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Evolution on Election Day:

The debate over the teaching of evolution and "Intelligent Design" will be placed in front of Ohio voters on November 7. As the New York Times reports, 75 of my scientific colleagues at Case Western Reserve Unviersity have endorsed a candidate for the Ohio Board of Education because, according to their letter, the incumbent has "attempted to cast controversy on biological evolution in favor of an ill-defined notion called Intelligent Design that courts have ruled is religion, not science." For this reason, they argue, voters should support Tom Sawyer over Deborah Owens Fink.

Fink denies calling for the teaching of "Intelligent Design." Instead, she says, "critically analyze evolution, as they should all scientific theories." Yet according to this website, Fink was responsible for pushing the idea of "Intelligent Design" within the Board of Education. Further, the Times quotes Fink saying it is "laughable" that a scientific consensus supports evolutionary theory.

All of this suggests evolution faces another test at the ballot box. How will it fare?

[I encourage commenters to address the politics of this race and the broader issues of subjecting educational standards to the democratic process, rather than rehashing the debate over whether ID is science. It's not.]

UPDATE: I should have noted in the original post that this is not a statewide race. Fink and Sawyer are running for the 7th District seat on the Board of Education. Also of note, the two appeared on Cleveland's local NPR station (WCPN) this morning along with a prominent scientist (Ken Miller of Brown) and a proponent of "Intelligent Design." Audio is available here.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Evolution Wins in Ohio:
  2. Evolution on Election Day:
dejapooh (mail):
The biggest difference between Democracy and Theocracy is God.
10.26.2006 10:07am
JRL:
What I can say with certainty is that a self-described informed Ohio voter this is the very first I'm hearing of any of this.

And if I'm "informed," and know nothing of this, then the general population knows even less. Thus, this is not likely to be a test of evolution at the ballot box at all.
10.26.2006 10:15am
Peter J.:
Jonathan Adler blogs:

> rather than rehashing the debate over
> whether ID is science. It's not.

Ah, yes. Science is whatever scientist say it is, if it wasn't then why would they say that it is?
10.26.2006 10:18am
U.Va. 2L (mail):
JRL:

I hadn't heard of it until last week, but the race isn't for my district (or however they divide up the state for the board of ed elections). I believe the seat represents the Cleveland/Akron area only.
10.26.2006 10:24am
anonVCfan:
I guess the question turns on what's in the mind of the Ohio voters, and I have no information on that.

As an anonymous commenter on a blog, however, I won't let that stop me.

I predict that the incumbent wins, largely due to inertia, and that this ID flap makes the race somewhat close.
10.26.2006 10:34am
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
It's like going to court. You go to court not to let the court affirm your feeling that enough is enough, but as your actual expression of the feeling that enough is enough.

What the court says doesn't matter.

Similarly with going to the voters. It doesn't matter what they say : somebody's point has already been made.
10.26.2006 10:40am
Bob R (mail):
Just a guess. Evolution won't be a blip, but Tom Sawyer will win on name recognition.
10.26.2006 10:40am
Cenrand:
Peter J,

Better to let religion define what science is?
10.26.2006 10:42am
JRL:

I hadn't heard of it until last week, but the race isn't for my district (or however they divide up the state for the board of ed elections). I believe the seat represents the Cleveland/Akron area only.



Well, then, that would explain my ignorance. (usually there are no explanations, just excuses)
10.26.2006 10:54am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
I would love to see the federal government condition the appropriation of science ed. funds on states' commitment to exclude ID from the science curriculum.
10.26.2006 10:56am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Cenrand, I beg you, don't engage him on that.
10.26.2006 10:57am
Anonymous Jim (mail):
"Science is whatever scientist say it is, if it wasn't then why would they say that it is?"

Someone channeling Eminem?
10.26.2006 11:05am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
It is strange for a system organized as a government monopoly method of controlling the moral, intellectual, and spiritual development of children to be debating evolution vs ID. Whatever curriculum choice is made will be a coercive monopoly imposition totally incompattable with the goals of education (from the Greek 'to come out of yourself').

There's nothing 'scientific' about a state monopoly school system. It throws economics and pedagogy out the window.

Luckily my kids never had to participate in such an anti-intellectual system.
10.26.2006 11:09am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Further, the Times quotes Fink saying it is "laughable" that a scientific consensus supports evolutionary theory.

