Just don’t make me pay for it

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The Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey has this article commenting on the Cobb County decision. Although I disagree that the decision was "ridiculous," I agree with McCluskey's argument that this controversy simply cannot be settled so long as government runs schools: "the fight over evolution is just one of numerous struggles precipitated by a system for which all must pay, but only a select few control."

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Granted it is in the comments, but its still there and in one case by a regular contributor to Panda's Thumb, The first up is Great White Wonder who has this lovely comment, Then they [religious people who believe in creationism] could return to living... Read More

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I agree with McCluskey’s argument that this controversy simply cannot be settled so long as government runs schools

I’d say that in *any* complex institution run by human beings, serious disagreements or resentments will arise, and some of these will never be resolved. One of the marks of a civilized institution (or society) is that such disagreements are generally manageable, and do not precipitate the collapse of the whole system. Or were you trying to make some more subtle point, Mr. Sandefur?

this idea that we can hide our children from alternative viewpoints is perhaps the most self-distructive thing our society could do to itself.

what it ends up doing is increasing the isolation between everybody, and NOBODY learns the skills of rhetoric (if everybody’s on the same page, there’s no need to convince anybody that an alternative would be better) compromise, diplomacy, or tolerance necessary for our modern society to function.

That, Joe Shelby, could very well be addressed in Philosophy class…not teaching non-science in Science class hardly qualifies as “hiding from alternative viewpoints”.

Wow! Talk about using a Howitzer to swat a gnat! Abolish public education to eliminate a public debate over curriculum? I’ll take a sticker with bad science over the nuclear option any day.

I think the South already demonstrated the problem with this logic when segregation was ended by the courts in the 1950’s. Like the parents today trying to avoid evolution, parents who did not want their children exposed to integration ran for private schools. Tuition grants were given for private schools while public school funding was cut back. The result was that the quality of education became even more disparate between white and black, rich and poor.

I wish Mr. Sandefur would ride his political hobby horse in other playrooms. It doesn’t really further the promotion of valid science among people at large by appealing to ideological articles of faith sacred only to true believers.

In a world without public schools, the struggle between evolution and creationism would continue as before, although presumably market forces would guarantee the preponderance of religious dogma in the popular McSchools.

I find myself disagreeing with… well, just about everything here.

Of course, a very large percentage of the people living and paying taxes in Cobb County are Christians. Why is it acceptable to force them to use their tax dollars to teach their children something to which they strenuously object…

But they’re not forced at all. They have the right to remove their children and send them to a private school of their choice, or to homeschool them, if they’re so afraid that their children might be exposed to science.

Perhaps the problem is that their tax dollars are being used to teach something they object to, regardless of who’s being taught. But that would happen under a voucher program as well. People could take government money to enroll in schools that teaches evilution, YEC, Raelianism, etc., and we’d all have to pay for it, whether we have school-aged children or not.

And the fight over evolution is just one of numerous struggles precipitated by a system for which all must pay, but only a select few control.

That’s an odd way of looking at things. School boards are elected by popular vote; it would be very difficult to make things more inclusive than they already are. We’d probably be better off if there weren’t so much public control, without so much input by people who have an axe to grind rather than a legitimate interest in education.

I’m sure the author knows this, but figures it’s rhetorically advantageous to blame the problem on elitism when the real problem is dumbed-down populism.

If the state of Georgia decided tomorrow to disband its public schools, divide the funds that it currently spends on education equally among school-age children, and issue a voucher to every child, we would see a lot of positive things happen. Educational controversies would be resolved between parents and educators, not by court order, parents would no longer be set against each other in a struggle to determine what their children are taught.

Of course that’s not true at all. Most people would still have a very limited number of choices, depending on where they live (new schools will not be built just for a minority of people who believe differently) and there would still be battles between parents, educators, and administrators. And they’d still take things to the courts.

“New schools will not be built just for a minority of people who believe differently.”

