Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t. – Traditional idiom
Sayings become traditional if they contain sufficient truth, but truth can usually be graded on a scale, from absolute to non-existent; better writers have called this the “truth-of-the-head” and the “truth-of-the-heart.”
The truth-of-the-head is that American public schooling is failing. Expenses are too high, political influence is too systemic, and results are terrifyingly low. This isn’t news. We’ve written and talked about it extensively.
From 1998 to 2008, the Children’s Educational Opportunity (CEO) Foundation funded a $52.4 million voucher program for residents of the low-performing Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas. The vouchers were available to any student in Edgewood whose family chose to participate, regardless of academic ability or income.
The evidence shows that the voucher students weren’t the only ones who benefited. The students who remained in the Edgewood public schools benefited from increased funding resources due to increasing property values, and improvements in the public schools in response to increased competition.
Those are impressive results. Yet anti-reform groups and their legislative supporters have almost successfully killed school choice in Washington, DC, arguably the flagship federal school-choice program. Reason.tv has documented the trials, triumphs, and tribulations of the D.C. program for several years.
The recurring arguments against choice have always been theoretical. Students might be worse off. Communities might be forced into educational ghettos. Students might be subjected to failing systems, where private educators care only about power and money.
But any reasonable person has to agree, replace “might” with “is,” and “private” with “public,” and you have a fair critique of the current state. When faced with possible problems but tangible benefits, the devil you know seems egregiously evil.
I guess that’s why “idiom” and “idiot” are only one letter apart.