People say public schools are "one of the best parts of America". I believed that. Then I started reporting on them.
Now I know that public school -- government school is a better name -- is one of the worst parts of America. It's a stultified government monopoly. It never improves.
Most services improve. They get faster, better, cheaper. But not government monopolies. Government schools are rigid, boring, expensive and more segregated than private schools.
I call them "government" instead of "public" schools because not much is "public" about them. Members of the public don't get to pick their kids' schools, teachers, curriculum or cost.
By contrast, supermarkets are "private" yet open to everyone. You can stroll in 24 hours a day. Just try that with your kid's public school. You might be arrested.
Now a school choice movement has given government schools a sliver of competition. Private schools, charter schools, vouchers, education tax credits and the Web offer competition. Not all the alternatives work, but with competition, bad alternatives die and good ones grow.
This will help all kids.
But so far, the alternatives reach only a small number of kids. Unions and bureaucrats don't want competition, and they use their political clout to stifle it. But gradually, they're losing.
After fighting homeschooling for years, they've stopped trying to ban it, and today homeschoolers fare better on tests and college admission. So, some in the government monopoly claim that if your kids are homeschooled, they will not be properly socialized (in the sense of interacting with peers, that is, not in the sense of belonging to government).
But homeschooled kids participate in all sorts of social events with other homeschooling families -- plus theater, ballet, karate and other classes that most kids get and that some only wish they did.
Homeschoolers do just fine. Somehow, without government control, they prosper.
Defenders of government schools often claim their schools are what create the American "melting pot." Different races, ethnic groups and income levels mix together in government-funded schools.
Bunk. If it was ever true, it isn't now.
University of Arkansas education professor Jay Greene examined school classrooms and found that public schools were more likely to be almost entirely white or entirely minority.
He also looked at who sat with whom in school lunchrooms. At private schools, students of different races were more likely to sit together.