Comments: Deployment, The Onion, China

The Supreme Court already ruled that such religious school vouchers were nationally constitutional. Why don't you like vouchers? I'm fascinated by this subject. Every mother I know personally is politically on the Left, and none of them are willing to send their kids to public schools. Despite that, they are leery of vouchers. I wonder why? Most of them are killing themselves trying to raise the money to get their kids into private school. None of them are rich. Their lack of passion for vouchers leaves me stunned. It would help them enormously.

I've posted a link to this once before, but allow me to again (some stories I've collected from my friends on the subject of vouchers):

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at August 18, 2004 11:47 AM

Lawrence - I'm with you on this. I fail to see how some woman will support passionately a woman's right to choice with regards to abortion yet denounce choice when it comes to education, even when the alternative is not a "religious" school.

I find it ironic that some DC residents send their kids to Sidwell Friends because they can afford to yet decry giving vouchers to poor residents because it might harm the public school system.

Posted by Col Steve at August 19, 2004 01:41 AM

Col Steve: actually, that's not a fair comparison. No one questions the existence of private schools, the only question is how such schooling is paid for. Women can be pro-choice yet feel the government shouldn't pay for abortion - there is no contradiction there. Likewise, a person can believe in school choice and not support vouchers. There is no contradiction there.

Nevertheless, I do find it surprising how many of my friends work themselves to death to raise money for their child's education, yet are leery of vouchers. One of my friends became a stripper in part so she could keep her child in the Montessori school where he was thriving. Another of my friends worked 3 jobs for awhile to keep her child in Friends School.

When I ask my friends why they are opposed to vouchers the most common answer that I get is that it would offer a free ride to the rich, who would no longer have to pay for public education. To my mind, the underlying issue here is whether the tax system is progressive or not. Clearly it would be possible, if the political will existed, to implement vouchers in a revenue neutral way, in that taxes on the rich can be increased by the amount that vouchers are expected to decrease their taxes. But we are 36 years into the current conservative era, and my friends have lost faith that such compromises can be struck. This might be a "Nixon goes to China" type of situation - it might that this is an issue that will move forward only when the Democrats are in charge.

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at August 19, 2004 07:19 AM

Lawrence - Thanks for the 'defense' which is very much what I would have said.

I really need to do a lengthy post on my thoughts about public school versus private schools and the whole "vouchers" thing, I know.

Just by way of offering a quick thought, let me say that while I respect the views of your friends,

I sympathize with any individual who makes the choice they've made. At the same time, I feel compelled to point out that if parents acted together, as a group, they could create public schools that fir their needs, and their children's needs.

Abdication of responsibility for the political process on the most local of levels is the foundation of the problem.

Posted by Anne at August 19, 2004 01:42 PM

"At the same time, I feel compelled to point out that if parents acted together, as a group, they could create public schools that fir their needs, and their children's needs."

I suppose that's right, if you mean that parents could work for a system of specialty schools that were all public, each catering to different types of students with different strategies in the same ways that private schools do. But I'd like you to recognize how hard that is. I've several friends who work as teachers in experimental schools, and if these schools were public the right-wingers would simply shut these schools down. I've a friend living just outside Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and he teaches at a small private school that engages in a very radical experiment with student-empowerment and student-lead learning. If it was public, I just can't imagine that local right-wingers would let it survive. They'd scream about how "wacky" it was and they'd get the governor to rescind its accredidation.

The reason I favor vouchers over yet another try at reforming the public schools is that I think vouchers will support all kinds of experiments in the field of education, and I think we need more experimentation and more variation. At the public schools, all that is ever allowed is what every faction of the public will agree to, and once the Left has vetoed all the ideas of the right-wingers and the right-wingers have vetoed all the ideas of the left-wingers, what we are left with is an extremely bland style of public education.

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at August 19, 2004 02:12 PM

...yet another try at reforming the public schools

This is one of the areas where our opinions diverge sharply.

Or, not, depending on how you use the word, "try."

We talk a lot about school reform. It's a perennial campaign issue. Parents, I know, worry about it. But my point is that it's not really a priority on an ongoing basis. Every few years some legislation and a handful of money are thrown at the problem, but there's no systematic, sensible, long-term attempt at reform.

"Schools should do better" is how the national consensus goes, but that's a ridiculously vague goal to strive for. Better how? In test-taking, as the current legislation requires?

I really do need to do a big, long rant on the topic.

Posted by Anne at August 22, 2004 12:09 PM

Anne, your comment implies that if education was a central issue of our public debates then greater progress would be made. I hope I'm summarizing your thoughts fairly. You seem to think that if the issue was front and center of our national conversation, then we would see real improvement. I think I agree with you that we would see more done if education had a higher priority, and I agree that it should have a higher priority.

However, if there was more progress, what kind of progress would it be? Again, as I said before, I've trouble imagining that public schools would ever be allowed to engage in the kind of experimentation that private schools are allowed to do. I've a friend who teaches at a Montesorri school, and I've a friend who teaches at a very experimental school near Pittsburg, Pennsylvannia. Both of them enjoy a freedom of style that I doubt they would be afforded at a public school. In their case I'm reasonably sure that they'd get fired as soon as they had a child from a right-wing home. The right-wing parents would scream about how "wacky" the teaching style was, and the teacher would be fired. Likewise, the reverse is I'm sure also true, there must be a lot of teachers at Christian schools all over the country who'd be fired if they were teaching in public schools.

So I'm left curious about the kind of progress you think would happen if education held more of the national attention (as no doubt it should).

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at August 22, 2004 06:52 PM

Katie Allison Granju says she hates homework and doesn't want her child to do any:

I bet there is a school out there that would cater to her preference. I bet it isn't public.

Posted by Lawrence Krubner at August 23, 2004 10:59 PM