Ummmmm.…. right. This is an example of one of those things someone says which seems to me so obviously and clearly not true that I feel I must be misunderstanding it. Isn’t that pretty much what the private sector does every hour of every day – catering to lots of weird, minority needs because there’s money to be made catering to the preferences of someone who doesn’t feel well served by the majority choice?

I don’t mind so much that Mr. Sandefur raises this controversy from time to time. Although I disagree with the “nuclear option” as well, I know that it has its proponents (who are, of course, sadly misguided ;).

Of course, a very large percentage of the people living and paying taxes in Cobb County are Christians. Why is it acceptable to force them to use their tax dollars to teach their children something to which they strenuously object …

As Steve R. points out, this is a strawman. No one is forced to teach their children anything. Pull them out of the class. Teach them at home that mysterious alien beings might have designed and created all the life on earth if that is the your children’s indoctrination can proceed without interference.

Remember how the public school system treats the children of atheists and Jehovah’s Witnesses when it engages in group recitation of our country’s sick “pledge of allegiance”? The atheist’s children can leave the classroom.

Consider: rather than stop schools from reciting a pointless pledge that has no demonstrable worth or effect on our society and clearly endorses religion, the children of atheists and JWs are told that they can leave if they don’t want to hear it.

But when it comes to teaching facts about science that are inherent to biology – the foundation of modern medicine and arguably the scientific field most responsible for the quality of life we live today – then the FACTS THEMSELVES must be altered to protect evangelical Christians, who are somehow incapable of walking out of the room while the simple irrefutable discoveries of scientists are presented (just as they are presented in classrooms in every civilized country on the planet).

asg- IF there is money to be made, of course the private sector will step in. (Don’t forget the economy is one of those complex self-regulating systems we always talk about here)If the group is too small or too poor they are SOL.

Isn’t that pretty much what the private sector does every hour of every day — catering to lots of weird, minority needs because there’s money to be made catering to the preferences of someone who doesn’t feel well served by the majority choice?

It doesn’t do that in cases where there are substantial capital costs required to duplicate an existing good or service. Car interiors are designed for a “one size fits all” average family. No one is going to build a car factory just to accomodate people who are over 7 feet tall. These people either put up with what’s available, or they build themselves a custom car at enormous expense.

A small minority of students could indeed get set up in their own school, in someone’s basement, so long as they don’t expect a caffeteria, a library, a playground, sports teams, AP classes, buses, or just about anything else that sizable public and private schools provide. If you want these things, you have to put up with how the majority thinks they should be run.

If privately run schools had any history of achieving the goals of our public school system, advocating privatizing schools would make sense.

But there is no privatley run school system on Earth, nor has there ever been, which approaches the success of the U.S. patchwork system of public education.

There are a few systems in the world that perform better than our system in elementary and secondary levels, in certain subjects – each of them is government run, and each of them has a centralized, federal curriculum selection device.

Oh, sure, it is an embarrassment that the communists in Cuba have achieved the highest literacy rates in the Americas. However, taking the route that Mississippi pioneered in eradicating its public schools (in the late 1950s and 1960s) is probably not a way to catch the Cubans.

John Locke wrote about freedom being a state where an individual controlled his own life, liberty and property, with the government established to help secure those rights. Public education is the foundation of that governmental system, Madison and Jefferson noted. Private education is a quick route out of freedom. But why would anyone take that road?

The only schools in Britain that teach creationism are those out of the government’s curricular system. The only schools in the U.S. that teach creationism are private schools. Since this already establishes that private schools tend to let academic standards slip, why would anyone even entertain the idea of killing the competition that keeps private schools as good as they are, and which undergirds our national structure?

“But it is asked… ‘Have you not irritated, have you not annoyed your American friends and the American people rather than done them good?’ I admit that we have irritated them. They deserve to be irritated. I am anxious to irritate the American people on this question. As it is in physics, so in morals, there are cases which demand irritation and counter-irritation. The conscience of the American public needs this irritation, and I would blister it all over from center to circumference, until it gives signs of a purer and a better life than it is now manifesting to the world.”–Frederick Douglass

Excellent find, Mr. S. I’ve never seen that quote. Douglass was a feisty s.o.b., wasn’t he? I can dig it.

