i've wanted to write about this for some time now. as i write this, i'm unsure of exactly where this post will take me. i have many thoughts on this topic, and this could get lengthy. i'll do my best to articulate my thoughts with as much brevity as possible.
for my entire life, it has been universal that education is one of the most important things in America. all politicians have trumpeted the importance of educating our youth. this has never been a party issue. some individual politicians were more strident on this than others, but never has there been a disagreement on the importance of education.
this appears to have changed.
when this change occurred i don't know. it's possible that it has been quietly changing for some time now, but recent economic woes of many states have allowed politicians to cut funding for public schools. hey, they have to cut somewhere, right? but i wonder if it's more sinister than that. is this what some (conservative) legislators have wanted to do all along?
before i delve into the evidence, first allow me to discuss the potential motivations. why would anyone be against public education? there are a litany of possible reasons.
i'm not going to tackle all of these in full. suffice it to say, these concerns about public schooling have led to a massive increase in homeschooling. as of 2009, a 75% increase in was reported since 1999. that is a staggering increase. while there are legitimate reasons for homeschooling, it is my opinion that the majority of it stems from Religious objections. since it appears as though the religious objections are the most prevalent, so i will start here.
there has been an ongoing fight on behalf of the Religious right to put God back into schools. we've seen the battles come and go to allow for prayer in various forms in public schools. typically, these fights have been won by secularists. the push for creationism is a bit of an end around to make sure that God is discussed in school. most of these battles have been won by secularists too. what is a good God fearing Christian to do? take their kids out. if they can't afford a private school, they are choosing to homeschool.
a new twist has also arisen. Charter schools have been cropping up more and more. while this is a complicated issue with many different fronts that can be discussed, i will keep it rather basic. Charter schools are not so different from public schools, with the exception being that they are not subject to the restrictions of public schools. this means that the curriculum is not state mandated, and as such, the school itself can dictate the curriculum. this addresses several concerns on my list. if desired, parents can influence curriculum, the schools can have sanctioned prayer, and teachers unions are greatly restricted or diminished (about 12% of Charter schools have a form of union). i will also add that many Charter schools are for-profit organizations, but receive massive funding from the state governments. not a bad business, if you ask me.
much of this is driving the reduction in funding to traditional Public schools. since many Charter schools are showing improvement in testing, an argument is often raised that vouchers for Charter schools should be increased, again limiting funding for Public schools. Charter schools have a luxury that it's Public counterpart does not - that of selection. they can pick and choose who gets enrolled, leaving the less than desirable students to the Public schools. it's no wonder that they are seeing better testing results - it's designed that way.
no matter that the cards are stacked against the Public system. legislators have the evidence to back up their claims, the support of many of their constituents who are railing against their lack of Religion in Public Schools, and the majority of the state house to legislate cuts to Public schools in favor of diverting funds to Charter schools and even homeschooling.
and this is what is happening all across the country, and not just in Red states. 37 states have cut funding for Public schools since 2010. i can't ever remember funding cuts to education in my lifetime, but i'm sure it's happened. but i can't imagine it's ever happened at this level. one could argue, i suppose, that in this economic crisis, cuts have to be made all over. but largely this isn't the case. they are coming for Public education FIRST. and if you are deeply religious, you might even agree with them. now you have options that weren't available decades ago.
originally, i asked if something more sinister is happening here. could it be that Conservative/Religious lawmakers are cutting funding to Public schools to increase the funding of schools that can offer religious practices? could their intent be to keep the least intelligent students in the Public schools to reinforce their idea that Public education is broken? could the ultimate goal be to keep students uninformed so as to maintain an ignorant electorate?
perhaps i'm making a mountain out of a molehill. i'd love to hear what others think.
Franny, you may be right. money could be the biggest reason, and the Religious are an easy group to bring along for support.
so if money is the end game, is there any chance this is good for education? could privatization be a better option than public education?
This post couples very tightly with your commentary about facts not mattering any more, certainly as it comes to the attempts by religious organizations to interfere with public education. The more informed and thorough public education becomes, the more it comes into conflict with religious ideology and particularly with the more radical and orthodox of those ideologies. Naturally, religion will want to weaken or modify school curricula to more closely reflect their values. If this action compromises the teaching of verified fact ... well, you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.
The same may be said for political ideology. Those who wish to take advantage for their own gain do not want a politically informed electorate and will either work to remove funding or steer course syllabi toward their own philosophy. When the general populace are disengaged from their children or see school as little more than daytime baby-sitting, they can get away with this all too easily, as can the religious zealots. If not ... well, they've got a problem.
Can we please see to it that they have a SERIOUS PROBLEM?
are you positing that this is a concerted effort to dumb down America? or are you just throwing this out as a potential hypothesis?
i'm not sure there's much we can do to stop them. suggestions?
I think it IS potentially an effort to dumb-down America ... and the way to fight it is to CALL THEM ON IT any time this strategy is tried! Teachers succeeded in Pennsylvania with Kitzmiller v. Dover, but failed in Tennessee, likely either because of apathy or a lack of organization on the part of those who value science.
