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I have followed this thread for several days, waiting for the research based viewpoint of the need for, the purpose of, or the desire for a voucher based educational system in the United States. Haven't seen it yet, so I will start the conversation.
As a young teacher with barely six years of experience, I lived through the birth of the Voucher Movement, during the nightmare year of 1983. This was the year when the now infamous report "A Nation At Risk" was produced by President Reagan's Commission on Excellence in Schools.
We now know that this report was not research based, it was belief based. Yet the second important educational report, the research based Sandia Labs Report, commissioned by President Bush, was promptly buried in the anti-public school rhetoric when it showed that our schools were in fact doing a very excellent job of educating American children.
This report "A Nation At Risk" became the permission slip for the multitudinous attacks against children, parents and public school teachers. Every time I picked up the paper, some editor with an ax to grind about his bad personal experiences in public school was telling us how bad the teachers were, as well as the public schools, the parents, and anyone else they chose to blame. I wish they had just told their own parents how terrible they were for not sending them to a private school and be done with it. It was the same with magazines and TV.
This attack, on teachers (mostly) and the public schools, came at a time when teachers like me were looking forward towards the bright future of education, as shown in the beginnings of computer technology, adequate public school financing, and a growing presence of professionalism developing among teachers.
We believed in our abilities to teach children well and share our schools with parents. I must say that positive enthusiasm among teachers is one important factor that I see and hear in the present times.
My own experiences, as a student or a teacher, never agreed with any of the findings of this report. I must admit that Presidents Reagan and Bush used the report to try to separate teachers like me from the pack. They appealed to the free enterprise oriented, young Republicans to go along with the wave of the future....go independent...no need for tenure...start your own school...and other propaganda that never was or will ever be valid or effective, as I discovered later.
When I started researching the history of American Education, I realized that this voucher stuff was a rehash of the free-for-all Robber Baron period of the last 25 years of the 19th century. You know I guess that was the turning point for me...when I realized that vouchers were a sham...a cover-up for the destruction of the public school in the United States of America.
In some of the most poignant revelations about the teachers of the late 1800's, I was shocked by the terrible trials of one of America's most talented and effective educators, Bronson Alcott. A brilliant teacher, he was also the father of Louisa Mae Alcott. Many of the practices he initiated...using newspapers and trade books, unganging the desks, and the replacement of monotonous choral recitations with presentation of each individual's work...are standards by which we teach today.
Bronson Alcott was the norm among many fine teachers in America during the late 1800's. That didn't stop him from suffering because of the poor treatment of the itinerant teacher with no tenure or even a contract. For instance, he often couldn't get the groups who hired him to pay him in a timely fashion or at all. Sometimes, he was hired by one group, and then fired within a few months solely because the power structure of the organization changed. I could continue with these stories, enough to fill a book, but there are already many excellent books on this free-for-all era in our American history.
Remember (punny, eh), we, as Americans are well known for our short memories, and we often pay dearly for it.
To enrich this thread, I would like to suggest that you read a short essay, "How Can We Tell Whether A Researcher Has Reached Sound Conclusions?" on what I consider some core issues in our search for the products of our choice of vouchers or public school. The URL is:
I agree with Henry Taylor, sending your children to a private school or a public school is based mostly on beliefs, that, as he says, "...we all have our beliefs I suppose."
Almost 15 years ago, after the soul-searching and researching, I made my decision, in the end, to support American public schools.
Please accept this as it is intended, a bit of information that may encourage you, my peers, to look at research, not feelings when it comes to the reallocation of public funds from publicly accountable entities to privately held entities.
Have a great day,
Sheryl A. McCoy
--- In this galaxy of bright women, the State has a noble pride for every name, be its owner Kansas born or adopted, is a mightier force for good than its ``walls of corn.'' -- Ellen P. Allerton --
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