Adults remember" how tough it when they were in school," but growing evidence supports the public's position that school, while getting easier, ignores the increasing knowledge base needed to compete in a high tech marketplace. Parents and taxpayers see falling test scores, inclusion, affective learning, self - esteem training, and values clarification lessons as proof that schools are not teaching as much material as they used to. Furthermore, they believe the material being taught is not as difficult as it should be.
Parents and taxpayers demand that "basic skills" regain the attention of educators. They wonder how a person who lacks the skill to complete an employment application managed to graduate from a public high school. This is a strong perception in the community, one educator would be unwise to dismiss as "hate mongering from the radical right.".
The lack of academic standards in the public schools is profound. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1930;" most of the 1 million white illiterates and 2 million black illiterates were people over the age of 50 who had never been to school. By 1990, 30 to 35 million American citizens could not read. Most are people under 50 who have been to school for at least eight years"(Wood, 1992,p.51).
In response to these problems Noble prizewinning economist Milton Friedman developed a plan that, though a radical departure from the status quo, would empower parents as well as quality educators. The idea is to set up a sort of free market system of education: parents shop for the school they want, which receives that child's portion of the school budget (7,000 in New Jersey, for example). The schools that are picked must improve to compete or else close their doors (Tashman 1992).
Gary Rosen, an associate editor of Commentary, examines the criticisms of public education and argues that vouchers and choice are well suited to correct its deficiencies without damaging education or society.