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As an educator firmly committed to personalizing learning for each child based on what is best for that child, I'm firmly against top down curriculum and standards.  Government-driven education, beyond the scale of a small town or district, is necessarily top down curriculum and standards.

But this puts me in a political no mans land.  Most of my friends and colleagues who are inclined towards self directed learning (and real personalization necessarily includes providing the child with a significant voice in their own education), are culturally liberal.  As a consequence, they lean towards Democrats.  But the Democrats are beholden to the teachers unions, and the teachers unions are adamantly against parent and student choice.

Meanwhile, many right-leaning people prefer a more traditional form of education in which the teacher is firmly the intellectual authority.  Many of them like the idea of "standards" in education.  But at the same time they are far more likely to support parent choice than are left-leaning people.  Republican governors and legislators have largely led the school choice movement (along with many African-American Democrats, who feel the urgency for school choice directly)

American public education has seen multiple swings of the pendulum back and forth between "progressive" pedagogy and "back to the basics," often with vituperative debates along the way.  The 1960s and 70s saw the rise of the "New Math, "Whole Language" reading, and "Open Classrooms," all of which resulted in a backlash from a "back to the basics" crowd.  By the 1990s a standards movement began gaining steam, resulting in the infamous "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) legislation, which resulted in high stakes testing.  President Obama's 2015 Every Students Succeed Act (ESSA) added some state level flexibility to the NCLB framework, but most observers and participants in public education agree that todays teachers have far less autonomy than they did in the past.  The "accountability" movement has won, and teacher autonomy has lost.

If we had somehow achieved perfect schools and a perfect accountability system, then perhaps we would not need choice.  But those of us who believe that learning should include significant student agency and choice, creativity and innovation, warm healthy community building, and the unlimited number of experiences that might not serve as the most direct path to higher test scores need other options.

As the founder of many innovative schools based on much more student agency, I left public education decades ago because of the sharp constraints on educator autonomy.  As an educator, I always want to do what is right for each student.  In some cases that may involve going more slowly in math for awhile, or perhaps not doing any math at all for a few years. It may involve encouraging the student to spend the bulk of their time on a creative or entrepreneurial project, or to write a novel or research a particular interest they have.  It may be a matter of respecting their need to take a deep dive in their own personal growth, wellness, or spiritual exploration for a period of time.

American public high school does not work for most children.  75% are unhappy (Yale).  66% are disengaged (Gallup).  37% are persistently sad or depressed (CDC).  19% are seriously considering suicide (CDC).  Feeling disconnected from a school community, feeling as if no one cares while at school, is a leading risk factor for almost all adolescent dysfunctions (substance abuse, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide, teen pregnancy, gang activity, accidents, etc.) I don't see how we are not outraged by this fact every day.

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Public schools have responded by requiring more in service trainings for their faculty in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).  That is the recent fad.  But a "training" in SEL, or a curriculum in SEL for students, does not address the human misery faced by millions of students.  Public schools grind along in the same old fashion, with students forced to take classes they don't like and find meaningless, decade after decade.

Meanwhile teachers are overwhelmed and are leaving, with more than half intending to leave the profession. There are currently teacher shortages across the country.  While there are calls to pay teachers more, the inhumanly bureaucratic conditions of modern schools are not pleasurable even with more pay.

Meanwhile, if the only accountability is satisfying parents and students, we educators are free to do whatever is right for the child.  This is a far more enjoyable way to educate for educator and child alike.  And when the child has a better experience, aligned with the child's well-being, the parent is happier and has a better relationship with the child as well.

We all know that coercion in relationships is wrong.  None of us would be forced to be in romantic relationships with other people, regardless of the "accountability" mechanisms designed by bureaucrats to ensure that the partners are accountable to each other.  

Education is a fundamentally human relationship.  It must be chosen voluntarily.  All of the hideous dysfunction in our schools is caused by the fact that it is a fundamentally coercive system.  Students are forced to go to school.  Most parents have few other options, so they are de facto forced to send their child to a local public school.  Taxpayers are forced to support the resulting prison complex.  Maybe 25% of the students are happy in this system and go on to become educators, policy makers, bureaucrats, and professors who advocate for coercive government schools.  The rest of us suffer.

I know it is uncomfortable to disagree with friends who are allies of the teachers unions.  But at some point, for the sake of the current children, the next generation, and the future, we all need to break with them.  This will be most painful for Democrats insofar as the Democratic Party is dependent on teachers union support.  

I have many friends who find the Republicans loathsome.  If it is too painful to support Republicans and there are no other options, then do everything you can to support pro-school choice Democrats.  

Personally, I see school choice, with parent accountability as the only measure of accountability, as the most hopeful political movement in the U.S.  I see it as the most urgent movement in the U.S.  The future of education relies on replacing the obsolete mess we have with a new era with thousands of innovators providing new and better learning experiences for children.