Watching the government shut-down debate reminded me of the polarization in American society and the need to address this serious political problem. Reading Andrew Campanella’s commentary (“It’s time to choose schools in California," Jan. 22) promoting school choice, I was reminded that the increasing concerted effort to privatize public education increases polarization.

Public education is one remaining unifying institution in our diverse society that brings together students of all races, religions, sexual orientations, wealth, political parties, and family background. Parents have the right to send their children to private schools, but they should realize that our democracy and economy depend upon an educated citizenry that works together.

Too many private schools are racially segregated; avoid teaching science and particularly evolution; too many teach mathematics as a set of procedures without understanding; too many do not give students the opportunity to learn tolerance for others with different backgrounds; and too many private schools set standards based upon what will attract students rather than standards based upon widely acknowledged academic criteria.

Thomas Jefferson suggested that religions that wanted to teach students their religion do so close to schools, so that students could go to a common school for their general education and go to nearby places for their religious education. That proposal seems like a reasonable compromise.

We need to support and significantly strengthen public education, as our democracy requires an educated citizenry that is not polarized. Education is not just about the individual child. We’re all in this together.

— Louis Wildman, Bakersfield