Jeff Jacoby's opinion piece only touches on the huge separation of school and state issue. Here's a snip from Jeff's essay to whet your appetite:
Unfortunately, too many citizens have begun to expect the government to provide food and medical care. That may be the direct result of the government schooling we have. That 'soft bigotry of lower expectations' having been alluded to in recent comments in the Tennessean and the Nashville City Paper.
There is nothing indispensable about a state role in education. Parents don't expect the government to provide their children's food or clothing or medical care; there is no reason why it must provide their schooling. An educated citizenry is a vital public good, of course. But like most such goods, a competitive and responsive private sector can do a much better job of supplying it than the public sector can.
Imagine how diverse and lively American education would be if it were liberated from government control. There would be schools of every description -- just as there are restaurants, websites, and clothing styles of every description. Parents who wanted their children to be taught Darwinian evolution unsullied by leaps of faith about an Intelligent Designer would be able to choose schools in which religious notions would play no role. Those who wanted their children to see God's hand in the miraculous tapestry of life all around them would send them to schools in which faith played a prominent role.
Regarding the second paragraph I'm not sure that this is the sort of diversity that the folks who cooked up public education wanted to create. It seems clear to me that a primary goal was to bring about conformity, to 'socialize' the students to further their 'professional' opinion of what the world ought to look, act and be like. Fortunately, especially here in the US, we just keep wriggling out of that mold.
I'm really curious to know if the objections to this will be anything more than the usual baseless "we're the professionals, you can't trust parents, this is too important to democracy (on par with national security I suppose) to be done by anyone but the government, those charter/private schools are only in it for the money ". (I'm reading the MNPS budget now and I'm thinking there are plenty of folks in it for the money.)
If you want to delve more into the concept of separation, I'm not sure you could find a more passionate group of folks than those at the Alliance for the Separation of School and State.
(Thanks to Ben for the link to Jacoby's essay.)