Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Diversity or Informed Choice In Education — What Is More Important?

Should parents be allowed to know how many students in a particular public school come from low-income households? Is it ok for a website designed to help parents compare public schools, include not just the test score averages, but also statistical information about students - from the percentage of students whose parents have university degrees to the share of students whose first language is other than English?

Ontario government believes it's just a matter of bringing public information together in one easy-to-access place. The opposition (including the very progressive Conservatives) finds such information too controversial, if not offensive:
However, the Conservatives and New Democrats said the site also allows parents who are so inclined to make sure their kids avoid going to schools in poor neighbourhoods or ones with large numbers of immigrants.

“It allows parents to say, ‘I don't want my child going where income levels are below the norm or where there's a certain racial makeup to an area,”' said interim Opposition Leader Bob Runciman. “I think that's totally wrong and should offend most thinking Ontarians.”

The New Democrats support giving parents information so they can compare individual schools in academic performance, but said it should not include data on students who speak English as a second language or whose parents earn more than $100,000.

“That is clearly designed to make sure that parents know exactly where to send their children,” said NDP education critic Rosario Marchese.
So what's wrong with that? Why shouldn't the parents be allowed to know where exactly to send their children? Or does Mr. Marchese think that the one to know best is the government, not the parents?

"Progressive" politicians of all stripes are afraid that parents may reject their vision of diversity in public schools; that some of them may start withdrawing their children from "bad" schools and transfer them to "good" schools. But if that's what happens, then whose fault it is? Is it the parents' fault that they don't want their kids to be used as guinea pigs in yet another "progressive" social experiment? Or is it the progressives' fault that their blueprints for success, happiness, harmony and diversity in public schools considers anything but the parents' concerns?

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