Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice
Booklist Starred Review
When his son Jonathan was accepted at New York’s premiere elementary school, P.S. 87, city-schools-educated Stern presumed the boy was off to a good start. He was, though not as good a start as Stern’s own in 1941. In the intervening decades, the teachers’ union (a 1950s innovation) and a mushrooming, politicized education bureaucracy had rendered most city schools ungovernable and scholastically ineffective. Even P.S. 87 and the secondary schools both Stern boys attended—all among the system’s finest—were forced by union work rules to tolerate incompetent senior teachers and teachers who wouldn’t put in a minute more than the contractual 6-hour-and-20-minute day. Ultimately, Stern and his wife had to resort to supplementary home schooling to help their sons attain the highest scholastic levels. They succeeded at that, but what, Stern tellingly asks, are less well educated and more time-consuming parents to do? Ultimately, Stern advances education vouchers as a means for fostering better schools and argues for them more persuasively, because less ideologically, than do most other voucher-boosters. Meanwhile, he has told his case history in the union-and-bureaucracy-hamstrung New York system and presented a brief against the teachers’ unions that vitally supplements such looser, more general arguments as Peter Brimelow’s Worm in the Apple.