Mr. Sandefur quotes Douglass to the effect that it’s OK and in fact desirable to annoy people in the cause of achieving a desirable social change. The quote was well-chosen and on point (though I disagree with Mr. Sandefur on the desirability of privatizing public education).

The quote contains one linguistic peculiarity which might trip up the modern reader. Mr. Douglass uses physics in a now-obsolete sense, where we would more likely say medicine. I just didn’t want anybody getting confused and thinking that there was a theory of irritation and counter-irritation in modern physics.

(The theory is alive and well in medicine, however, and is the basis of modern immunotherapy.)

“If privately run schools had any history of achieving the goals of our public school system, advocating privatizing schools would make sense.

But there is no privatley run school system on Earth, nor has there ever been, which approaches the success of the U.S. patchwork system of public education.”

I highly recommend E.G. West’s “Education and the State”.

Of course the rest of the world doesn’t have a problem with public education and evolution. Perhaps we should look to their example instead of advocating extreme solutions like disbanding the public schools.

If a majority of parents don’t want the schools to teach evolution, a science they philosophically or theologically disagree with, the should simply lobby the state to remove biology from the mandated science curriculum and either make it optional or stop teaching it. That way, they wouldn’t be pretending to teach science when they weren’t.

I think the South already demonstrated the problem with this logic when segregation was ended by the courts in the 1950’s.

Can we call this the Craig T. Corrolary to Godwin’s law? When you can’t shoe horn Nazi’s into a discussion thread try to go with Jim Crow and Segregation.

And lets never forget that Segregation was actually what guys at the Cato Institute would use a an example in favor of doing away with public schools. After all, Segregation was an example of government policy run horribly amok, and the guys at the Cato Institute are almost always opposed to government intervention.

But they’re not forced at all. They have the right to remove their children and send them to a private school of their choice, or to homeschool them, if they’re so afraid that their children might be exposed to science.

You are ignoring part of the objection dealing with taxes. Would you be in favor of cutting taxes for those people who send their children to private schools? If not, you are being a bit disengenuous.

Perhaps the problem is that their tax dollars are being used to teach something they object to, regardless of who’s being taught. But that would happen under a voucher program as well. People could take government money to enroll in schools that teaches evilution, YEC, Raelianism, etc., and we’d all have to pay for it, whether we have school-aged children or not.

Okay, so no vouchers and no public schools is that right? Some how I don’t think so.

That’s an odd way of looking at things. School boards are elected by popular vote; it would be very difficult to make things more inclusive than they already are.

Have you read anything on voting and the problem inherent with allocating resources with such mechanisms? My guess is no. The problem is that Majority rule can effectively cut out 50% of the voting population (in a close election). Further, if you are such a fan of democracy why not let democracy decide is evolution or ID is to be taught?

We’d probably be better off if there weren’t so much public control, without so much input by people who have an axe to grind rather than a legitimate interest in education.

And wouldn’t a private market go some way towards accomplishing this goal? Sure in some school districts there might be a problem if there are only a handful of schools, but in larger school districts with more schools it could very well solve the problem.

Of course that’s not true at all. Most people would still have a very limited number of choices, depending on where they live (new schools will not be built just for a minority of people who believe differently) and there would still be battles between parents, educators, and administrators. And they’d still take things to the courts.

Nice, but this contradicts the earlier statement that people have choices…so which is it, they have choices or they don’t. This strikes me as somebody wanting to have their cake and eat it too.

And before any of the Left Wing Nutjobs go off on me that I am some sort of Christian Fundy who is in favor of ID, please read this first.

… this controversy simply cannot be settled so long as government runs schools

The Cato Institute is a libertarian think-tank that has the luxury of not having to apply any of its “ideals.” I wish I could get paid to dream up ideas all day.

