22 January 2006

 

School Vouchers

There's a post by Richard Epstein (link via the Volokh Conspiracy) at The University of Chicago's Law School blogs in which he argues against the recent Florida Supreme Court decision declaring school vouchers unconstitutional. Both his argument and that in the initially-civil-then-devolving-into-neener-neener-neener discussion in the comments revolve around economic, competition vs. state monopoly, issues regarding vouchers.

Nowhere does anyone address underlying historical/cultural reasons for why this issue exists in the first place, those being court-ordered busing to achieve public-school desegregation and the refusal of the federal government to use the school to impose Christian religious practices on students who don't come from Christian families. Both those led to the increases in the numbers of and enrollment in private schools associated with Protestant churches, as well as to increases in the practice of home schooling, and neither had anything to do with the failings of the academic aspects of public schools.

To talk about vouchers without even a wink and a nudge to the fact that they're being used to support religious instruction and religious institutions is to engage in a phony disucssion. That's not to deny that there are reasons to put the feet of the public schools in the USA to the fire and to make them perform: lots of them don't, and some of the reasons are bad academic management, ineffective teachers, and lousy curricula as well as not enough resources. And along the same lines as making sure the discussion includes the evolution of private Christian schools as a response to desegregation, we have to make sure to note that a result of that is public schools that are even more segregated than they were before well-intentioned state actions tried to remedy the situation.

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