America -- where people are proud to be stupid.
10.26.2006 11:11am
MartinM:
Whatever curriculum choice is made will be a coercive monopoly imposition totally incompattable with the goals of education (from the Greek 'to come out of yourself').


Right. Schools should be free to teach whatever they like, regardless of inconvenient details such as 'facts'. What good are 'facts' to an education, eh?
10.26.2006 11:16am
Spartacus (www):
MartinM:

"Schools should be free to teach whatever they like, regardless of inconvenient details such as 'facts'."

Yes, and parents should be free to send their children (zand their money) to whichevert school they like. The fact that a large plaurality of Americans might choose to send their children to schools that teach ID and/or disparage evolution, or that fail to understand the basic scientific method (i.e., *all* science is theory, not just evolution), is sad, but government coercion is not the solution.
10.26.2006 11:25am
NickM (mail) (www):
As long as government provides education, educational standards will always be subject to the democratic process. That's inherent in the system.

I do take issue with the NYT saying that courts have ruled ID is religion, not science. Courts have ruled that what was being pushed in particular school systems was religion (notably the PA district where board members campaigned on it as religion and pretended otherwise in court), but the notion of an Intelligent Designer, by itself, is not inherently religious - the Designer could create and have no further association with the creation.
[It's still junk philosophy, but that's a different story.]

Nick
10.26.2006 11:26am
MartinM:
Yes, and parents should be free to send their children (zand their money) to whichevert school they like. The fact that a large plaurality of Americans might choose to send their children to schools that teach ID and/or disparage evolution, or that fail to understand the basic scientific method (i.e., *all* science is theory, not just evolution), is sad, but government coercion is not the solution.


So children have no right to a proper education? Fascinating.
10.26.2006 11:36am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Ditto Martin. The government has a pretty compelling interest in ensuring that even the children of idiots have the basic tools with which to go into life. If, when they grow up, they also decide to be idiots, such is their privilege in this free country of ours.
10.26.2006 11:42am
M. Gross (mail):

So children have no right to a proper education? Fascinating.


Who defines proper? Obviously, the government in this case. I'm also fascinated that this right is apparently mandatory, enforced by government power.
10.26.2006 11:47am
MartinM:
Who defines proper? Obviously, the government in this case. I'm also fascinated that this right is apparently mandatory, enforced by government power.


Much like hospital care.
10.26.2006 11:50am
condottieri (www):
It is not about religion making science or viceversa. Intelligent design, evolution, education and religion can and should be complimented one with the other.

I wrote a couple days ago and article on why is it that I strongly believe Darwinian Evolution does not leads logically to atheism.

I hope you enjoy it and leave some comments.
10.26.2006 12:28pm
Bret (mail):
By putting the curriculum in government's hands we've allowed groups such as pro-IDers an avenue for pursuing their agenda.

As Nick pointed out, if the school system was open to private competition you could choose the type of education you want for your child instead of letting some government entity (controlled by special interests) decide for you.

I would never let my daughter attend a school that taught ID, but I also don't want her to go to a school that preaches government dependence which is about 99% of public schools.

Isn't maximizing liberty and choice what we created this country for?
10.26.2006 12:40pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Bret:

[I]f the school system was open to private competition you could choose the type of education you want for your child instead of letting some government entity (controlled by special interests) decide for you.

Isn't maximizing liberty and choice what we created this country for?


Bret, some folk, myself included, draw a distinction between liberty and choice in general, and liberty and choice when it comes to children. Where we are comfortable with letting adults do a lot of perfectly idiotic things, we are not as comfortable with letting those adults thrust their harmful views on children. For example, an adult may refuse medical care, but may not refuse medical care on behalf of her child - that would in fact be criminal.

I agree with you that schools should be privatized, but I don't think it's at all improper for the government to provide a centralized curriculum through a regulatory body. For every reasonable parent who sends his kid to a non-ID schoo, there is a quack would send his kid to some ridiculous institution - use your imagination.
10.26.2006 12:48pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
I meant to says "folks." I'm not country enough to refer to people as "folk." (not that "folks" is that much better). Sorry for not previewing.
10.26.2006 12:48pm
Elliot Reed:
Bret - you seem to be working off of a false model of childrearing. You seem to be assuming that children are like property, so the State telling people what parents can do with their children is an infringement of the parents' liberty.

