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Happiness, Thy Name is National School Choice Week

January 21, 2020

School Choice Week showcases the interest in school choice and pent-up demand for more of it. Whether supply meets that demand will depend in part on decisions in the political and legal realms.

The 10th annual National School Choice Week (NSCW) will kick off January 26 with some 25,000 schools participating in a mind-boggling 51,300 independently organized events encompassing all 50 states.

The growth of this event serves as an indicator of the rising American interest in families having as free a choice among schools as they have when they pick out a pair of shoes at the mall. Good fits are essential.

By contrast, in 2011, Year One, there were just 150 rallies and other activities. By 2013, 3,059 schools were participating in NSCW. Growth burgeoned during the rest of the 2010s, resulting in recent speculation that we may be at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties for school choice.

At the center of these diverse celebrations of educational choice in K-12 schools are students dancing to the year’s official song (“Best Day” by Loomin for 2020) while wearing and vigorously waving the week’s signature yellow scarves.

When watching these youthful performances, I see joy, exuberance, and pride in the schools of choice many of these children attend. You can view some of the dance renditions and judge for yourself here: www.schoolchoiceweek.com

Sadly, those bright yellow scarves serve as a triggering mechanism for some on the Left who see them as a symbol of rebellion against the collectivist model of government-dominated education they prize. A few years ago, a People for the American Way grump wrote that the scarves “serve as a flashy distraction” from an agenda of undermining public education.

Never mind that NSCW’s go out of their way to keep the happenings inclusive and nonpartisan. They sing the praises of all kinds of schools that exhibit any degree of openness to parental choice: traditional public, charter, and magnet, along with private, religious, online, and home schools.

At the risk of further incurring the ire of statists, NSCW president Andrew Campanella has even launched a “Happiness Blog” to report and celebrate good news in education whenever it exists. Bemoaning what social observers have termed an “Unhappiness Epidemic,” Campanella issues this invitation: “Together, let’s push back against this trend with all the good news about education we can find.”

Of course, the evidence of the failures of centralized education is so massive as to be impossible to ignore. The documented failures of the vaunted Common Core standards to raise reading and math scores on the Nation’s Report Card or to improve student readiness for higher education are a matter of record.

Why not celebrate individual successes in the hope they may become models for others striving for excellence? The following are three exemplary schools -- all of them participants in NSCW -- featured recently by the Happiness Blog:

  • DeBakey High School for Health Professions, a public magnet school in Houston.  Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the best public schools in the nation, DeBakey gives students leaning toward health-care careers a chance to shadow physicians and other professionals in the largest medical complex on Earth. Recently, some students were able to view a livestream of an open-heart surgery.
  • Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy, a charter school that immerses its students in the classic literary works of Western civilization. Using the Socratic method, the academy’s teachers encourage students to ask questions and engage in lively discussions about nature and humanity. Students also study Latin, by no means a dead language, given its influence on modern reading, writing, and vocabulary.
  • Flushing (NY) Christian School. Founded by three pastors in 1950, this private school seeks to provide a “joy-filled Christian education.” Its fifth-graders, dubbed The Navigators, scored a stunning achievement when they took the National Geographic Challenge and developed a filtering system to reduce pollution in the Hudson River. They earned first place in a 1,000-team competition and won a $25,000 prize that will be used to put their innovative system into practice.

School Choice Week showcases the interest in school choice and pent-up demand for more of it. Whether supply meets that demand will depend in part on decisions in the political and legal realms -- specifically, a Supreme Court decision expected in June that may knock down 19th-century anti-Catholic Blaine Amendments that stifle private choice in some states, and, of course, the results of the federal election in November.

[Originally Published at American Thinker]

Article Tags
Education
Author
Robert Holland, a journalist and author who has championed school choice throughout his career, is a Heartland Institute Senior Fellow addressing education policy.
rholland@heartland.org @PeripateticPop