One of the few wise things that come out of the bible is: "everyone who loves evil hates the light." Well, let's SHINE A LIGHT and do NOT let them skate on this!
congratulations on your successes, Melinda. however they came about. it surprises me that many Atheists also homeschool.
here's a couple more links that are noteworthy:
in the video on the second link, it describes the school choice movement as an "end around" to secular education. i'm definitely starting to think there's something to all of this, whether it's money, religion, unions, or all of the above.
great article about tax credits possibly going to Catholic schools in PA ($75M). and soon too. this is another example of tax payer money going to religious organizations.
this letter does a better job of explaining what is wrong with the Voucher approach than i could ever do. it is from C. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister and President of the Interfaith Alliance. read it and weap (for our future):
August 7, 2012
The Honorable Bobby Jindal
Office of the Governor of Louisiana
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004
Dear Governor Jindal:
I write to you as the President of Interfaith Alliance to express my disappointment, concern and indeed, outrage at the school voucher program you have implemented in the state of Louisiana. Not only do I represent this national organization whose members come together from 75 faith traditions and belief systems to protect religious freedom, champion individual rights, and promote policies that protect both religion and democracy, I also serve as Senior Pastor for Preaching and Worship at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, and thus, I am one of your constituents. Your school voucher scheme is bad for religious freedom and bad for public education as well as a blatant attack on the religious freedom clauses in the United States Constitution.
Thankfully, thoughtful educators, concerned citizens, and media representatives in the state are exposing your ruthless attack on public education — the provision that the founders of our nation considered essential to the survival of our democracy. You seem unable to distinguish between religious indoctrination and basic public education. Though Interfaith Alliance is a non-litigious agency, we are encouraging other agencies to file suits challenging your decision to use public tax dollars to build structures for churches across the state and to fund educational curricula that qualify more as a catechism than as a tool for holistic education. Of course, you flaunted your disregard for government-subsidized religion by choosing a Roman Catholic Church as the venue at which to sign your legislation!
When in 1785 the state of Virginia considered a bill that would fund “Teachers of the Christian Religion,” James Madison penned his famous remonstrance reminding his contemporaries, and indeed, generations to come, that “it is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him.” Put another way, funding, participating in, and sending our children to religious education programs is the right and responsibility of faith communities, clergy, and parents as they see fit — not of our government. Every American also has an equal right to choose not to fund or participate in religious education.
Your voucher program also will fund private schools and curricula that are inevitably not up to the standards of quality information of public schools, and fund the teaching of theology, which goes against the fundamentals of our religious freedom. I was appalled to learn that private schools—funded with my taxes—will teach our children that evolution does not exist, using the fabled Loch Ness Monster as a “real” example, from textbooks that state:
“God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all.”
Let me be clear: I am not appalled that a Christian school is teaching its students that God created the Earth. Children in my church learn that every Sunday. I am appalled that these schools are teaching theology as science; and they’re doing so with government money, my tax dollars. Teaching the theology of Creationism is part of the mission of religious schools, and religious education more broadly—I defend with my life’s work their right to teach future generations about their faith. But they should not receive financial support from our government to do so.
What often gets lost in the conversation around school vouchers is the negative impact they can have on religious schools. In the short term, having new revenue streams is of course helpful to private schools, but the fact is that with government money comes government regulation, which can open religious schools up to all kinds of threats to their autonomy that it is in religion’s best interest to avoid. Furthermore, public education is often called the “great equalizer,” and right now, our nation is at a place in history in which all of us truly need to learn how to get along with each other and work together for the good of our nation despite our differences in religion, ethnicity, race, and income. Besides preparing our children and young people to be proficient in math, science, grammar, thinking, and communication skills, public education has no greater role than enabling us to work and walk together despite obvious diversity. Many of the private schools in Louisiana that you are supporting with millions of dollars of vouchers are honestly saying upfront that their mission is sectarian education that promotes one faith over another and makes no effort to commend the common good.
Finally, one of the central problems with school voucher programs could not be on clearer display than it is in Louisiana: Vouchers create competition between religious groups for government funds, and put the government in a position to prefer one over another. A case in point is the reason state Rep. Valarie Hodges changed her position on the school voucher program. I wish that I could celebrate this move, and had she decided to no longer support it because she realized how harmful such funding is to our religious freedom, I would have. Instead, she changed her position on vouchers because she found out that not only Christian groups received the funding, but Muslim groups can too. As a former Hindu—a minority religion in this nation—you, as much as anyone in our state, should be fully aware that herein lies one of the many problems with funneling government money to religious groups. By doing so, the government can (or at least can try) to pick and choose between them -- exactly the situation our founders created the First Amendment to avoid.
In short, the school vouchers system you have allowed to be implemented in our state embodies everything that is wrong with school vouchers as a whole and threatens the integrity of both religion and government. I hope that you will take a step back and see that what you are doing is propelling education in Louisiana back to a level that will decrease even more our abominable ranking when it comes to education in our nation. You are hurting the state, the education of our children, and broadsiding an affront to the values of religious freedom that most of us hold dear.
I am incapable of and uninterested in judging your motivations for such a destruction of education in our state. But, you are capable of changing your mind and helping the situation rather than hurting it. Governor Jindal, please, for the sake of all that is good about education, religious freedom, and our state, put an end to the school vouchers program in Louisiana.
C. Welton Gaddy