Amy Packard
Publicity Director, Encounter Books

Lindsay Young Craig
Executive Director,
Manhattan Institute
212-599-7000 Ext.315

Book Info:

Available at
ISBN: 1-893554-07-4
6 x 9 hardcover
230 pages
U.S $24.95
Publication date:
May 2003
Bookstore Categories:
Education/Public Policy

Breaking Free
Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice

The Education Gadfly
News and Analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Volume 3, Number 17. May 15, 2003
--Chester E. Finn, Jr.

This superb book by City Journal contributing editor Sol Stern is a vividly evocative account of why many public schools and school systems simply don’t work very well--and what must be done to rectify that situation. Between adult interests that are placed first, deadening bureaucracy, silly ideas, ridiculous union contracts, and, above all, the fact that they are near-monopolies under no pressure to change, they
don’t do right by many pupils. The children they do serve well are often those with savvy and aggressive parents like Stern and his wife, who navigated the shoals of the New York City system on behalf of their kids. The most finely wrought (and true) stories in this 250-page volume are three chapters about the Stern children’s schools and the difficulties encountered by this astute, educated family as it strove to see that their kids fared well despite the system. One can only wince for the hundreds of thousands of youngsters who have nobody running such effective interference on their behalf. Then three chapters show how the system has gotten itself tangled in its own lingerie. All of this leads Stern to press for school choice as a way to crack the monopoly, exert pressure on the system, and create alternatives for children who need them. Chapter seven is a tour of Catholic schools that work; chapter eight visits “the schools that vouchers built” in Milwaukee; and the concluding chapter analogizes today’s fight for school choice to yesterday’s civil rights movement. A first-rate piece of work. The ISBN is 1893554074, the publisher is Encounter Books, and you can get more information at ml.


Breaking Free.

Advance Praise for Breaking Free

"Parental choice in education is the leading civil rights issue of our day, and Sol Stern's observations—drawn from across decades of experiences as public school student in World War II New York, sixties radical, writer, and father—explain why so many of us view school choice as a moral imperative."
William J. Bennett
Former U.S. Secretary of Education

"What a powerful and timely book! The Supreme Court says school choice is constitutional. Now Sol Stern explains why it's the essential alternative to a smug, sclerotic and monopolistic public-education establishment that never puts the kids' or parents' interests first. If you didn't already understand the need to carve an exit door for children, Stern's harrowing tales will open your eyes and boost your blood pressure."
Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University &
President, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

"It's harder to learn what happens inside big-city schools than to get information from the battlefront. Unlike the modern army, urban schools don't allow reporters to embed themselves within their operations. In his riveting insider's account of New York City's public schools, Sol Stern brilliantly exploits the access of a parent and a teacher's spouse with the observational skills of a first-rate reporter to explain to us what we have long feared but not really understood."
Paul E. Peterson
Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government
Director, Program on Education Policy and Governance


City Journal