Note: when this was written, I was fairly naive about the agenda to try and get schools to straight up teach Creationism. I do think schools funded by vouchers should not be doing that. Science is science, as even one noted televangelist admits.
1. Let’s be clear: most people have no clue what a proper education is, and will never have a clue what a proper education is. Most people care to be ignorant, and the fact that school choice increases competition and purportedly efficiency misses a key fact about education: it is possible to make people dumber, and get more efficient at that if the market is willing.
And Lord knows we want to be dumber. Ignorance is bliss for many of us, it takes a very special talent (*clears throat*) to show that something like Plato or Aristotle or Emily Dickinson is worth one’s time (*cough*). In those harder texts, one has to confront the possibility that one’s dearest opinions are wrong – over and over again.
So it should be no surprise to us that, at best, vouchers are keeping religious schools alive and thriving, while having no discernible effect on how much better students are academically. It should be no surprise to us that the culture wars are being waged at the educational level, when people aren’t stubbornly sponsoring bad schools or schools that are scams.
And that’s why school vouchers are the most important issue in America, so important that the federal government should disband the Department of Education and use that money to bribe states to adopt voucher programs en masse.
Up until now, the culture wars have been waged in the most dishonest fashion possible. Near complete control of the academy by the Left coupled with the necessity of everyone having a college degree has resulted in the academy teaching a good portion of us in elementary school and high school in the worst way. Not only do we learn to read and write (maybe) but we learn to appreciate diversity and not take drugs and that ‘war is bad’ and ‘racism is mean’ and ‘giving people money from the treasury is good even if you can’t afford it’ and the ‘President of Iran speaking at Columbia is free speech’ and a heck of a lot of other propositions that are either babyish sentimentality (racism is bad, duh. Can we study Langston Hughes and explain his significance as a poet, independent of the color of his skin?) or just plain dubious, but for some strange reason not debatable at all when plugged directly into children’s minds.
The idea that value can come from something – Education as a subject – that itself purports to be value-neutral (stop laughing. Please, stop. You might hurt yourself) is fairly preposterous. It is ludicrous when we try to celebrate “achievement” in the abstract, using rhetoric reminiscent of Pericles’ Funeral Oration to celebrate kids getting A’s in spelling.
The culture wars will always exist, esp. in regards to education. So let people, within reason, wage them. The Left isn’t going to crumple and die – they’ll have schools that can do wondrous things like teach biology properly and produce students that translate Swahili and can comment on women’s issues in Africa. And that’s great, as long as other people get schools where they can talk about the Bible freely without worrying about upsetting other “more tolerant” students. Heck, maybe one school will have the sense to hire me to help organize a curriculum, which would be most radical of all: parents on the Left and Right are united in getting their kids practical skills. Would anyone really want a curriculum that talked about poetry and art history and emphasized reading and writing?
Point is, school choice for all its problems opens us up politically. We become richer for being able to take an active interest in the future as opposed to alienating it to a bureaucracy.
2. The other major concern I have is the cost of schooling nowadays. Right now, Newark spends $1.3 million per high school graduate.
Public schools hide costs. The voucher makes costs immediate to anyone who has one. I don’t think voucher opponents have any clue how anti-democratic their position is when they argue, by default, that school boards which a community kinda/sorta knows about set a budget, the budget is made public with only a few realizing what per pupil cost is, and then taxes are levied to fund someone else’s vision of our children’s future.
Let people have an incentive to actually find out for themselves why education costs so much, and what opportunities there are. Sure, they’ll make bad decisions. Some parents are gonna ruin their kids no matter what – blaming school choice for the fact people make bad choices is like blaming oxygen for allowing Hitler to breathe.
I look forward to the day when Americans can make decisions with passion and respect for each other and a knowledge that this is all about a common good. Vouchers are absolutely the number one issue that we should be fighting about, and that we’re silent is a sign of our decadence, perhaps: are we really that scared of the teacher’s unions?