David King Profile picture
Oct 24 13 tweets 4 min read
On Twitter, in response to the #Rally4Ed in Edmonton, Jim Simpson @EMJS10 asked - When people say, ‘save public education’, what do they mean? What needs saving? Who needs saving?
A vital question requires an answer. What sets public school education apart? #ABEd @SOSAlberta
What characteristics & project makes public school education unique, vital, and attractive, compared to state-funded denominational education, charter and other private schools, or home schooling? Why does public school education have value worth defending? @schill_dawg #Ableg
Two caveats. First, this is a summary of more extensive arguments I have been making for more than 40 years. Second, I am describing the ideal system of public school and it doesn’t exist anywhere. But it is pursued with passion in many communities.
By contrast, state-funded denominational systems, charter & other private schools, & home schooling don't aspire to these characteristics & cannot take on the project of public school education because they value other characteristics & are explicitly in pursuit of other projects
Public school education has three characteristics that set it apart from every other system of providing education. The representation of these three characteristics is vital to the future of civil democratic society

1. Public school education is universally accessible,
as a matter of right and responsibility, without precondition of any kind, and it aspires to go beyond accessibility -- to be inclusive and to celebrate diversity. (Accessibility means that anyone can enter the dance hall: inclusion means that everyone
everyone has the real prospect of being asked on to the dance floor.)
The universal right (& responsibility) of access is for students at one end of the project & for adults at the governance end of the project. The right of access runs from the classroom to the voting booth.
2.Public school education serves the needs of both the student and the entire community. The premise of public school education is that the child is an autonomous being to whom the community has obligations. The student is not a chattel of its parents.
As a supporter of public school education, I see the child/student as an incoming member of the civil democratic society in which I live and upon which I depend. I have a vital interests that the student should be prepared, as well as can be, for life in our shared community.
In 20 years or so, today's student may well be my doctor or plumber, or MLA. (Remember the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” In a civil society, the entire village is responsible for the education of every child because that child is the future of the village.)
3.Public school education exists to be a deliberate model of a civil democratic society, and this is true, not only in the classroom but also on the playground and in the staff room, in the principal’s office and in the board room.
(Public school education is not a model of a faith community, or an economic strata, or a pedagogical ideology.
In years gone by, there were many great social institutions that drew young people & new arrivals into a rich understanding of the life & intentions of the community.
Public education is the only remaining universally available social institution, by which we can, if we choose, draw everyone into a shared community that celebrates diversity, & exploration, & critical inquiry on behalf of common projects. Perhaps that is not the future we want.

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