Education reform in France: No Student Gets Ahead

First, let me acknowledge that I stole this title from Elizabeth Price Foley. It was her post on Instapundit that alerted me to an article from the European edition of the Wall Street Journal highlighting the Socialist government’s latest education reform proposal.

As the article explains:

Fran├žois Hollande has a bold new plan to tackle social injustice and inequality in France: ban homework. Introducing his proposals for education reform last week at the Sorbonne, the French president declared that work “must be done in the [school] facility rather than in the home if we want to support the children and re-establish equality.”

Okay, I’m picking low-hanging fruit here. But before we shrug off this proposed (and, according to the article, unpopular) reform as the French just being, well, French, let’s stop and acknowledge that a version of the same argument keeps cropping up in our own education reform debates.

Yes, inequality plagues American education as well, and nowhere are students more unequal than in their parental fortunes. I’m not just talking about parental income here, although of course resources do make a difference. Parents are simply not equally involved in their children’s education. So what do we tackle one root cause of inequality: good parenting?

Well, we can always level the playing field . . . downward. Opponents of charter schools and other forms of educational choice often claim that such policies will drain public schools of involved, committed parents and their children, while leaving the children of deadbeat parents behind. It’s a revealing argument, since it seems to concede the benefits of choice. Some kids will be better off. How unfair.

But what if educational choice also helps address this root cause of inequality? One strength of charter schools, especially the successful ones, is that they both require and foster parental commitment. Charter school parents aren’t just signing up for an educational alternative. In many cases they are also committing themselves to monitor homework, attendance, and behavior. And yes, kids and parents who won’t cooperate get kicked out. In other words, parenting choices, too, have consequences.

Instead of denigrating this model, maybe we should be thinking of ways to expand it to all schools. I’m thinking of our earlier exchange on “no excuses” policies, for example.

Meanwhile, ooh la la!



  1. howard beale

    So why not require parents to be involved in regular or traditional public schools thus making charters obsolete?

    • Mary McConnell

      I’m all for it, if by obsolete you mean that for some reason parents stop choosing charters because they’re so happy with the alternative. . . not if this is a reason to shut down charters that have won parent and student support.

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