suited to evolving in advantageous ways. I’d bet on the diversified system, the one where there are always competitors with different models to measure public schools against.