What does it mean to say that in the United States, we have “public” schools? The term public calls to mind tax-supported, compulsory schools for all children, managed by the state. To most of us, “public” is associated with what are now mundane realities: taxpayer-funded schools, charged with admitting and educating any legal minor in a catchment area such as a neighborhood, city, town, county, or regional district. But public life is far more substantive and meaningful than these formalities communicate.