Same Game, Different Losers: Rethinking the Public School “Syndrome”

Someone Has to Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling by David F. Labaree

By Emily Wojcik

Every year or so – more often during election cycles – politicians, reformers, and the public turn their attention to the public school system. This came to a dramatic head during the summer of 2011, when Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and his Republican majority pushed through a budget that eliminated collective-bargaining rights for teachers. The move inspired a walkout of Democratic legislators and a weeks-long protest on the steps of the state capitol, culminating in the failed gubernatorial recall vote earlier this month. The lines were drawn: demoralized progressives and teachers on one side, frustrated voters and budget hawks on the other.

These lines are nothing new: Walker’s budget was merely the latest shot across the bow in a nearly 200-year-old battle over public education in the United States—a fact made clear in the course of David F. Labaree’s comprehensive and enlightening book, Someone Has to Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling. Continue reading