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Specialized High Schools – I support public schools

June 12, 2018 am30 7:38 am

As I start rambling on about specialized high schools, I need a starting point. And here it is:  I am a strong supporter of public education. I support equity. I am anti-racist. I have a sense of fairness that is always on. But none of this is simple.

Public education in the United States – well, it doesn’t begin at the beginning. I mean publicly funded, publicly run, secular, unsegregated schools, roughly K-12 (though I’m not sure how we got to exactly those 13 years), with compulsory attendance. I don’t think we’ve ever had exactly that in this country. There’s not some “golden age” we can point to…  we think of the one-room schoolhouse, but that was protestant, not secular. And, AFAIK, the New England schoolhouse was spread to the midwest and then partially imposed on the south in the early, mid, and then late 19th century, unevenly and incompletely. (There’s a book called “Pillars of the Republic” by a guy named Kaestle that does a good job on this).  There were also little private tutoring schools (“Dame Schools”?) going back to the 18th century. And then with the rise of the big cities, charity schools, which give rise to our large urban schools. And these are sort of merged into an almost universal system. But golden age?  With segregation? With the vestiges of their religious origins?

And then there’s been a parallel system of religious (used to be mostly Catholic, but there’s quite a range now) and private (or “independent”) schools. So this has never been universal. And over the last two decades there has been the growth of the privately run “charter” schools.

All of this is to say that my support of “public education” is of an ideal, not of the way schooling takes place in the US today, certainly not in NYC today, and there’s not some golden model I can point to at some date in the past.

I think I’ll talk about equity and equality next.



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