for Public School Renewal
The word "freedom" has an important place in the
fabric of American life, but means different things to different
people. However, it should never mean that anyone can do anything
they want, without regard for the rights of others. Paradoxically,
freedom must be constrained by responsibility in order to make its
exercise practical and effective. Unconstrained freedom is more
properly called license.
The determination of which responsibilities and constraints are
needed or appropriate for the exercise of freedom is, to say the
least, controversial. The fair resolution of these controversies can
only occur through open discussion and democratic decision-making.
CPSR's position is that more freedom (of the kinds mentioned
below) will end the unhappiness many people have about public
schools. In turn, schools will become more satisfactory in the eyes
of all Americans.
The three principles of freedom in CPSR's motto --
Citizens Free to Know
- Parents Free to Choose
- Teachers Free to Teach
-- must be viewed as interlocking freedoms, each balanced and
enhanced by the other two:
The positions listed below give a brief overview of some CPSR goals.
Click here for a more detailed
position paper --Philosophy (Expanded Version).
Citizens - The public should be able to learn a wide variety
of things about how schools are operated, and what results they
achieve with their clientele. This information might cover such
things as overall and subgroup test scores in several basic
curricular areas (e.g., reading, writing, mathematics), attendance
rates, graduation rates, in-school crime and violence reports,
followup information on graduates, data on income and expenditures
(especially in relation to instruction), statistics on staff training
and experience, school-leaving statistics, and whatever other
information is deemed practical and relevant. None of this data
should be collected in a way that violates individual student or
staff privacy. This information, provided in a clear and jargon-free
format, will allow the public to form judgments about how their tax
dollars are being spent to accomplish the purposes each school has
identified as its mission. Several interesting concepts and projects
have been developed in this area. See Readings/Citizens
Families - Parents should be able to send their children to
any publicly funded school they choose (including assistance with
reasonable transportation costs), or to any private school they can
afford. See Readings/Parents.
CPSR generally opposes vouchers to send children to private
schools. See Publications/Vouchers
for more information on these concerns. Also, children have a natural
interest in learning that must be recognized and protected.
Teachers - Classroom teachers should have control over many
aspects of the operation of the schools where they work. This does
not mean that teachers have to do their own jobs as well as those of
others, but rather that they have an effective "say-so"
about the work done in support of instruction at the school level.
The traditional authoritarian structure of schools, where
administrators direct teachers' work, must give way to a more
collegial organizational style. See Readings/Teachers.
While the "all children can learn" slogan may not be
completely attainable in practice, it expresses an ideal which
teachers should continually strive to achieve. In particular,
achievement rates within any student subgroup (determined by race,
ethnicity, sex, or other status characteristics) should be roughly comparable.
The public school curriculum should be determined by state
governments and local school districts. However, this curriculum
should have substantial portions that are only recommended--not
mandated. This curriculum should not be so detailed as to make
teaching an exercise in covering topics rather than helping children
develop an understanding of the world.
Schools should be able to drop students who aren't able to cooperate
with reasonable rules. At the same time, no student should be
arbitrarily excluded for any reason other than past performance, and
then only in accordance with due process. Schools should also be able
to terminate (for just cause) the services of employees whose work is unsatisfactory.
Schools should seek practical technological innovations that
demonstrably improve the effectiveness of instruction.
Taken together, these ideas will create a public school system
For a more detailed explanation of some of these ideas, see Philosophy
(Expanded Version) and either Compulsory
School Attendance: An Idea Past Its Prime? or Choice
and Compulsion: The End of and Era.