Hoover Institution Press Publishes Unshackled: Freeing America’s K–12 Education System

Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA) – The Hoover Institution Press has published Unshackled: Freeing America’s K–12 Education System by Research Fellow Clint Bolick and Kate J. Hardiman , a former teacher and advocate for educational change.

In Unshackled, Bolick and Hardiman argue that the status quo in education is unacceptable and that disruptive innovation is needed to produce educated citizens. The authors maintain that the current education system is a relic of the nineteenth century and that generations of top-down reforms and misdirected resources have diverted the focus from those the system is supposed to serve: students. They offer a vision based on systemic, bottom-up reform that gives those most invested—parents and teachers—far more power over children’s education and future.

Bolick and Hardiman write that the systematic drivers of education reform are what they refer to as the “two Cs and two Ds”: choice, competition, deregulation, and decentralization. Choice and competition are the external drivers of educational improvement. The two “Cs” expand opportunity for individualized education and create an escape valve for students trapped by their zip codes in failing public schools. However, educational improvement can only be achieved by implementing the two “Ds,” which shift power and accountability to the school level.

To these ends, the authors offer ten principles for reform: 1) implement policies that promote the education of students; 2) understand that public education can be advanced beyond the classroom, including at home and virtually; 3) attract and hire the best and brightest teachers who can improve quality of education; 4) provide greater flexibility in teaching methods and maximize students’ performance according to individual needs, talents, aspirations, and personalities; 5) adopt proposals that inject greater choice, competition, and business principles into the education enterprise; 6) reverse the misallocation of power over education policy decisions from politicians and unions to frontline stakeholders, including principals, teachers, and parents; 7) empower students, instead of politicians, to be the primary source of public-school funding, with the aim of fostering the creation of distinctive, high-quality, and responsive educational products; 8) allow families to choose, mix, and match from a menu of alternative forms of education according to students’ needs and abilities; 9) ensure accountability by firing bad teachers and closing underperforming schools while rewarding good teachers and effective educational providers; and 10) focus on reforms that reflect the short time horizon in which students need to succeed in the educational system.

“Reforms that measure up to these principles will be systematic and transformative; reforms that don’t will be superficial—a bandage on a deep wound,” argue Bolick and Hardiman.

Unshackled is available in hardcover and e-book formats. Click here to purchase.

About the Authors

Clint Bolick is a justice on the Arizona Supreme Court and research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is a lifelong champion of educational opportunity.

Kate J. Hardiman is a legal fellow, law student, and former teacher who has experienced how school choice changes lives. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of her coauthor and mentor by litigating for educational change.

Acclaim for Unshackled

“If we are to guarantee every child in America the right to rise, we must be willing to reimagine and rethink our education-delivery system. With this book, Bolick and Hardiman offer a path forward to a transformed system that would unlock opportunity and lifelong success for each and every child.”

- Governor Jeb Bush, chair, Foundation for Excellence in Education

“What would the K–12 school system look like if you started from scratch? Bolick and Hardiman point out that education wouldn't be shackled by a bureaucratic and inefficient government monopoly on the service. The authors make a convincing and data-driven case to fund students directly instead of school systems.”

- Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice, Reason Foundation

“A Jedi and a Palawan of the school choice universe wrote a book. America's kids will be better for it. I’ve known Clint for almost twenty years and Kate for about two. Clint has changed the world a lot and I expect the same from Kate. This book is, I hope, just the first step in a long-standing and profound collaboration.”

- Derrell Bradford, executive vice president, 50CAN

For coverage opportunities, contact Jeffrey Marschner, 202-760-3187, jmarsch [at] stanford.edu.