The Choice We Face: How Segregation, Race, and Power Have Shaped America’s Most Controversial Education Reform Movement

Beacon. Aug. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780807087480. $28.95. ED
Hale (educational history, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) adds his voice to a growing number of books on the dangers facing public education. Anyone confused about the differences among magnet schools, private schools, school vouchers, charter schools, and homeschooling will appreciate his excellent analysis of the meaning of “school choice” and its implications. Though school choice is ostensibly simply the option of letting students use public funds to select whatever school they prefer, the truth is far more complicated, as Hale illustrates. Beginning with Brown v. Board of Education, he discusses how the idea of school choice developed as a mechanism against desegregation. Thinkers like the economist Milton Friedman became strident and influential spokespeople for school choice and were instrumental in helping it gain acceptance. Hale extensively covers busing in Boston, attempts to desegregate schools in other cities, positive attitudes toward school choice held by Black civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King III, the consequences of legislation such as the No Child Left Behind Act, and the effectiveness of grassroots and community mobilization.
VERDICT Hale makes the complex history of school choice accessible to all readers.
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