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Curmudgucation: Unbundling and Dismantling

One of the beloved dreams of privatizers has been the unbundling of education. Why get all your education in one place? Why not assemble it yourself-- a math class from this tutor, a literature class at the local college campus, other classes from an assortment of vendors. Sometimes it's described as "a la carte," though that really only fits if you are imagining an a la carte meal where you get each dish from a separate restaurant.

At any rate, it looks like Indiana is going to consider legislation to unbundle education.

Indiana is all in on vouchers, but as with many states, the program is not having much penetration in rural and low population areas, because a voucher is useless if there's no place to use it (and nobody is rushing to start private schools where there's not much market to be tapped).

Microschools have been one proffered solution to the issue, but unbundling is another one. No private school to attend in your neighborhood? Just piece together an education together from various vendors.

If you're a voucher fan, this is a way to extend the blessings of choice and the free market to more families. If you are a voucher cynic, it's a way to promote this conversation:

State: We'll give you several thousand dollars to abandon public education!

Family: Yeah? Where would we spend it?

State: Um--look! Unbundling!

There is another, darker aspect to unbundling. Particularly when one considers the wave of laws that have been chipping away at child labor laws across the countryThe folks behind the broadening of child labor "opportunities" have a serious overlap with those interested in chipping away at public education. As Jennifer Berkshire pointed out on the dead bird app:

That full speech is here.

Yup. When DeVos and her crew talk about finding an education that's the "best fit" for the children, they're talking about an education best suited for that child's Proper Station In Life. Sure, the wealthy Betters have no intention of having their own children listen to educational podcasts during lunchtime at the meat packing plant, but the assumption is that for some children, Those Peoples' Children, that would be an excellent and appropriate option.

Unbundling would be an unregulated free market nightmare for many households required to shop for their child's education piece by piece. I'm not sure whether it would be easier or harder to navigate an education that is fit in around the demands of a job. 

But it would open up the market to lots of folks who would like to make money with an education-flavored product, and it would help further cement in policy the idea that education is not a public good or a service to the community, but just a commodity the purchase of which is strictly the responsibility of the individual parents. Ran out of money before you put together a full program? Turned out your math provider was a fraud? Your kid spent so much time working that she didn't get an actual education? We washed our hands of you when we handed you a voucher; you're on your own. 


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Peter Greene

Peter Greene has been a high school English teacher in Northwest Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He blogs at Curmudgucation. ...