What the progressive model has wrought
Chubb and Moe point out that the interest-group system crafted by progressives to control public education “is biased in favor of some interests over others” — especially the organized over the unorganized:
Politicians and administrators sometimes pursue their own interests at the expense of citizens’ interests. And so on. As a result, who wins and who loses in politics is not necessarily representative of what ordinary citizens actually want
These are well-known problems that plague all democracies in one way or another, and they are the sorts of things that attract attention from many critics of American public education. They think the education system would be vastly improved if democracy’s imperfections could somehow be overcome. Even if this were possible, however, the fact remains that democratic politics would still be a competitive struggle for the control of public authority. It would still be a game of winners and losers. On any given issue, the winners might include various combinations of interests: those of teachers’ unions, associations of professionals, book publishers, ideological groups, or factions among the citizenry at large. But everyone cannot win, and the losers have to take what the winners dish out. This is the single most important thing to know about how interests get represented in a democracy. It is not an imperfection. It is what democratic control is all about….(Emphasis added.)
The myth of respect for parents & students
There is a myth, note Chubb and Moe, “that parents and students are uniquely special in all this — that the schools are somehow supposed to be what parents and students want them to be.” That myth, they say, “goes hand-in-hand with the myth of local control, and it is equally misleading:
The proper constituency of even a single public school is a huge and heterogeneous one whose interests are variously represented by politicians, administrators, and groups at all levels of government. Parents and students are but a small part of this constituency.
A frequent complaint is that parents and students are not well enough organized to be very powerful. In the struggle to control public authority, they tend to be far outweighed by teachers’ unions, professional organizations, and other entrenched interests that, in practice, have traditionally dominated the politics of education. This is true enough. But what it implies is that parents and students would get the kind of schools they wanted if they could somehow gain “appropriate” clout — if democracy, in other words, were less imperfect and did a better job of reflecting their interests. This is simply not the case.
The fundamental point to be made about parents and students is not that they are politically weak, but that, even in a perfectly functioning democratic system, the public schools are not meant to be theirs to control and are literally not supposed to provide them with the kind of education they might want. The schools are agencies of society as a whole, and everyone has a right to participate in their governance. Parents and students have a right to participate too. But they have no right to win. (Emphasis added.)
So here is where American Progressivism’s ideological origins in the Prussian / Bismarckian state socialism become explicitly visible: American children, in the end, are deemed not to belong to their parents, but to the state — where they and their personal futures are merely the property, functionally, of an ultimately indifferent, inattentive and dissociated collectivist mass.
Until public education is reformed to the point that parents effectively control the tax dollars that follow their children, the system unfortunately will remain what it is now: a continuing dogfight over the power to control, to direct and to pocket taxpayer dollars.
Such a system is inherently corrupt.
In it, the actual education of children will always remain an afterthought.