Two Different Worlds…

Some of you reading this post may remember an old love song–I believe it was sung by Nat  King Cole–in which he rejected warnings by an unidentified “they,” to the effect that he and his love came from “two different worlds.” At the end of the song, he promises that their two different worlds will be one.

I’d say their chances were better than those of contemporary Republicans and Democrats.

Over the past few years, a steady stream of research has documented the growth of America’s partisan polarization. Today’s Republicans and Democrats would be more upset if their children married someone of the other party than if they married someone of another race or religion. Facebook and Twitter conversations are filled with expressions of incomprehension (WTF!) of positions taken by the other party.

Now, the Brookings Institution has come up with another indicator that Rs and Ds really do live in “two different worlds.” The researchers were exploring one of the thorniest issues raised by “school choice”–whether, as many of us worry– parents opting for privatized schools see education as a consumer good rather than a public good, thus privileging the inculcation of personal skills over democratic ones.

In holding schools more directly accountable to parents, school choice reforms reduce the influence of the democratic structures and processes that govern traditional public schools. For example, being more responsive to parents generally means being less responsive to school boards. This can have important implications if parents’ desires for their own children’s schools differ from the broader public’s desires for its education system. For instance, schools may look different under school choice reforms if—as is often argued—parents are preoccupied with getting their own children ahead, wanting schools to prepare their children for college and career success at the expense of serving more collective interests for social, political, civic, and economic health.

Questions about how parents’ and the public’s desires for schools differ are among the richest questions surrounding school choice reforms. They are also among the least explored empirically. We recently released a study looking at what parents and the public want from schools. Instead of finding the parents-public distinction we expected, we found a Democrat-Republican contrast we had not considered.

The results were very different from the researchers’ expectations. Parents and the broader public prioritized the same goals–a balance between the personal and the public.

Given these similarities, we wondered who—if anyone—is particularly drawn to “private success.” Did any subgroup of respondents want schools to prioritize students’ private interests over more collective, societal interests?

We ran a logistic regression model to examine which, if any, respondent background characteristics were associated with choosing “private success” as the most important goal. We included all of the usual respondent characteristics in the model: gender, race, ethnicity, educational attainment, age, political affiliation, and parent status. Only one was a significant predictor: Republican respondents were much more likely than Democratic respondents to want schools to prioritize “private success.”

It’s a shame there are no earlier studies that might serve as benchmarks, allowing us to see whether and how these and other attitudes prevalent in today’s GOP differ from those of previous Republicans.

In any event, the pressing question we face now is how to make those “two different worlds” into one–or at the very least, make them overlap.


  1. The study needed to go further into where these parents get their information about the world. I suspect many of those parents who support school choice aren’t even utilizing a private school or charter school. Not every community has multiple options.

    Similar studies in North Carolina revealed that school choice has legally segregated schools. In our small community in ECI, that’s exactly what school choice has done. Parents who don’t want their kids around brown people, drive their kids to county schools. They don’t want the ‘urban diversity’.

    Meanwhile, those who can afford private schools now receive subsidies which was the original purpose of school choice. Segregation might be a unintended consequence, but I suspect the broader Republican base supports it for racial motives vs subsidies to the private education bill.

    The 1% get what they want but they have to package it and sell it different because they don’t have the voting blocs. That’s where Fox News comes in and all the “think tanks” funded by the Koch’s and right-wing billionaires like the Bradley’s and DeVos families. The Walton’s as well.

    Instead of Tea Party which got a negative connotation fairly quickly, the Koch’s quickly branded a new non-profit called “Americans for Prosperity”.

    “The reason our country sucks is liberals run the education system and own the media.”

    As Goebbels noted, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”

    “Draining the Swamp” meant getting rid of liberals from Washington. The corporate state funded by billionaires and corporations aren’t the problem…they are the good guys. “The bad guys are liberals or “libtards” who want something for nothing like free healthcare. We don’t want to pay for someones healthcare. We don’t want our kids going to school with drug dealers.”