What’s the alternative to a public system? A different private school for every niche “market?” Perhaps there would be schools that would cater to those who still lean towards segregation … or holocaust denial … or geocentricism. Surely this would be good since everybody would be free to go their own way and there would be no coercion involved.

Only problem is the mayhem it would create; not to mention the destructive impact it would have on society as a result of encouraging such separation. While there is a time and a place for individualism, it’s not the end all and be all of existence. There are benefits to putting people together. They learn to get along and work together regardless of their differences. It also has the potential to correct error. An individual-school-per-niche would not.

Steve-2 writes

And before any of the Left Wing Nutjobs go off on me that I am some sort of Christian Fundy who is in favor of ID, please read this first.

Just out of curiosity, what are you in favor of when it comes to the public school system? Do you agree that a population who understands basic facts about biology and physics is better than a population which doesn’t? If not, why not?

Re your fisking of Reuland’s post : I don’t think it is unreasonable or “disengenuous” to expect that people can choose not to participate in the public education system but still pay taxes. Or, to put it another way, there is nothing hypocritical about allowing people to opt-out of a public program without creating a special tax break for them.

Talking about this stuff in the abstract really misses the point, though. These religious people who believe that science is a bunch of garbage are far far far more “disengenuous” and hypocritical than any supporter of any public school system could ever be. Perhaps those willfully ignorant religious people would like to have all their science benefits taken away from them.

Then they could return to living in their caves. You know, like their brother in ideology, Osama bin Laden.

Steve, I didn’t bring up segregation just for the sake of hyperbole. When the South shifted to an emphasis on private schools, the funding of public schools plummeted. I don’t see a system of education vouchers being funded to the level that all could get a good education. I also live in Texas and watch how market forces segregate neighborhoods. I just can’t imagine a system of all private schools as being anything but a balkanization of race and class. Part of the education gained in public schools is learning that someone can disagree with you and what you learn at home without being totally evil.

I think the point is that government control of public schools does very little to ensure that kids learn that people can disagree with them without being totally evil, and the segregation experience is evidence of this (as is the fact that creationists and ID types have had some success with getting their stuff peddled in classrooms).

Lovely.

Effective civil governance needs educated participants. Without that, we’ll continue to be outraged over jurors disregarding DNA evidence in murder trials, and corrupt politicians taking advantage of people’s ignorance.

But public education is also meant to feed competent workers into a free-market economic system. In that light, it is both an opportunity for individuals and an investment into the fiscal health of our nation.

I’ll tell you what: You get some other country to go first (eliminate their public education system and go all private). Let’s take a look at the results in 30 years. Then we’ll have more data with which to make a decision.

You are ignoring part of the objection dealing with taxes.  Would you be in favor of cutting taxes for those people who send their children to private schools?  If not, you are being a bit disengenuous.

If people who send their kids to private schools deserve a tax break, then what about those of us who have no kids? Shouldn’t we get a tax break too? Everyone has to pay for public schools, not just those with young children.

I can see no reason to give people who choose not to use public schools a special tax rebate. No one proposes giving a tax rebate (or funding an alternative) for those who refuse to use public transportation, or those who just can’t stand public parks. The government provides a basic service, you either take it or you leave it. Unless we fund education strictly with user-fees (which is contrary to the whole point of vouchers), then people who choose to use private schools can keep paying taxes like the rest of us.

Okay, so no vouchers and no public schools is that right?

Um, no, it’s not right. In case it wasn’t obvious, I would rather avoid any radical reforms in the public education system, vouchers or otherwise.

My point was that vouchers will not prevent people from spending their tax dollars on teaching things they don’t like (such as evilution). That will happen with or without vouchers. At best, you can only prevent your own kids from being taught something you don’t like, but it’s already possible to do that.

