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‘Choice’ … Most Loaded Word

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EDUCATION POLITICS-‘Choice’ has to be the most loaded word in the English lexicon. 

“Loaded” in the sense that, when one person uses the term, associated with it is a special, private meaning used to communicate with a special, private group of people; others do not know the special meaning.  And so what happens is the word takes on separate meanings among different sets of folks.  Enormous confusion and subterfusion gets propagated. 

Thus the word itself creates a “wedge” between groups of people because they proceed thinking they’re communicating with one another when in fact, they are not.  Even though the words of communication are common between them, the groups are wedged impermeably apart by virtue of the special, private meanings for loaded words.  Purportedly same language, supposedly same words, utterly different meanings. 

We are all consumers of disingenuous language via marketing and advertisement.  Everyone knows we are being manipulated to want, to feel the “gimmes”, to buy-buy-buy.  And many of us claim veteran status in the more sophisticated, political version of this game harnessed for ‘abortion wars’.  

No one likes the imagery of abortion and death and innocence and life’s hard realities; we code the pain in an alternate dichotomy:  “pro-life” vs “pro-choice”.  No one’s “anti” of course: who could be “anti-life”?  Who could be “anti-choice”?  The labels “life” and “choice” are impossible to oppose, at least for anyone shy of, say, Charles Manson-like sociopathy. 

The term “choice” is no more possible to spurn than “life” itself.  It is not so much a manufactured opportunity in this context, as reality itself. 

It also takes no special genius to understand that the use of incontestable words is deliberate.  Victory is afforded the side which constructs verbiage most shielded from attack by impervious images.  This use of devious language is at once inordinately clever and disingenuous, because the arena of dispute shifts from the thing itself (say, the political definition of the start of life) to the language of the dispute (say, “choice”); it all becomes derivative. 

We are in a parallel state of flummox — debating derivatives — when we discuss education at a high- (i.e., theoretical-) level, that is education constructs like district vs charter schools, and voucher-funded vs publicly- or privately-funded schools. 

These antagonists are masked when the conflict is reframed in incontestable terms.  The politics underlying school funding and the philosophy of public education within a context of democracy are adulterated, made over as a question simply of “choice” – the same euphemism used in the context of abortion. 

And the terms are just as false in an education context.  No one is likely to assert they are “anti-choice”; choice is not really a relevant issue with regard to school funding and political control.  Everyone would choose to have a superior education; the extent to which they might opt for less-good is simply a reflection of the extent to which they have been misled about the true nature of their “choice”. 

With infinite resources at their disposal, all families will choose an education environment that includes ample individualized attention, a lot of concentrated tutelage in academics, numerous and varied opportunities for educational enrichment in the form of art, physical education, high quality, healthful and tasty nutrition, field trips and support toward self-discovery.  It is axiomatic that we wish to maximize benefit to ourselves and our own.  We would not select inferiority knowingly.  Conversely, “choice” is disingenuously invoked to obscure a reality where some children are relegated to inferior alternatives. 

How then can there be any integrity whatsoever in a political education movement that invokes school “choice”?  Who would opt for a school with less rather than more individualized attention?  Who would choose less concentrated tutelage in academics?  Who could opt for fewer opportunities for educational enrichment, food, athletics and art? 

There is no schema here except to hoodwink one set of families into believing they have “opted” for superiority when in fact they have not.  Hence the claim that, say, class size isn’t actually all that important after all, or that eliminating access to libraries and art and physical education and field trips and counseling and on and on and on and on and on – that opting for schools that workaround these deficits rather than addressing them or set spending priorities that favor tools over teaching, amounts to informed selection; acquiescence of inferiority. 

This whole duplicitous campaign of “school choice” is just a way of obscuring the reality of what all families need:  a system of accessible, responsive — democratic — control of school education policy that truly maximizes educational opportunity and availability of educational best-practices – true excellence — for all. 

There’s nothing to “choose” there; “choice” is a misnomer.  It is no substitute for flexibility and responsiveness, which ought to be the true common core of every child’s education.  With such a true commonality, there would be no need for trickery in language.

 

(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 12 Issue 5

Pub: Jan 17, 2014

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