Book Review

Market Education: The Unknown History

Reviewed by Art Stellar
Superintendent, Kingston City School District, Kingston, N.Y.


Move over Stephen King. Andrew J. Coulson, a writer who only recently began studying education policy, has fabricated a tale as scary as any horror novel by the eminent king of the macabre.

This book has the illusion of scholarship and hundreds of footnotes. After building the case that the problems of education have been fermenting for thousands of years with a cycle of criticism, reform and lack of improvement, the author labels public schools as the "perpetual stagnation machine."

Education insiders will recognize some legitimate complaints, such as the routine disconnection between research and practice. Anything negative that happens in even one local school seems to provide justification for tearing down the whole public school system. Coulson is generally predisposed toward vouchers, scholarships or tax credits for moving public school enrollments to independent schools.

As we enter the 21st century, radical notions may become more palatable. It is incumbent upon leaders in education to familiarize themselves with the arguments, the illogical as well as the logical, that serve to underlie Market Education. Otherwise, who knows? Life sometimes does imitate art, particularly when it masquerades as scholarship.

(Market Education: The Unknown History by Andrew J. Coulson, The Social Philosophy and Policy Center, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, 1999, 471 pp., $24.95 softcover)