Have you read anything on voting and the problem inherent with allocating resources with such mechanisms?  My guess is no.  The problem is that Majority rule can effectively cut out 50% of the voting population (in a close election).  Further, if you are such a fan of democracy why not let democracy decide is evolution or ID is to be taught?

Did you bother to read anything I wrote? I stated quite clearly that there is too much public input when it comes to education. If I had my way, I’d end popular elections for school boards. No one outside the special interests has any clue who they’re voting for when it comes to school board elections. Moreover, the school boards should be stripped of many of their powers. Most schools don’t need to be micro-managed.

My point, if you’ll notice, was that McCluskey is under the impression that public schools are controlled by “only a select few”. He couldn’t be more wrong. Public schools are run by a democratic mob, always pushing this way and that.

And wouldn’t a private market go some way towards accomplishing this goal?

It might, but privitization is not necessary (or sufficient) to address the problem bureaucratic meddling. And it’s quite possible to have too little oversight, as we’ve seen with some disasterous charter school experiments.

Nice, but this contradicts the earlier statement that people have choices … so which is it, they have choices or they don’t.

Clearly, choice isn’t black and white, it comes in degrees. McCluskey implies that we’ll go from a system of no choice to a system of perfect choice for everyone. But that’s nonsense. We’ll go from a system of limited choice to a system of possibly slightly less limited choice. And certainly, people of minority belief, unless they’re concentrated in a particular geographic area, won’t have any more options available than they have now. As a matter of fact, they’ll no longer be protected from overt religious discrimination. If you think it’s still worthwhile, then that’s great. But it’s hardly the grand panacea that McCluskey makes it out to be.

I’ll tell you what: You get some other country to go first (eliminate their public education system and go all private). Let’s take a look at the results in 30 years. Then we’ll have more data with which to make a decision.

Again, I highly recommend West’s “Education and the State.”

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ASG

Again, find another country to go first. I want data from the modern, industrialized world, not the world of the 1800s.

Andrew: by “outcomes”, do you mean test scores, economic productivity per capita, patents issued, life expectancy, fermented beverage consumption, voter turnout, admission into Heaven…? What is the right metric by which to measure the quality of an education?

It’s a little silly to ask for another country to go first and then complain that the examples take place in the past, no? But, hey, if your view is that all historical evidence is irrelevant due to some (unenumerated) difference between the tradeoffs involved with public vs. private education then and now, then your view reminds me of another view that is oft-discussed on this weblog. Hint: it begins with a “c”.

I don’t see a system of education vouchers being funded to the level that all could get a good education.

Irrelevant in that our current system does not produce good educations and in some cases in school districts that have quite a bit of money.

Then they could return to living in their caves. You know, like their brother in ideology, Osama bin Laden.

Pssst, your bigotry is showing.

No one outside the special interests has any clue who they’re voting for when it comes to school board elections.

What a wonderful idea, lets apply it on a broad scale. You know about biology, evolution and that’s about it right? So you can vote on those. I’ll vote on issue of economics and statistics.

And given the establishment clause we’ll simply bar all religious people from voting (unless they can demonstrate that their religion plays no role in their voting behavior–oh and Great White Wonder this is where you say, “Right on!!”).

Clearly, choice isn’t black and white, it comes in degrees. McCluskey implies that we’ll go from a system of no choice to a system of perfect choice for everyone. But that’s nonsense. We’ll go from a system of limited choice to a system of possibly slightly less limited choice. And certainly, people of minority belief, unless they’re concentrated in a particular geographic area, won’t have any more options available than they have now. As a matter of fact, they’ll no longer be protected from overt religious discrimination. If you think it’s still worthwhile, then that’s great. But it’s hardly the grand panacea that McCluskey makes it out to be.

But that is just it, there is no grand panacea here. Sure McCluskey is wrong (hell it looks like he never read chapter two of an economics book), but you seem to have some unstated reason for opposing private schools. You worry about the religious minority, but yet you claim they can always pull their children out of public schools. Your position is very muddled.