    It’s 2018 and I’ve been called a “Russian Sympathizer” on Twitter many many times over the last year. I never thought that term would be used again…

  2. Well said, Todd, as in, where do we get the information from which we decide to be home schoolers or public schoolers (aside from the usual racial considerations) and what are their motivations – like privatization and corporatization of education a la DeVos? I know an educated lady who believes that home schooling amounts to child endangerment in that such children are crippled for life. She even attributes our difficulties in finding qualified soldiers and workers to home schooling. Personally, I await research results before buying into her theory, but research results do undergird Sheila’s thesis for the day. She may be reading more into John Dewey’s monographs than are there.

    We may well be in an era where we are prizing individual desires over societal aims, and while that has always been the case in varying degrees, I think we are seeing too much of it with our “Greed is good” and “I’ve got mine, and I’m coming after yours” slogans which, if played out to extremes, do great damage to the idea of the common good.

    My now deceased wife, a university professor holding a doctorate in elementary education from the University of Illinois and a staunch Lutheran, told me more than once if we lived next door to a Lutheran school that the children would go to public school. A liberal, she was not into child endangerment, and had a broader vision of the John Dewey view of the socialization of education – one that private educators have abandoned. I agreed with her then and now. School is much more than reading, writing and arithmetic. It can also amount to a laboratory for learning good citizenship by osmosis.

  3. The only way to make those two worlds one is a tidal wave in 2018, giving supermajorities to Democrats in both houses and in state legislatures. As long as Republicans are in power they can make the case that their priorities are what Americans choose.

  4. There is a lot of talk out there about the Democrats needing a message that would unify their party and appeal to the masses. Well, here it is… it is the need for policies and laws and regulations that put the “public good” ahead of special interests. Dems should be using that phrase “public good” in every statement, every speech, every interview. It should be the center of all proposals. It should be the battle cry of the Resistance. It easily could be used in every argument against Republican policies, laws and propaganda.

  5. Yes, Republicans who are raised by Republicans raise their children as Republicans. It’s all about self in Republican land. It’s been like this since Lincoln was killed. Republicans’ mantra is “me first”. I grew up in the land of FDR Democrats and we were raised for “community first” people who understood that “me” would be fine if the community was fine.

    Schools are being used, to some extent, as the proving ground for political ideologies. Betsy DeVos’s drive for corporatization of our schools is “1984” by the numbers. The irony is that when everyone is all about themselves, the community disintegrates and nothing gets done. To wit: The United States Congress.

    Simply put, Republicanism is harmful to all but the 1%. Republicans seek to confirm that notion every day. The longer they’re allowed to stay in office at EVERY level, the worse our communities will be. So, support your local Democrat.

  6. Probably the worst danger facing us is the assumption now that humans come in two flavors, R and D, and both are equally right and wrong and informed.

    There certainly are those two cultures but one is experientialy based and one is propganda created to make people maleable to an agenda by others. They are not simple “taste great or is less filling” choices.

    Once it has been demonstrated that the ability to influence that many people to that degree is possible, is democracy possible? If not, what is it’s replacement?

    In other words can education out influence entertainment?

    I honestly can say that I just don’t know any more.

  7. Pete,

    “In other words can education out influence entertainment?”

    “I honestly can say that I just don’t know any more”

    No. Not when education only means EXPLANATION without UNDERSTANDING or DOING.

    See Nassim NIcholas Taleb’s newest book, “Skin in the Game” that was RELEASED TODAY.

  8. Query 1: Do 1% Democrats and 1% home schoolers exist?
    Query 2: In this age of DIY fact-checking, do actionable measurements exist for integrity, transparency, accountability and responsibility?
    Query 3: Is there a baseline for authenticity that works for all?

  9. From “Propaganda” by Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud.


    “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the
    organized habits and opinions of the masses is an
    important element in democratic society. Those who
    manipulate this unseen mechanism of society consti-
    tute an invisible government which is the true ruling
    power of our country.”

    “We are governed, our minds are molded, our
    tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men
    we have never heard of. This is a logical result of
    the way in which our democratic society is organized.
    Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in
    this manner if they are to live together as a smooth-
    ly functioning society.”

