Lately, it seems as if the policies of progressives are becoming increasingly valuable examples of their underlying beliefs. It’s also increasingly undeniable that they contribute to social division, stark inequality, and an inability of families to improve their lot in life — at least unless government can claim the credit.
Andrew gives one such example in his most recent post analyzing bills being heard in the General Assembly:
H5688: Requires that assigning students to Mayoral Academies be done by a random lottery involving all students in a participating district, with selected students able to opt out if they so choose. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Apr 1) I’m not sure what’s worse about this bill: the conscious lengths that progressive education reform opponents go to to show that they believe that government and not families should control the lives of children, or the unconscious bias amongst progressive education reform opponents it reveals, that life is just a big lottery that education cannot change..
I’d go a step farther. Such legislation is a frontal assault on the complementary notions that (1) parents have primary responsibility for their children, and (2) that people should be able to advance themselves and their families through their own drive and innovation. The bill sponsors are Tanzi, Naughton, Bennett, Lally, and Regunberg, and what they are implicitly stating is that, if parents can find a way within the government system to secure some advantage for their children (mainly by minimizing the damage that the government will do), then that advantage must be taken away and put in the hands of pure chance.
That may mean that the opportunity does not provide the maximum benefit; families that took some initiative in securing placement in a school are more likely to continue their effort than families that had the placement fall in their laps, unrequested. But progressives aren’t about maximizing the well-being of the people. They’re about minimizing the ability of people to differentiate themselves in a way that gives them an advantage.
Of course, the way for families to take such initiative beyond the reach of government (for now) is to find a way to afford private school, and the evidence suggests that Rhode Island families are already leading the nation in taking doing so. On that front, another Rhode Island progressive, Governor Gina Raimondo, is on the attack, too. Rick Snizek writes in the Rhode Island Catholic:
Parents and administrators at Catholic and other non-public schools in Rhode Island are up in arms over Gov. Gina Raimondo’s decision to strike from her proposed budget for the new fiscal year any taxpayer funding for cross-district school busing or assistance in purchasing textbooks through the state’s textbook loan program.
As the article goes on to point out, the most profound effect of this change in policy won’t be to transfer more of the state’s spending burden to wealthy parents. Rather, it will be to stretch the lower-income households that sacrifice to afford private schools, perhaps to the point of breaking their ability to afford the option at all.
Given the current character of the General Assembly, it’s more likely than not that neither of these policies will come to be, but consider the effect if they did: Fewer parents would be able to afford private school, and those willing to put in extra effort to find public school options (short of moving) would be trapped not only in the lottery of families trying to do the same, but with the much worse odds of a district-wide lottery.
The practical consequence of progressive political theory is that only the aristocratic wealthy should have real options. Any families attempting to advance must be kicked back into the water, like the rabble scrabbling to get into the lifeboats from a sinking ship.