School Choice

The Struggle for the Soul of American Education

Peter W. Cookson, Jr.

View Inside Price: $21.00


August 30, 1995
190 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300064995
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

Few school reform movements have aroused more public passion than school choice. Should families have a voice in deciding which schools their children attend? Is it true that increased competition leads to better schools? How do the various school choice proposals differ? Are school choice policies logistically feasible and economically viable?

In this book Peter Cookson, a noted educational sociologist, discusses the practice and politics of school choice objectively and comprehensively. Cookson illuminates the philosophical and historical origins of the school choice movement, examines a variety of school choice plans around the nation, and analyzes the outcomes of school choice in terms of student achievement, school improvement, and the rights of the citizenry.

Drawing on his own observations, interviews, and analyses of school choice research, Cookson clarifies a number of issues surrounding this hotly debated topic. He discusses, for example:
—programs in Minnesota, Cambridge and Fall River, Massachusetts, and East Harlem and White Plains, New York, that demonstrate how choice can solve fundamental educational problems;
—a voucher system in Milwaukee that allows children to enroll in private as well as public schools;
—whether establishing an educational marketplace might result in fraudulent representation and other business malpractices;
—whether choice policies will overcome or intensify social stratification and segregation.

Cookson argues that school choice can be a useful tactic of educational reform, but that without good schools to choose among and full access to information about the options, the ability to choose is meaningless. He concludes by offering a proposal that would make school choice an innovative mechanism in the creation of a school system that is at once more egalitarian and superior.

Peter W. Cookson, Jr., is associate dean of the School of Education at Adelphi University. He is the author of numerous books on educational policy, including Preparing for Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools and Making Sense of Society, both cowritten with Caroline Hodges Persell. He has taught in both public and private schools.

"Peter Cookson's School Choice is a very important work and will, I think, attract considerable attention. Addressing the widespread storm of controversy that has surrounded school choice in the past few years, he presents a balanced and sober assessment of the virtues and dangers of a number of proposals, but he does so in the context of real schools and of real lives. He recognizes the right-wing fervor that has fueled this movement but also sees the possibilities inherent in providing children with more options than they have today. The book will surely make some people very angry but it will be welcomed, I suspect, by almost everyone who deeply values public education and the democratic principles that nourish it as an ideal. In the long rum, Cookson writes out of a profound faith in democracy and the book therefore will have importance not just for the education world but for all who struggle to perfect and to redeem our social order."—Jonathan Kozol

"This book makes rich sense of the competing claims, values, and politics behind the school choice controversy. Cookson's approach is both tough-minded and compassionate, and the result is terrific reading."—Albert Shanker, President, American Federation of Teachers

"This is a very important work that will attract considerable attention. Addressing the widespread storm of controversy that has surrounded school choice in the past few years, Peter Cookson presents a balanced and sober assessment of the virtues and dangers of a number of proposals, but he does so in the context of real schools and of real lives. The book will be welcomed by almost everyone who deeply values public education and the democratic principles that nourish it as an ideal."—Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities

"This is easily the best American book on school choice. Accessible, authoritative, and thoughtful, it is a major contribution to the current political discourse about how to reform schools and whether or how to incorporate choice within such a reform effort."—David Labaree, author of The Making of an American High School

"In this timely and stimulating book Peter Cookson illuminates the conflicting philosophies and the confusing politics behind the campaign for school choice. He gives readers a clear view of how different forms of choice actually operate in schools. He shows why the school choice movement involves a "struggle for the soul of American education," a contest to determine whether Americans think of schooling as a common good or a consumer good."—David Tyack, Stanford University

"A lean, lucid discussion of the pros and cons of school choice. . . . A gem of a study that illuminates the debate about school choice, emphasizing the school as nurturer of children and not as political tool."—Kirkus Reviews  

"[With] conciseness, comprehensiveness, and admirable common sense, . . . it is an indispensable treatment of an issue that goes to the heart of our nation's future."—Edward T. Chase, New Leader

"The value of Cookson's School Choice . . . isn't so much in its specific proposals as in its unremitting insistence that we not only examine schools but that we also examine the consumer culture that permeates them."—Teacher

"Peter Cookson has produced a very beneficial and interesting volume that is useful both for novices and for more advanced students of school choice. The book is clearly written, with lively prose and often delightful comments from participants in the choice debate."—John Witte, American Journal of Education

"This comprehensive analysis makes Cookson's work a distinctive and valuable contribution to the literature on school choice. His proposal is well-conceived and straightforward and provides a useful strategy for school systems considering school choice. Cookson provides a rational and objective assessment of a controversial and complex topic. He reduces the confusion surrounding the school-choice debate and provides the reader with a clear understanding of the different types of choice and their respective effects on educational reform. His book should be read by educators, government policy-makers, and concerned citizens who wish to improve their educational system."—Margaret M. Baldwin, Journal of Educational Administration and History

"For those truly concerned with the social and educational dilemmas facing the United States today, [this] is one book that certainly deserves considerable attention. . . . [This book] is crucial in helping set the stage for both social equality and academic excellence."—Harvard Educational Review

"A refreshing and promsing new direction for debate and policy development."—Robert G. Croninger, Educational Policy