ASG

Wow! The least you could have done was cite what was going on in Philadelphia:

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6746256/

Of course, the school reform there involves a mixture of private institutions still under state control and public schools that are performing well. And, the privately-run schools get $450 per student more than the ones in public schools - which disproved their assertion that they could do a better job for less money, but anyway …

No, I’m suspicious of politically-motivated efforts to radically change our school system. I believe those efforts get their biggest boost from fundamentalists who want to eliminate evolution from the curriculum and introduce theology as science.

I think anyone who advocates for an end to public education needs to acknowledge this or they come off looking like the Log-Cabin Republicans - kinda out of it, you know?

So, please go experiment on schools somewhere else. Go do hard science on a national scale with real students in this modern, global economy. I’m perfectly willing to take a look at your results with an open mind.

“Irrelevant in that our current system does not produce good educations and in some cases in school districts that have quite a bit of money.”

BwaaHaHaHa!

I’m willing to bet that, statistically, richer school districts have better test results than poorer ones! I know that’s a fact here in Illinois. It’s also a HUGE factor in housing prices.

And, according to the most recent stats available at education dot yahoo dot com, U of I Champaign had 34% of its incoming freshmen testing in with ACT scores of 30 and higher.

I guess education IS in crisis, kind of like Social Security.

Steve-2 whispered to me

Pssst, your bigotry is showing.

Because I compared anti-science fundamentalists in the United States to anti-science fundamentalists in Afghanistan?

No, it’s not my bigotry that is showing, my friend. What’s showing is your inability to effectively rebut the points that I and others made about your first post on the topic.

oh and Great White Wonder this is where you say, “Right on!!”).

Um … no.

Maybe you should just stick to making really long-winded needlessly puffed-up arguments about why “ID theory” is garbage. At least you reached a reasonable conclusion with respect to that subject.

If a majority of parents don’t want the schools to teach evolution, a science they philosophically or theologically disagree with, the should simply lobby the state to remove biology from the mandated science curriculum and either make it optional or stop teaching it. That way, they wouldn’t be pretending to teach science when they weren’t.

The Gallup Poll found that 83% of Americans want evolution taught. A bit under half of those thought creationism might be studied as well, but they were unequivocal that they wanted evolution taught.

Creationists are the 17%. Americans who don’t understand evolution want their kids to be better educated, it appeared then.

I’ll bet it’s still true.

I noted that privately run schools don’t have the track record U.S. public schools have of producing quality education, and mass education (not always the same thing). I noted there is not a privately run system that demonstrates the success advocates would need to justify killing public education.

Someone suggested:

I highly recommend E.G. West’s “Education and the State”.

It’s been a lot of years since I even saw the book; I’m working from dimming memory.

West didn’t offer an example of any privately run system that takes all comers, as U.S. public education does. He set up a straw man argument that public education was designed to protect kids from neglectful parents, which was never the case in the U.S., and he tries to knock it down by suggesting most parents are not neglectful.

But his evidence tries desperately to ignore what really happened in the U.S. In communities across the nation, parents responsible for their kids’ education chose to establish public school systems to accomplish the task. We have 15,000 public school systems in this nation, each run by a locally-elected board. Those systems were created by the people in those districts. The assumption that there would be a mass exodus from public education rather ignores the fact that in 85% of those districts there simply is no alternative.

And here in Texas, we’ve discovered the alternatives to be more wasteful and less productive than public schools, on average. Our liberal charter school program has had to shutter a number of schools for mismanagement, and of those rated as well-managed, most fail to measure up to the low-performing public schools. There are a few highly-rated private schools in the state – and some of them compare with our best public school systems. There is no crying need to switch to an alternative that has no better track record than public schools, in Texas. And we generally rank near the bottom of U.S. state systems. Most states do better.

Second, West sets up a second straw man, urging that crime rates don’t drop due to education. Unless he’s arguing for ignorance, it’s an argument that is completely irrelevant. But I would urge any number of studies of criminals in America which demonstrate that a high school diploma, or just the ability to read, reduces recidivism among American convicts.