However, a child is not the property of her parents: she is an independent person with her own rights and interests. To use an alternative property analogy, a parent's relationship to his children is like a trustee's relation to the property held in trust for others. Just as the state has an interest in ensuring that the trustee does not abuse the trust property to the detriment of the beneficiary, so the state has an interest in ensuring that the parent acts in the best interests of the child rather than the best interests of the parent. Obviously an adequate education is in the best interest of the child; this necessarily involves the state's deciding what a minimally adequate education is, but even from a libertarian perspective the alternative is worse.
10.26.2006 12:49pm
MartinM:
Intelligent design, evolution, education and religion can and should be complimented one with the other.


Intelligent design is nothing more than a collection of bad arguments against evolution, and as such cannot possibly complement evolution.

This is also the reason that 'teach the controversy, not ID' is so hollow. ID is all 'controversy.'
10.26.2006 12:51pm
Bret (mail):
Elliot, so let me get this straight, the goverment:

1. Decides that a 'proper education' is best for the child.
2. Defines what exactly a 'proper education' is.
3. Legally binds the parent and child to it's definition.

How is this not tyranny? If you generalize this process it provides the government a limitless source of power. The government should only permitted to decide what's best for it's citizenry when those decisions involve violation of basic human (read: negative) rights. Otherwise, we open ourselves up to intrusion into every part of our lives. Maybe the government decides that being spanked (as opposed to the softer 'time-outs') isn't best for the child, maybe the government decides that being raised by a gay couple isn't best for the child, maybe ... you get the point.
10.26.2006 1:14pm
Elliot Reed:
Are you serious that in your model parents have no positive obligations to their children at all? Can they just let their kid starve to death? I don't see any way to make "adequate nutrition" a "negative" right rather than a "positive" one . . .
10.26.2006 1:44pm
Bret (mail):
Hmmm, good point. Ok, so certainly the parent enters into some sort of contract with the child upon birth. Food, water, shelter, all the basic needs, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere, right? Even "adequate nutrition" can be distorted by nutrition nazis (excuse the term).
10.26.2006 1:51pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Well, we know Intelligent Design happens because we do it; all selective breeding is ID. The interesting philosophical question is: can we say that we're made of the same 'stuff' as the rest of the world without including ID as a general characteristic of the world? Or if we want to say we're not made of the same stuff as the rest of the world, what's the excluding principle?

So, no, I don't think ID is either junk science or junk philosophy. It may be nonsense, of course, but it's ponderable nonsense.
10.26.2006 2:21pm
whit:
Whether or not ID is compelling argument, whether or not it is part of the controversy, etc. etc. etc. is irrelevant to the issue of it being taught as an "alternative" to evolution. Evolution is a scientific theory. ID is not. ID is philosophy - it is not SCIENCE.

A philosophical argument or thesis cannot be an alternative to a scientific one. That's like having a chair be an alternative to a chocolate mousse.

ID'ers *may* be right. Frankly, I think evolution is the most compelling SCIENTIFIC theory, and I think it has merit. Doesn't mean that the ID'ers COULD be right. Heck, the flying spaghetti monster theorists COULD be right.

But the issue is teaching philosophy as science. Reminds me of the whole leaning tower of pisa/heavy objects fall faster argument. That was an example of science (experimentation verifying theory) trumping philosophy.

The ID'ers are absolutely right that there are "holes" in evolutionary theory, that it fails to explain many questions, etc. so what? Then come up with alternative SCIENCE. But don't substitute philosophy for science. Not in science class.

That's wrong
10.26.2006 2:26pm
spectator:
Duncan Frissell: "... the goals of education (from the Greek 'to come out of yourself')."

To my mind, force-fed by state tyranny, it looks more like Latin.
10.26.2006 2:53pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I am amused by the libertarians who think the 'government' is forcing monopoly education down the throats of the helpless peasants.

It sounds like they are channeling tsarism.

In the part of the country I live in, the government is the people. We have elections and everything. We even tax ourselves to pay for the schools.
10.26.2006 2:55pm
Nick Good - South Africa (mail):
If America undermines it's science education to favour superstition, it'll hit her economy. There may be a delay, but it will happen.

