Wed 16th March 2011, 1:38am
QUOTE(Kelly Martin @ Tue 15th March 2011, 8:55pm)
I recently got into an argument on Facebook over Governor Quinn's proposal to force some of Illinois' 800+ school districts to merge with one another, on the grounds that having so many districts must necessarily be inefficient.
The thing is, I like the small districts. It means that the feedback loop between the school board and the taxpayers is quite short. When your electorate is only a couple thousand voters, you can't afford to ignore even a relatively small group. I grew up in one of the largest school districts in the Midwest (MSD Washington Township, Indianapolis) and the school board might as well have been appointed by God; there was no way Joe Average Parent would have any way at all to get traction with (or even noticed by) them.
Of course there are many many ways in which the school board's hands are tied, but at least we've got the locality of control down right. In school districts, especially elementary districts, smaller is better.
My teaching experience in Illinois was limited to teaching undergraduates as a Graduate TA in math, but I know that a lot of my colleagues and students were always having to take some kind of standardized test on the Illinois Constitution — maybe as a qualification for teaching in the schools? — so I know that the idea of Statewide standards was not a novelty there. Indeed, I commuted from Normal — don't bother, I've heard them all — a town named after its normal school, that is, a school for teaching teachers the norms of how and what to teach.
I'd hardly dispute the importance of local control — Michigan is currently embroiled in hot dispute with a Power Mad Governerd Control Freak over that very issue. Nevertheless, local control is always conducted subject to the controlling influence of higher level aims, concerns, ends, goals, interests, objectives, and purposes, in short, what the Greeks called pragmata
But the genius of representative people power — “No Taxation Without Red Herrings”, as Milton would have it — is the very idea that the controllers of the controllers are chosen from the station and status of the controllees.
And that's how the cyber circle goes unbroken …