Communications Department

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

Publishers Weekly April 28, 2003

Using engaging personal narrative, journalist Stern explores the demand for school choice among inner-city families. He takes readers on his personal journey from left-wing politics in the 1960s, when he edited and wrote for the leftist magazine Ramparts, to his current position as champion for the libertarian right in its relentless crusade to privatize education. Stern excels in presenting historical detail, and his history of the politics of New York City public schools and their teachers' unions is both revealing and instructive. He is also a captivating storyteller, and his point of view, as a parent of New York City schoolchildren, sets his book somewhat apart from other ideological discourses in the annals of think tank-sponsored "school choice" writings. As a leftist turned "educational traditionalist," Stern uses political metaphors cleverly: there is a "Berlin Wall" between private and public schooling that must be broken down for liberty to flourish; teachers' unions are the "ruling class in education" and the school choice movement is "countercultural in the best sense of the word." Stern makes a strong case for dismantling public education and subjecting it to market forces. However, his book grasps educational theories and practices only at a superficial level. He calls well-researched theories of cognition progressive educational "fads" and sees multicultural education as "political correctness" that hurts black children. These weaknesses lessen Stern's credibility, but his account will be of interest to those engaged in the school choice debate. (May)


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