I’ve long believed that the most stalwart advocates of school choice should be those educators committed to create a better world through healthier, more human culture.
Through years of experience as an educator myself working to create better culture, I eventually got to the point where I realized that in order to create schools that provided better micro-cultures, it was essential to provide dedicated teacher training programs to ensure that all the teachers and administrators of those schools shared a common vision and pedagogical practice (see my work on “The Missing Institution.”) To date, the Waldorf and Montessori systems are the primary alternative systems dedicated to creating a better culture, including dedicated teacher training programs. (Reggio Emilia and Sudbury Valley are other alternative programs with some scale, but without dedicated teacher training and certification).
I’ve tried to persuade my fellow Montessori educators of the importance of school choice but with only limited success. I would say that within the Montessori movement the issue largely divides along partisan lines, with something like 95% of Montessorians identifying as “progressives” and also resisting school choice out of a misguided loyalty to the teachers unions, who will never return the support. (There also exists a small network of libertarian-inclined Montessorians, some of which were inspired to look into Montessori through Ayn Rand’s strong endorsement of Montessori education).
It was a great pleasure, then, for me to discover Gary Lamb, one of the pedagogical leaders of the Waldorf movement globally. Gary is a thoughtful thinker and writer who has realized fully that:
1. Government schooling is by its very nature opposed to the essence of Waldorf education.
2. This will never change.
He has gone even further and analyzed the real risks of government funding of private education, and thoroughly convinced me that tax credits are less risky (in terms of government intrusion into the educational process) than are vouchers or charter schools.
Gary has observed in the world of Waldorf education, as I have in the world of Montessori education, how government control (in charter and public school implementations) gradually sucks the heart out of such programs. There is a great danger that the distinctive reputations of Waldorf and Montessori could be destroyed as faux-Waldorf and faux-Montessori programs proliferate in well-intentioned efforts to create “public” versions.
Gary is now leading an initiative, in collaboration with religious and independent school groups, to promote a donation tax credit in NY (whereby individuals or corporations receive a tax credit for giving to a private school scholarship fund). This approach will save NY state money while also nourishing private education.
It is a great pleasure to find a rare ally in my effort to promote education that is directed towards the happiness and well-being for all.