The notion of school choice has been around for quite a while. Usually, the term refers to school district policies that allow parents, who are public school supporters, to choose the school their children attend. Choice, in terms of independent private schools is, of course, the ultimate choice, but one few can afford.
Well, the notion of publicly funded choice is back in the news. Usually, in Ontario at least, those “choices” are referred to as alternative or specialty schools. However, as Moira MacDonald of the Toronto Sun wrote yesterday, it seems that a group of parents in York Region are “squaring off against trustees wanting to eliminate specialty schools at the elementary level.”
MacDonald also laments, rightly, that too often school trustees (and I would add union officials) refer to the specialty public schools as “boutique” schools — more as a putdown than anything else.
For example, a quick Google search indicates that the definition of boutiques are small fashionable stores geared towards special clients — meaning that alternative schools are just as elitist, which is hardly the case if an alternative school has an Africentric curriculum or is geared towards students with special learning needs.
As MacDonald writes about her own high school experience:”‘Boutique school’ wasn’t yet in vogue when I attended an alternative high school in Scarborough. Instead, we got slammed as ‘elitist.’ Here’s how elitist we were: We were black, brown, white, Chinese, gay, poor, middle-class, drop-out risks, kids from single-parent homes and kids from two-parent homes.'”
So, what is really going on when opponents of choice put down the very idea of parent choice within a publicly funded education system? In my opinion, it is related to what I was writing about yesterday, the problem with today’s progressives. They are more conservative than Conservatives: rigid, intolerant of differences and change of any kind, as well as requiring complete uniformity of experience and outcome.
Interesting, I came across an article today in Macleans that confirms the role reversal between progressives and liberals and conservatives. It was titled: “Which political party is really rigid and inflexible?” While it wasn’t about school choice, it did show why it is likely that the Ontario Liberal government, the Ontario teachers’ unions and trustees for York Region, are suffering from the same kind of fear of change and differences.
Anyway, the crux of the matter is that I am 100% with the York Region parents on this one. It is not elitist to give children and youth a choice of what school they want to attend.