Take stem cell research, it's happening, just not in the US.
10.26.2006 3:01pm
whit:
Vouchers certainly offer a lot more "choice" than the current system (in most locales), where those with $$$ can easily choose alternative schools, but those that don't - they have the state system. Vouchers, and funding for homeschooling is an intelligent libertarian response to the monopoly that public schools have in many areas in regards to our tax $$.
10.26.2006 3:05pm
Chumund:
The relationship between state, child, and parent is very complex. The state has a legitimate interest in seeing children develop into healthy and productive citizens, but the child and parents also have reciprocal rights with respect to each other, and rights to noninterference by the state. Moreover, generally parents are in a better position to make decisions involving their child, so usually it is in the child's best interest to have the parents make a lot of decisions--but not always.

So, in my experience, there is no simple answer to these issues, and we certainly must be careful about taking things to their "logical extreme" since we are in fact talking about a complicated balancing between different rights and interests.
10.26.2006 3:21pm
Master Shake:

Intelligent design, evolution, education and religion can and should be complimented one with the other.
OK, here goes...

ID, you're looking great today. Evolution, did you lose some weight? Education, love your dress. Religion, your God is just divine.
10.26.2006 3:30pm
Master Shake:

Take stem cell research, it's happening, just not in the US.
It's happening in the U.S., just not funded by the federal government. Plenty will be done here in California.
10.26.2006 3:42pm
flosofl (mail) (www):
I wrote about ID and the attempts to brand it as an alternative theory a little while ago. Anyone who believes that ID is a valid scientific theory, is either ignorant of the scientific method or willfully clouding the issue to push a religious agenda. Here's an excerpt from what I wrote then (because it gets tiresome to come up with different ways to say the same thing):
Repeat after me: Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. It belongs in a comparative religion or philosophy class. ID relies on an axiom that is fundamentally untestable. No test can be designed to prove or disprove the existence of a Primal Cause, be it God or ET. Beyond the heavens opening up with angelic choir, or a visit from an alien (they better have damn good lab notes to back up their claims), ID is an unsupportable hypothesis from a scientific standpoint.


If you are interested you can read it in its entirety. No ads, or anything like that, so I'm not whoring my site to get ad-clicks.
10.26.2006 4:01pm
NotALegalEagle:

Vouchers certainly offer a lot more "choice" than the current system (in most locales), where those with $$$ can easily choose alternative schools, but those that don't - they have the state system.


This brings up the question: what is the logical justification for vouchers? People without children pay taxes that fund public education, so the social obligation is that you pay to fund education regardless of whether someone in your family is in the education system or not. People who want vouchers make the argument that they should get some/all of that money back due to the fact that they are not sending their children to public schools. In that case those without children should also get that money back for not sending their non-existent children to the public system. But nobody ever seems to want that side of the argument.

If you don't want to send your child to public schools then it is up to you to make that happen, either through home schooling or through privately funded private school.
10.26.2006 5:21pm
Bret (mail):
N.A.L.E.:

You rightly point out the logical problem with a vouchers program all by itself.

What I would prefer is a program where every student carries his gov't money with him to the school he chooses to attend. Private/Charter schools then would pose as real competition to our ailing public school system. In turn, public schools would now (finally!) have an incentive to produce quality education.
10.26.2006 5:30pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Bravo, Not!

My parents paid school taxes, though I never went to public school.

They probably would have sent me to Catholic school anyway (although they did not really have the money and the school itself was a silly joke), but if they had been inclined not to do so, the non-government education provider had a marvelous recruiting tool: the Bishop of Nashville tald his flock (le mot juste, that one) that if they didn't send their children to Catholic school, they would go to hell.

A marketing ploy to die for, for sure.

Not much could be said in favor of bishops, but at least, in those days, they accepted that they were taking themselves out of a public system under no compulsion. They accepted the consequence of having to pay themselves for their own choices.

Neither bishops nor libertarians talk like that any more, do they?

(I live in Hawaii. I'd just as soon get a voucher for my contribution to, say, maintaining the locks on the Mississippi River. What benefit do I get from those?)
10.26.2006 5:33pm
whit:
"This brings up the question: what is the logical justification for vouchers? People without children pay taxes that fund public education, so the social obligation is that you pay to fund education regardless of whether someone in your family is in the education system or not. People who want vouchers make the argument that they should get some/all of that money back due to the fact that they are not sending their children to public schools. "

The argument is that it increases competitive pressures by removing money from schools (at least per child - and only on a fractional basis) when parents choose an alternative/private school.

there is nothing remotely resembling a competitive marketplace, which is part of the reason public schools suck so badly - because they can.

