Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Vouchers in the Economist

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

May 05, 2007

Responding to a rah rah post from Graham Glass (comment currently awaiting moderation on his site):

What this story shows is that if you pick and chose your examples you can make it look like almost anything is working.

But readers should be tipped off by the Economist story's use of mostly inaccessible results from Colombia and Sweden rather than cases from the United States, where vouchers have been attempted most extensively.

This is probably because, despite millions of dollars in promotion and a substantial political lobby, study after study in the U.S. is showing vouchers to be failing.

I have a great fondness for Colombia, but I must say, when the Economist cites the Colombian school system as a model for U.S. states to follow, it smacks of desperation.

I half expected the article to cite the Edmonton School Board, where school choice is in fact working in the best interests of students.

But of course, the Edmonton system is completely publicly funded - there aren't private schools with special agendas sniping around the margins of the system.

The voucher system - despite the publicity - is not designed to engender school choice. It is instead designed as a way to generate public funding for private schools.

There is substantial evidence that a private system does not work. A private school has to serve too many masters - and in particularly, shareholders - leaving any real concern about a child's education far behind.

The Economist once had a good reputation. These days, it is nothing but a fountain of ill-disguised propaganda with a disregard for reason and common sense that is embarrassing.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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