Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice
Sol Stern, Encounter Books
This superb book by City Journal contributing editor Sol Stern is a vividly evocative account of why many public schools and school systems simply do not 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 do not 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 unfortunately 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.