Do schools schools serve as an antidote to societal divisions?

Ferrel Guillory’s EdNC op-ed addressed Gov. Cooper’s claim that municipal charter schools “could lead to taxpayer funded resegregation.”  Guillory does not question the claim, but that is not my primary objection to the piece.

Rather, Guillory writes,

Resegregation arises from polarization not only in the political ecosystem but also in the electorate. And yet, it is difficult to imagine a response to today’s hyper-polarization that does not involve young people getting to know each other by learning together. Schools reflect the divisions in society, and schools serve as an antidote to societal divisions.

The vast majority of the adults fueling today’s hyper-polarization did “learn together” in public schools.  In other words, if public schools were an “antidote to societal divisions,” then polarization would be waning, not intensifying.  Simply bringing people together is necessary, but not sufficient, to restoring civility.

I do not see compelling evidence that public schools are well equipped to heal societal divisions or, as some 18th- and 19th century thinkers believed, cultivate an enlightened citizenry.  Schools offer a convenient venue for addressing any number of societal goals. But is it fair to expect teachers to bear that burden?

Terry Stoops / Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies

Terry Stoops is the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the progra...

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