If i choose to put my child in school X, i am making a choice as a consumer. I prefer X over public school Y. The market should be adjusted so that at least SOME of the money for that student that WOULD go to the school goes to the other school.

The fundamental point you are missing is that this money is not earmarked for the PARENTS - it is for the child. He is the person that the tax dollars (that even those without kids pay) for schools service.

The idea behind the public school system is that all, even those without kids, should participate economically in the education of our nations youth.

the reason why (at least) part of the money is diverted to the private school is that the public school is not (based on the parents, and maybe the student's choice) required in this case to educate the child.

Again, the money is earmarked for the CHILDREN's education.

People look at vouchers as a gift or diversion of tax money to a parent that chooses a private school, and.or to the school. the point is that we all pay taxes to educate ALL of societies children. vouchers just ensure that the money gets distributed (at least in part) to the agents OF the education, not defaulted to public schools, even when the parent/child chooses a private school
10.26.2006 6:10pm
Michael B (mail):
"People who want vouchers make the argument that they should get some/all of that money back due to the fact that they are not sending their children to public schools. In that case those without children should also get that money back for not sending their non-existent children to the public system." NotALegalEagle

Not in the least.

The public interest in general has an interest in education in general for each child, they don't have an interest in a specific type of education, beyond some broad and reasonably defined parameters which parents and others can agree upon. To stipulate otherwise is to trample upon basic freedoms, again within a reasonable scope which society in general can agree upon.

It's no coincidence that urban poor and underprivileged, for example in Milwaukee, were among the practical initiators of the voucher movement.


"I live in Hawaii. I'd just as soon get a voucher for my contribution to, say, maintaining the locks on the Mississippi River. What benefit do I get from those?" Harry Eagar

An incommensurate analogy, though it would be more apropos if you lived near a river with locks, flood control engineering, etc. that did not work and additionally you and others in your locale desired refunds/vouchers because you possessed the wherewithall to build flood control systems (or locks, or whatever) which actually were effective, at least so within your own geographic area.

Only then would the analogy be apt.
10.26.2006 6:12pm
NotALegalEagle:
The public interest in general has an interest in education in general for each child, they don't have an interest in a specific type of education, beyond some broad and reasonably defined parameters which parents and others can agree upon. To stipulate otherwise is to trample upon basic freedoms, again within a reasonable scope which society in general can agree upon.


I certainly don't disagree that education is for the general good. I don't think that market forces will fix problems that exist with the public school system, soley due to the fact that there will always be some people who cannot afford private school even with vouchers. It is in the interest of society as a whole to fix the problem rather than fund those who don't think the problem is in their own personal best interest to resolve.
10.26.2006 6:45pm
whit:
"I certainly don't disagree that education is for the general good. I don't think that market forces will fix problems "

I don't think anybody claims that vouchers (which increase market forces) will *fix* the problem. The argument is that it will improve the situation.

It's like somebody arguing for a traffic light at intersection X to decrease the # of fatality accidents, and you claim that a traffic light won't fix the problem of car accidents. Well, no. But it might improve the situation.
10.26.2006 6:53pm
Public_Defender (mail):
I think that the main long term political impact could be splitting the conservative elite from the base. HUGE numbers of conservative voter believe the ID is science. GOP leaders deny ID at the peril of their next primary, but they accept ID at the peril of their integrity.

Evolution and ID are an integrity test for GOP leaders. Every time I've heard George Bush talk about evolution, he sounds as honest as Bill Clinton talking about Monica.
10.26.2006 7:16pm
Michael B (mail):
"I don't think that market forces will fix problems that exist with the public school system, soley due to the fact that there will always be some people who cannot afford private school even with vouchers." NotALegalEagle

Confusing. You're saying you don't believe market forces will fix (any, all?) problems? But they already have shown themselves to do precisely that, they have fixed problems - to the satisfaction of some parents and children who have taken advantage of alternatives, both within the public school system and outside of the public school system.

"It is in the interest of society as a whole to fix the problem rather than fund those who don't think the problem is in their own personal best interest to resolve." NotALegalEagle

Again, confusing and imprecise language to say the least. Society as a whole, yes, but not as a collective that overly regiments solutions and requires of others undue and unnecessary conformity to those regimens.

