The Social and Political
Geology of Charter Schools
Public education has always been contested ground; there was never a time when public education was not a political issue. From the beginning of the common school movement in Massachusetts in the 1830s to today, Americans have been arguing with each other about the purpose and effectiveness of public education. Left, right, and center regularly exchange places in an educational game of musical chairs. In the 1960s, radical critics of public education advocated for vouchers; in the early twenty-first century it is the conservatives who favor vouchers. Even the labels left, right, and center are unclear—a citizen can be "left" on the environment and "right" on abortion without suffering cognitive dissidence. This is because we have shifted from group loyalties to individual lifestyle loyalties and in doing so, transformed politics.
Yet, it is clear that since Ronald Reagan's presidency there has been a fairly unified movement from the right of the political spectrum, and this movement has successfully gained the commanding heights in shaping the national, political, and economic agenda. By "conservative," we mean someone who supports smaller government, believes in market solutions to public and economic challenges, and is usually pro-life, anti-gun control, and somewhat nostalgic for a past when social relations were less contentious.