So West completely avoids the Madisonian/Jeffersonian arguments, that people can rule themselves if they have a modicum of learning. He completely avoids the chief reasons Americans set up public schools.

Finally, somebody mentioned the Excellence in Education Commission and its report. The chair of that commission was David P. Gardner, an ex-president of the University of Utah (and later chancellor of the University of California system), and a friend of then-Education Sec. Ted Bell. Gardner wrote the introduction, which discusseed a “rising tide of mediocrity” in schools. The report doesn’t argue that the system fails, nor does it claim that the system is worse than other alternatives. It pleads instead for higher standards and higher achievement. The report pleads for school districts and states to establish high and clear standards – which would avoid battles over injecting creationism into curricula, for example. It’s not a coincidence that the AP exams expanded dramatically after the report. We should consider that a biology test based solely on quality achievement mentions creationism not at all, and requires an understanding of evolution.

The AP exams are privately developed, of course. That tests might be done well by private companies is not an argument that entire school systems can carry the entire load.

If the original poster wishes to make a case that private schools can do the job, cite the evidence. West didn’t, as I recall, nor did he face the real issues of the matter squarely.

It’s nice to have private schools. They fill a role. They cannot fill the role we have created for public schools today, regardless the history of how England or America got them.

Tim urges that we look at Philadelphia.

Yes, please do.

The successful turnaround was NOT achieved by competition from private schools, but instead from wise management of public schools that existed already. If one has followed the Philadelphia experiment, one knows that the Edison folks were essentially kicked out of half the schools they operated because they, the premier private school operator in the nation, couldn’t do the job. The article cites a school that is run by the education department from Temple University – the same bunch whom the CATO folks love to denigrate, professional educators – and their (Temple’s experts) analysis was that more money and closer supervision (made possible by smaller management units) turned the trick. Still, the school was limping along with less than a quarter of the students meeting standard (a big improvement over much less than 10 percent, previously).

Does anyone have figures on how many public school systems there are in Pennsylvania? One, a huge one hammered by recessionary pressures on the inner city, was taken over by the state. How about the others?

And you know what? None of the privately-operated schools produced improvement by teaching creationism.

Edison Schools had previously had a failing experience in Baltimore, and Dallas ended their contract after one year (all the schools fell in performance, and then Edison asked for a large increase in funding, about 20% if I remember correctly).

All of these cases show that money, wisely deployed, can improve performance of public schools.

Which rather segues to vouchers: Voucher programs almost always subtract money from failing schools. That only guarantees their failure. Why not a voucher system that gives money to students, and let them plug it back into their neighborhood schools if they wish? Vouchers are no panacea, but taking money away is a sure path to failure.

Finally, I note that William Bennett wrote three pamphlets laying out an ideal curriculum for elementary, middle and high schools, in order to achieve at the level we need kids to achieve. One of the essential elements of the high school curriculum was learning evolution. (See James Madison High School, Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, circa 1987.)

A good, high quality education features an education in all the great ideas of civilization, including evolution. Public education can do that, too – but there is no reason to believe private education will do better on the whole that public education, especially if private education begins by cutting out quality in biology.

Ed

Excellent post. I whole-heartedly agree.

I sarcastically brought up the Philadelphia experiment for AIG’s benefit, but apparently he didn’t take the bait. It’s actually something that might answer my call for modern data on a large scale. Except, it wouldn’t support his arguement.

If you want to look specifically at Edison schools, this is a good page to look at:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/front[…]tc/faqs.html

Considering just Edison in Philly, the per-pupil spending is even worse:

“In Philadelphia, Edison schools receive nearly $900 more per pupil than city-run schools, a result of appropriations from the state legislature that critics charge are unfair. “

That MSNBC article I linked to averaged the cost over all the participants, thus hiding the worst case.

