The problem of the public funding of religious schools — let alone those explicitly promoting Creationism — seems so self-evident to even the most lightly secular of us, that it can be shocking to see how those on the other side view the entire issue.
We’ve heard time and time again the arguments for vouchers from a free market standpoint, and that’s all well and good and we can talk about that, but one would think that our opinion leaders would at least understand that there is more to education than market competition.
Enter conservative columnist Rod Dreher, who blogs on the topic of Louisiana’s moves to subsidize private (read: religious) schools with taxpayer funds (I complained a little about this in today’s Morning Heresy). Dreher at least admits that such a situation is problematic, but throws up his hands anyway, writing:
If I had to choose between a Christian academy that taught bad science, or a public school as bad as what many Louisiana parents and their children have to deal with (not in my parish, thank heaven), then I’d choose the fundie school, and try to figure out a way for my kid to have supplementary science education elsewhere.
Before I start screaming, I do want to step back and concede a couple things, just in the name of reasonableness. Indeed, the public school systems in many areas — and surely Louisiana is one of them — are disasters. (Dude, you saw The Wire, right?) I want to express my sympathy, as a parent, for the idea of just getting one’s kid the hell out of a failing school, and into anything else.
But look at the way Dreher blows the whole thing off, presuming that everyone can simply fill in the holes left by an anti-science curriculum. Now just give this a few moments of thought. Your first thought should probably be, “Hey, offering my children an entire science curriculum would be really expensive and time-consuming, particularly if I’m a parent in less than ideal economic circumstances. Perhaps even impossible!” Good, you’re on the right track. You’re already miles ahead of Dreher.
This doesn’t even begin to address the damage that such an education would do that mere “supplemental science education” may not be able to undo. Imagine being indoctrinated all day in your “Fundagelical Academy” (Dreher’s own term) about all sorts of heavy, frightening nonsense about morals and Hell and the Sky Daddy watching everything you do. Then imagine your parents making you do extra science work after you’re done with everything else. Forget about filling in the holes — how can anyone expect to repair the entire structure when its foundation is now so dangerously flimsy and full of termites?
Again, I want to grant that the education system is in serious, serious trouble. But the answer has to lie in strengthening that system, not leaving it for dead or poisoning it with scary bullshit. Dreher is saying that those people who lack the financial resources that he obviously has should simply find some way to get extra schooling for their kids, and not worry about the stuff they’re learning that’s just wrong. If they can’t manage it? You tell me.
Later in the piece, he accuses “liberals” (by which I presume he means “most people who aren’t wingnuts”) for reacting with “ideological fervor” and refusing to “deal with the realities of life on the ground.” Shrugging one’s shoulders over the miseducation of a generation of children is not an example of dealing with that reality. It’s embracing it.