Richard Whitmire of Emerson Collective and Andrew Rotherham of Bellwether Education have written a joint piece at The 74 about the recent Supreme Court ruling on charter schools in Washington state. Despite the inevitable celebrating of union officials and charter opponents the Friday before Labor Day, they assert that the “Common School” ruling handed down the Friday before Labor Day will prove to come at a serious cost to students. We can’t modernize schools and make them better for kids if we define “common schools” based on how schools looked in 1909.
In truth, the ideal of the common school is one the country has never lived up to. While we romanticize the common school, people too frequently forget that those schools were at different times not open to blacks, religious minorities, or, until the 1970s, students with special needs and disabilities.
Despite serving those groups today, the continuing trend of segregated housing and the staggeringly uneven performance of different public schools prompts this question: What exactly is all that common about the common school anyway?