Libertarian-leaning ‘School Inc.’ documentary sparks rebuke, defense

Print More

A public television documentary with a libertarian viewpoint on education has drawn criticism from an educational policy academic and support from the Cato Institute.

School Inc.: A Personal Journey with Andrew Coulson is a production of Free To Choose Media.

The three-hour, three-part series is presented by WNET in New York City. Using examples from schools worldwide, the filmmaker asks why the education system in the U.S. is lacking in innovative approaches compared to other countries.

“Although Coulson cites a few studies out of Stanford, these are cherry-picked and counter-evidence is given a weak presentation,” writes Amy Shuffleton, an associate professor of cultural and educational policy studies at Loyola University Chicago in a column on the Phi Delta Kappan website. “Important currents in education, such as race and income inequality, are barely touched on. Coulson ignores the many successes and innovations present in public schools across the United States and the globe.”

Shuffleton calls the show “an unbalanced, journalistically questionable series.”

In a response on the website of the libertarian Cato Institute, Neal McCluskey, director of Cato’s Center for Educational Freedom, disagrees. “I think there is a huge amount of value to be found in School Inc., but others can certainly disagree,” he wrote. “What they should not try to do is squelch the documentary, or misrepresent what it says.” Coulson was a senior fellow of educational policy at the Cato center.

  • And what’s about a new version in an unbiased way, with assistance of the NewsHour? Well, let’s see. #PBSNEWS

  • “Important currents in education, such as race and income inequality, are barely touched on. Coulson ignores the many successes and innovations present in public schools across the United States and the globe.”

    Considering that this kind of “education” only reinforces tensions between racial and economic groups, I can’t see how that’s a valid point against Coulson.

  • Paul Cook

    Looks like the moderators have pulled my comments ’cause I didn’t bow down to the mighty OZ and pulled back the curtain.