School choice has remained a compelling part of education reform discourse and policy into the twenty-first century—but not simply among conservative politicians and stakeholders.
For example, despite growing evidence that charter schools are essentially no better or worse than traditional public schools, political and public support for charter schools remains robust primarily because they are touted as parental choice.
And especially in the good ol’ U.S. of A., what could be wrong with all parents having the same choices that wealthy parents have?
Except, that bromide is compelling only within the context of idealizing choice—ignoring that parents make all sorts of horrible choices daily, negatively impacting their children, ignoring that parents tend to choose schools for socio-political reasons that have little to do with academic quality, and thus, that choice isn’t a positive market force for education reform but for one of the greatest ills to ever impact society and education in the U.S.: segregation by race and class.
While the talking points for school choice advocates have shifted over the last few decades, “all parents should have the same choices that wealthy parents have” drives the essence of their advocacy, and allows this ideology to skirt the overwhelming evidence against school choice as a positive mechanism for education or social reform addressing inequity.
During this presidential election season, amid rising social tensions, there is renewed calls for building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Like school choice, this plan is compelling along extreme ideological lines only; in practice, both are unwarranted and even incendiary.