And this: "rather than fund"? No, society will fund, it's a matter of debating and subjecting to the democratic process and eventually setting policy as to how funds will be used, within what parameters and purviews those public funds will be distributed - without unduly trespassing upon basic freedoms as well.

Publically funded schools were not an aspect of the founding, they evolved in the early to mid 19th century during a time of general consensus in terms of values, public morality, general social/political ideology, etc. Such is far less the case presently. So it's not merely a matter of market forces, though it certainly is that, but it's also a matter of properly weighting freedom to choose reasonably warranted alternatives into the standards being considered as well.

Hence your confusion, or obfuscation, of "society as a whole" when the implications of what you're suggesting are forwarding the notion of a "society as a collective" which places excessive or undue demands upon all of its citizens. Taken to its logical end, the next step in this coercive process would be to suggest that alternatives (private schools, home schooling, etc.) need to be outlawed regardless of the source of the funds.
10.26.2006 7:18pm
whit:
John Derbyshire, in his wry British way, has written some scathing refutations of the ridiculous idea of ID being "science."

His work is by far the best, imnsho, in this area.

And the fact that it comes from a conservative makes it all the more powerful. :)

He wrote at least 1 article about it, and several The Corner posts, that refute the idea of ID being "science"
10.26.2006 7:47pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Michael B, you are assuming a fact that is not in evidence.

It is not obvious that non-public schools provide better education than public schools do. In the field of science, non-public schools often teach antiscience. This would seem to be a drawback, unless teaching antiscience is your goal (which I believe to be actually the case in most pushes to introduce ID).

One private school in my county teaches that demons cause disease. Can we all agree -- however much we may differ about ID -- that disease is not caused by demons?

If we aren't on the same page about that, then for sure vouchers are not going to solve anything.
10.26.2006 8:13pm
Michael B (mail):
"... you are assuming a fact that is not in evidence. It is not obvious that non-public schools provide better education than public schools do." Harry Eagar

No Harry, I'm assuming no such thing, certainly not so in such an overly generalized sense, which sense serves more to confuse and diffuse the discussion. For example, it's also "not obvious" that non-public schools don't provide a better education than public schools. But again, a far too generalized statement. What determines what is "obvious"? Who is deciding this? In what specific locale, in what specific situation? What group of parents and children, what school system? You? Or the parents and students in a specific locale? In terms of your demons/disease statement, I already used language which would exclude funding from such interests, so at the very best that's a non sequitur within the scope of what was suggested.

Likewise there are public schools which have proven themselves virtual debaucheries in terms of meeting basic educational requirements. Can we at least agree that such educational "services" are counter-productive?

If we aren't on the same page about that, then for sure mandating public schools via funding myopia/restrictions, is not going to solve anything.
10.26.2006 8:50pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

No Harry, I'm assuming no such thing, certainly not so in such an overly generalized sense, which sense serves more to confuse and diffuse the discussion.

Welcome to a conversation with Harry Eagar, Michael. If you google "Harry Eagar" + "volokh," you will see quite a bit of that.
10.26.2006 9:45pm
Toby:
Strangely, the other 10 threads on this page are relevant. Voters who have had large numbers of policy decisions taken from their hands (or that of their elected legislatures) by Judges, and been subjected to name calling by people who support the jusges decision will seize on the least useful items to say "Here, at last, I make my stand"

Even if it is only peripherally related by circuitous reasoning.
10.26.2006 11:29pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I reread your post and I don't find any such language that would forbid using public funds to teach demon medicine.

None of the actual voucher draft laws I have seen forbid it either.

And from the statements of the most vocal proponents of vouchers, it is schools that teach demon medicine that they are most anxious to see feeding at the public trough.

Where are the libertarians?
10.27.2006 1:57am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Isn't it a conflict of interest (even if not a conflict with the First Amendment) for a government, barred from controlling the flow of information through the press to the public at large, to control the flow of information through the schools to our children?
10.27.2006 3:38am
whit:
Two things...

first of all, overall from a pure market perspective - people pay more for things that they perceive as having more value (kind of obvious). The fact that parents will pay for private schools, when they can get public schools for free, in of itself, is pretty powerful evidence that private schools provide (at least in the eyes of the consumers - and consumers are the ultimate determinants of price, if not value) a superior product.

