Review: A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School

A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School by Jack Schneider
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Schneider and Berkshire's critique of charter schools and the privatization of public education is a sharp and insightful analysis that helps unpack the complex forces at play in actively trying to dismantle public education. They demonstrate that the current push toward charter schools is part of an ongoing effort by right-wing conservatives that has moved from peripheral to center over the past 80 years.  Initially arising as a means to work around equally funding schools for Black children or allowing for integration, charter school's historical legacy and contemporary means of being able to do a great deal of harm to students and teachers without any public accountability raise a range of questions about who is benefitting (i.e. profiting) from these structures.  Schneider and Berkshire help to answer that question while also showing the ways these increasingly present strategies work on several levels.  In the guise of "choice", they recenter the purpose of public education from creating citizens to being a good that parents should have a choice in (choice for the public option or use their tax dollars for the private/charter option). In the process of legislatively getting states and cities to create voucher programs where taxpayers' dollars go with the student (e.g. to a charter instead of a public school), they increasingly contribute to the demise of public education, which is often not sufficiently funded. The decreasing funds contribute to poorer school results which contribute to a downward spiral.  Of course, this is something that has been played out in many other areas where the public good is slowly eroded and as they point out, once these cycles start, they rarely are turned around and once a system falls apart, it is almost never revived. And while there are criticisms of public education, the idea that it needs to be destroyed is one that will in many ways destroy many bedrock elements of civic society in general.  At the same time, many companies are looking to make fast money on educational technology that everyone is looking to largely teach masses of students (though, of course, those that can afford it, will still get human-based teaching).  But the goal of automating teaching and learning also chips away at the idea that public education should be something grounded in a community and part of a society and more a selection of tasks accomplished with a computer and often, under-experienced, overworked, and easily-dismissable (i.e. replaceable) workforce. This alone is enough to raise concerns for readers but the authors offer so much more that leaves one questioning what chances there are for those who want public education to actually be available for future generations.

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