Choice Nowon December 15, 2004 at 12:00 am
“Gender Equity: Political Feminism Goes to School,” by Lydia Percival Meuret, Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, http://www.cblpolicyinstitute.org/gender.htm.
“Saint Juan Diego Activity,” by Sr. Elizabeth Ann, S.J.W, http://www.catholichomeschooling.com/curr/juandiego.htm, Heroes of Virtue: A Timeline-Manual of New World Saints and Blesseds, 2000
“Politically Correct Math=Innumerate Children,” by Wendy McElroy, American Partisan, http://www.zetetics.com/mac/partisan/031800.htm, 18 March 2000,
“Lessons from Vermont: 132-Year-Old Voucher Program Rebuts Critics,” by Libby Sternberg, CATO Institute, http://www.cato.org/pubs/briefs/bp-067es.html, 10 September 2001.
“Lessons from MLK: The school-choice battle gets intense,” by Casey Lartigue, Jr., CATO Institute, http://www.cato.org/research/articles/lartigue-030611.html, 11 June 2003.
“Choice Struggles On,” by Clint Bolick, National Review, http://www.edreform.com/index.cfm?fuseAction=document&documentID=1872§ionID=37&NEWSYEAR=2004, 11 October 2004.
“Evolution Sticker Shock,” by Will Wilkinson, “CATO Institute, http://www.cato.org/dailys/12-15-04.html, 15 December 2004.
“First of All …,” by “Thomas,” tdaxp, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2004/12/15/still_better_than_tunisia_.html, 15 December 2004.
A poster named “Thomas” criticized the Still Better than Tunisia post…
“First of all we need to take the statistics you mentioned into account. We don’t pay teachers enough to get people who major in these subjects to teach them. They can make more money elsewhere.
We don’t specialize enough, but vouchers won’t solve this. All vouchers do is shift the problem. If you give some kids vouchers you’re just letting the others suffer. If you give all kids vouchers nothing changes because the poor can only afford those schools where the voucher pays for the entire tuition.
Our educational system does struggle, but as rosy a picture as is painted by vouchers, they just don’t make sense unless your only concern is making money off of a necessary thing for a society like education.
There’s a number of issues here. Clearly teacher salary isn’t the only variable, because Catholic schools (which pay teachers markedly less than public schools) show better test results. And the local gocery store is a for-profit enterprise, so clearly “making money of a necessary thing” isn’t necessarily bad. And vouchers aren’t perfect, because they mostly discriminate against home-schoolers. But there’s some things that are pretty clear.
First, its important to realize that we do have a problem. We have stagnated, and it aggrevates America’s racial problem
A collection of the facts reveals that, according to Education Week’s annual survey “Quality Counts,” 55 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Hispanics graduate from high school, compared to 76 percent of whites. While 34 percent of white 8th graders achieve at the proficient level on the math portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 5 percent of blacks and 10 percent of Hispanics do so. According to the Koret Task Force, which released a report as a follow-up to the landmark 1983 study, “A Nation at Risk,” reports: “U.S. education outcomes measured in many ways, show little improvement since 1970.”
“Sadly, the best thing going for the school-choice movement is the abysmal and declining quality of public education, particularly for minority children. Fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, the racial academic gap suggests we are nowhere close to achieving true equality of educational opportunity. Nearly 50 percent of black and Hispanic students drop out of high school, and 27 percent of all 20- to 29-year-old black men who dropped out are in jail. Despite high attrition rates, the average black high-school senior achieves at a level four academic years behind the average white senior — a gap that has increased by one-third over the past decade.
The most important consequence of school choice is that it forces accountability.
“School-voucher programs have shown the potential to close the racial academic gap by between one-fourth and one-third over four years. Perhaps more significant, competitive pressure from school-choice programs forces public schools to buck union pressure and adopt long-overdue reforms. Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby has found that public schools consistently improve when faced with competition from viable school-choice programs.
We accept this in higher education all the time. America has the best colleges in the world. We rarely accept this in primary or secondary schools. And we’re treading water above Tunisia.
Fortunately, school choice is an old and tested idea that has worked very well.
For more than a century, Vermont has operated a viable and popular voucher system in 90 towns across the state. During the 1998–99 school year, the state paid tuition for 6,505 students in kindergarten through 12th grade to attend public and private schools. Families chose from a large pool of public schools and more than 83 independent schools including such well-known academies as Phillips Exeter and Holderness.
Another benefit of school choice is that it prevents a lot of societal protests. Consider the recent bruhaha over Creationism in the classroom.
When ninth graders in Cobb County, Georgia grudgingly withdraw from their backpacks copies of Biology, by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine, they are faced with an “advisory” sticker hinting at dark forces at work within. It reads:
“This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”
The sticker is there because the Cobb County school board put it there. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued. Why make a federal case of it?
But the Cobb County controversy is not really about the merits of the theory of evolution, or whether all the alternatives are, as the ACLU argues, motivated by religious faith. The bigger fight is about who gets to impose their beliefs on whom. It’s just the latest symptom of a deeper illness that necessarily afflicts a system of publicly provided education.
Public school boards and curriculum committees are like menu boards for our children’s minds. Isn’t what we teach our children more important than what we feed them? Bitter and divisive conflict over curriculum is inevitable. Miller and Levine’s Biology is to creationists what pork is to Muslims. Getting a Cobb County sticker with your biology book is like getting a little note with your pork chop: “Warning: Not Halal.”
The question we should be asking is not whether we should be worried about stickers on textbooks, but, rather, why we do education this way in the first place. We live in an incredibly diverse society, and there’s no way we’re all going to agree, even if some of us really are right about the best way to do things. Suppose you knew with absolute certainty that there was one objectively best diet. Would that justify forcing shrimp down unwilling throats? Why treat schools differently?
Granted, in a world where parents can choose what to say children, some tots may be exposed to horrors such as
1. Juan Diego’s _______________ name was “The Eagle Who Speaks”.
But compared to math assignements such as
“A. If math were a color, it would be __, because __. B. If it were a food, it would be __, because __. C. If it were weather, it would be __, because __.”
And bizarre counter-factual text-book gender theories
So how widespread is this self-righteous trifling with our public school curricula? Increasingly, “gender equity” approaches are being introduced into every nook and cranny of our educational system. An an example, consider California’s guidelines for review of textbooks (60):
1) Illustrations must contain approximately equal proportions of men and women
2) In the representation of each profession, including parent, men, and women, must be shown in equal numbers
3) The contributions of men and women to developments in history or achievements in art or science must appear in equal numbers
4) Mentally and physically active, creative, problem-solving roles, and success or failure in these roles, must be divided evenly between males and females
5) The number of traditional and nontraditional activities engaged in by characters of both sexes must be approximately even
(You know, because there’s as many male as female elementary school teachers. And because so many women were famous artists in the Renaissance, because Europe wasn’t sexist at all. And women naturally have great upper-body strength. And no activities actually break down along traditional lines anymore. )
And life-science theories so insane they are medically dangerous
The Clearinghouse also suggests decreasing laboratory exercises involving the killing of animals or giving treatment that may be perceived as “particularly harsh.” They even wonder “if this laboratory is traditionally included in introductory biology. . .precisely because it serves as an initiation rite to discourage the students who feel too much empathy with animals from becoming biology majors,” (17).
The funny part is, absent our return to the stone ages, American education actually can’t get any worse.
That’s also the sad part.