    “Our invisible governors are, in many cases, un-
    aware of the identity of their fellow members in the
    inner cabinet.”

    “They govern us by their qualities of natural leader-
    ship, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their
    key position in the social structure. Whatever atti-
    tude one chooses to take toward this condition, it
    remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily
    lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business,
    in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of per-
    sons — a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty
    million — who understand the mental processes and
    social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the
    wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”

  10. Pete,

    “It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”

    So right. And if you can’t find a way to EFFECTIVELY COMPETE with the Koch Brothers and others of that ilk, don’t bother to waste your breath.

  11. No matter their political affiliation, or if they have none, their religion, their race, their economic level of what is fast becoming the American caste system in this country; there is one primary issue missing – concern for educating our children. It is a battle to show who has the most money, the most power, who is first in the many polls taken by various and sundry organizations…no one is actually concerned with the quality of educating our children or even truth in education. Some are even rewriting history books to cover up the dark chapters in this country, and there are many. When no one is left to remember the truth, what will future generations teach their children about their beginnings – IF there is anyone left to teach or to learn?

  12. Private success? As a teacher, I knew what parents wanted for their child, but teaching is a higher calling. It’s fundamental to our democratic way of life which means that we inculcate in children patriotism, a dense of community, civic pride, and civic responsibility.

  13. All of this reminds me of a scene in the film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, which occurs after Melinda Dillon’s character, Jillian Guiler’s, young son Barry is abducted by alien visitors after which a big meeting is held by government officials and local citizens trying to figure out what exactly is going on. Initially, the conversations being held are rational and aimed at searching for and finding a rational explanation of what has transpired.

    Right in the middle of it an elderly longhaired gentleman stands up and proclaims “I’ve seen Bigfoot!”, after which the meeting dissolves into complete chaos. That meeting seen in that classic film, at least to me, represents in kind of a cockeyed way how easily content and rational thinking and discussion gets hijacked essentially the same way where any attempt at intellectual clarity very quickly dissolves into complete chaos. In that fictional example, it was one comment that undermined the seriousness of the discussion taking place that seemed to be, from the point of view of everyone else in the room, from the lunatic fringe.

    Today, in reality it’s not commentary that is immediately seen by a tangible majority as coming from far left or right field, rather it’s much more insidious than that since those that are figuratively standing up and proclaiming that they’ve seen Bigfoot are very likely foreign actors, Russian BOTS. Then come those that build on their fraudulent information for their own political motives, none of which are in the best interest of this country or its people and any efforts to heal the wounds already inflicted by the same very people and those that funded or directed them.

  14. I am greatly amused by Todd’s comments as the school system he knows the most about is so corrupt that Indiana had to take it over. I’m not impressed with the opinions in favor of indoctrination and would suggest that rather than Brookings (who can do some good work) a reading of Charles Murray on Education would be of much more profit and understanding. He has a Libertarian point of view but I find him to be intellectually honest….proof of which comes backhanded from low brow places of so called “higher” education being unable to listen. Muncie has long been an academic wasteland. Indianapolis folks can remember when IPS was not such (but it seems now to be).

  15. Nancy Papas,

    “Oh my – more “pluribus” than “unum” again.”

    It will remain that way until there is a recognition that we’re DISUNITED at the CORE. Thus, there is ABSOLUTELY no effective PRO-DEMOCRACY response even against the FOOL sitting in the Whitehouse. Accordingly, a NEW EXPANDED PRO-DEMOCRACY FRONT must be re-created along the lines of the successful civil rights front of the 60’s in order to regain some type of POLITICAL SYMMETRY before everything we value is lost.

  16. David Labaree’s “Someone Has To Fail” (HUP 2012) is an excellent analysis of what he calls the zero-sum thinking regarding education. Even if everyone in a school system improves or acquires new, valued skills, decisions about college admissions are still largely based on who’s top of the pile, and parents have internalized that all too well.

    It could well be that students today, overall, are better skilled & educated than in the past. But given the enshrinement of competition as the be-all-end-all, it doesn’t matter, whatever politicians & pundits claim to value.

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