To the best of my knowledge, and to be fair, Edison isn’t pushing creationism. But, as I said before, those pushing for an end to public schools MUST acknowledge who they’re in bed with: fundamentalists who want to advance their religious ideas in science class.

It is NOT farfetched to imagine entire counties in this country with schools devoted exclusively to religious education. For those not of that religion, how exactly do they educate their children? Move?

I’ll say it again (or at least copy and paste it): Effective civil governance needs  educated participants. Without that, we’ll continue to be outraged over jurors disregarding DNA evidence in murder trials, and corrupt politicians taking advantage of people’s ignorance.

But public education is also meant to feed competent workers into a free-market economic system. In that light, it is both an opportunity for individuals and an investment into the fiscal health of our nation.

Tim,

I caught your drift on the Philadelphia schools, but I failed to thank you for making the point.

And no, Edison doesn’t push creationism. I should note that I have an interest, though no conflict, in that my former boss Chester Finn left ED to work with Edison. He’s gone from the bunch now, but he’s still an advocate of alternatives. Of course, the dreary record of alternative schools who take money from the public coffers has prompted him to write a couple of hard-hitting pieces laying the facts out: Vouchers are not a panacea, nor is private education.

I’m not against kids getting religion, within the bounds of the law. I am opposed to religious doctrine being forced on people inappropriately.

And as to entire counties with schools devoted to religious education: I graduated from Pleasant Grove High School, in Pleasant Grove, Utah. I was one of two non-Mormons in my graduating class of about 210. For my freshman and sophomore years I had to fight to keep Latter-day Saints seminary (a released-time program) off my schedule. One counselor told me that no one before had ever failed to take the seminary courses (history credit was offered for one of the classes – Old Testament, I think). There had been occasional non-Mormons attending before me, so that suggests how strongly entrenched the religious program was. In countless little ways, such religion in schools harms those who are not of that faith, and erodes the uprightness of those who are of that faith.

Still, the Mormons were careful to try to stay within the law. The released time program occurred off-campus – usually next door, but off-campus – with teachers paid by the church. And it was a Mormon who laid out evolution clearly for me in a science class so that I got it. (There is disagreement among some Mormons about evolution – but it is false doctrine by the church’s standards to teach that evolution is faulty, and the biology department at Brigham Young University and other Mormon institutions all cover evolution fully and completely.)

You’re absolutely right in your last two paragraphs. Free public education isn’t for your kids, or for my kids – it’s for all the other kids. If it works right, it prevents me from being a tyrant and oppressor just as effectively as it keeps me from tyranny and oppression.

Private education was inadequate to that purpose, and Americans freely chose a public system to do the job. I don’t regret that choice at all.

followup to Pastor Bentonit:

Yes, some of that could be in a philosophy class, but how many high schools actually have one? and is it required?

I went to high school in the biggest school in virginia (Robinson Secondary), and there was, and still is at last check, no “philosophy” class at all. What little philosophy one gets in high school is limited to what the English teachers decide to include on top of the required reading and writing curricula. Outside of expository writing, freshman English, what little debate experience people get is usually in debate clubs as extra-curricular activities, and “simulating the constitutional convention” exercises in American history.

(and I am eternally grateful that my 12th grade english teacher decided to include James Burke’s Connections and The Day the Universe Changed as something “on top of” the required material).

In fact, this is the main problem of the “well, just put creationism in a comparative religion or philosophy class” – there isn’t one to put it in. I’ve never seen a public high school that actually has that as anything but an elective, if at all. For those that have one, its attended by far too few students to be a worthwhile place to put anything that some faction considers “required” (not that any of US consider creationism something that should be required).

and again, this also reiterates my whole point – such a class of “alternative views” would be something that no private school formed to teach a particular agenda (like creationism) would ever actually tolerate. if not required, it would be such an under-attended elective so as to eventually be dropped as soon as the school (like *every school) gets strapped for cash.

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on January 21, 2005 10:09 AM.

O’Reilly and Scarborough was the previous entry in this blog.

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