Sure, to some extent, some parents will choose a private school merely for ideological "purity", but as a private/public school product myself, I can say that is mostly not the case. I went to a quaker prep school, and we had jews, atheists, agnostics, muslims, catholics, hindus, etc. They weren't there for quaker ideology... they were there for superior education. And they paid through the nose to get it.

Similarly, I went to an episcopalian grammar school, and I saw the exact same diversity of religion and beliefs. People sent their kids there, first and foremost, for a superior education.

Some parents who believe pretty wacky things (9.11 conspiracy dorks come to mind) might want to send their kids to school X purely because they teach some wacky stuff, but the vast majority of parents that go through the expense of private schools want value for their hard earned $$$.

And unlike public schools, private schools are subject to market forces. If i send my kid to school X, and he is not learning, I can send him to a DIFFERENT private school. Market forces affect private schools, which makes gives them much more incentive to provide a superior product.

My private school did not require teaching certifications, or any of the groupthink diploma mill stuff that teacher's unions love, nor did my teachers have tenure. On the other hand, I had several high school teachers with PhD's, and on the whole, my private school teachers were much smarter, and much better teachers than my public school ones.

I think the argument about the govt. controlling the flow of information is spot on. Private schools will DEFINITELY (and do definitely) increase diversity of teaching methodology, of disparate ideas, etc.). Sure, some may be rubbish, but there is plenty of rubbish taught in public schools, and in those cases, you have no choice.
10.27.2006 12:57pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Things may have been different in your neighborhood, whit, but I grew up in the South. The Catholic schools I went to were integrated, or at least were beginning to be by the mid-1960s.

These represented a tiny fraction of private schools in the South, less than 1%. Virtually all the rest were seg academies, and the reason parents supported them was that they didn't want their kids in school with black people.

Quality of education never entered their minds.

What happened in the rural counties was that the property owners quit taxing themselves for public schools, because they were paying for private, and the public schools -- the ones used by people of no property (blacks and rednecks) -- deteriorated.

The thing about market forces is that you get what the market wants, not what you want.

The South remains full of seg academies, and their owners are a big part of the drive for vouchers.

They'll deny it, but they'll be lying.
10.27.2006 5:02pm
Toby:
Harry

It follows, then, that when the state has imposed something the majority does not like (segregation in your tale), then they will eave schools. As the funding did not go with them, this destroyed the consensus for education. Besides, they had to fund the new schools anyway.

If instead (and I am working from your facts) vouchers had been available for the "Seg academies", then there would have been no breaking of the consensus for education dollars, and the money for education of peopple of no property would have been greater...

BTW, in my local southern environment, many of the new academies (oft with similar religious names as the Seg academies of 50 years ago) are primarily attended by Blcks escaping the hell that is public education. I see parents maing extraordinary sacrifices, with limited income, to do so.

Perhaps your locale is different, or perhaps you do not know any working class black families...
10.27.2006 5:33pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
' the money for education of peopple of no property would have been greater... '

You obviously are young. No way that would have happened.

I'll give you a typical example of what did happen back then. In Norfolk, Va., the black high school, Booker T. Washington, was in falling down condition and was about to be condemned.

The two older white high schools, Granby and Tazewell, about the same age, were in sparkling condition.

Most reluctantly, the school board decided to replace Booker T. That would take two, three years. Meantime, the boys locker room at Booker T. broke down completely. No water at all.

Did the school board decide to make emergency repairs? Well, no. They were just black kids, probably didn't bathe at home anyway, right?

My great grandfather founded the public schools in South Carolina. They did not displace private schools, since the market had seen no need to provide any schools in rural South Carolina.

I don't live in the South any more, but I knew plenty of working class black families when I did.
10.28.2006 12:48am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Some parents who believe pretty wacky things (9.11 conspiracy dorks come to mind) might want to send their kids to school X purely because they teach some wacky stuff, but the vast majority of parents that go through the expense of private schools want value for their hard earned $$$.
The homeschoolers and private schoolers I know complain about two things regarding public education: low academic standards, and political correctness.

One of my pet peeves about schooling in general is the failure to give students any kind of real insight into the working world prior to adulthood. How many people really have a grasp of the day-to-day activities of a profession when they decide to enter it, or enroll in college or other specialized training for it? A lot of 'em don't; schools should fill that gap.

(There should also be a course centered around the book Now, Discover Your Strengths. Students need to be taught how to recognize their individual talents, and the book is an excellent resource.)
10.28.2006 7:44am