School reform straw man

When you can’t defend your own ideology, characterize your opponent’s ideology as something that it isn’t, a la David Sirota:

On one side are self-interested teachers unions who supposedly oppose fundamental changes to schools, not because they care about students, but because they fear for their own job security and wages, irrespective of kids. In this mythology, they are pitted against an alliance of extraordinarily wealthy corporate elites who, unlike the allegedly greedy unions, are said to act solely out of the goodness of their hearts. We are told that this “reform” alliance of everyone from Rupert Murdoch to the Walton family to leading hedge funders spends huge amounts of money pushing for radical changes to public schools because they suddenly decided that they care about destitute children, and now want to see all kids get a great education.

Here Sirota creates a straw man by claiming that proponents of privatization of education and other like-minded reformers believe that “wealthy corporate elites…act solely out of the goodness of their hearts.” Quite contrarily, I expect private businesses, of which private schools are in specie, to provide a good service out of their own best interest. I expect them to cater to my desires out of fear for their own survival and financial well being – the profit motive. Adam Smith noted the power of this phenomenon centuries ago:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

It is an inescapable axiom that education is a service not unlike that of any other industry. The reasons that we must treat it so differently are lost on me.

In stark contrast to a privately run educational industry, the function of schools in the socialized realm of public education rests on something much less reliable than even benevolence – politics.


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