Crossing a Threshold: Affirming Choice in Public Education

Crossing a Threshold: Affirming Choice in Public Education


After many years of increasingly uncomfortable affirmation of public schools as parents’ only option—without paying tuition in addition to taxes—I have arrived at a different position. I now believe governments should provide parents with “vouchers” (a metaphor) for payment of accredited private school education for their children. In other words, I believe parents should not have to pay both public school taxes and private school tuition in order to provide the best possible education for their children. I do not now have any opinion about how private school tuition should be paid by governments; it can either be directly or indirectly. Here I choose to set that question aside; please do not bring it up in comments.

Following here, after the standard “sidebar,” I set forth my reasons.

*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*

1) To a very great extent American public education is failing to provide school children with adequate education for success in life—including post-secondary education which has become a virtual necessity for success in life. I base that on many years as a parent of children in public schools, including direct interactions with school teachers and administrators, and on many years as a teacher in American higher education—teaching “products” of public schools. With some exceptions, public schools in America are letting students down as they rush headlong toward the bottom rather than toward excellence. Academic standards are poor, emphasis is placed on “basic skills,” tremendous energy and resources are spent on special interests (viz., social engineering), teachers are increasingly afraid of students, discipline is lacking, and many students attend schools in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

2) To a very great extent American public education fails to provide education imbued with healthy, community-centered values and virtues; there is tremendous fear of lawsuits so administrators discourage any inculcation of values in students—beyond the most basic, “raw” values and virtues of “selflessness” and “service.” These cannot be given any transcendent foundation or reason, so they are left as arbitrary choices.

3) To too great an extent American public education undermines family’s religious beliefs and values; American public education (via textbooks if not direct classroom pedagogy) has the effect of secularizing students or of turning even secular students toward non-Western, even esoteric religious beliefs and practices in the name of multiculturalism and/or “diversity.” Christianity in particular is especially neglected if not demeaned in many public schools.

4) In the name of “sensitivity” American public education is neglecting some of the most basic instincts and needs of especially very young students who are forbidden from and even punished for any displays of affection however innocent and harmless. Teachers are increasingly forbidden from providing any physical comfort to students or even touching them. The atmosphere in American public education is becoming unemotional, cold, sterile, impersonal in the name of “sensitivity” but under the fear of false accusations of abuse.

5) Very many graduates of American public high schools still cannot read well, cannot write essays well, cannot think critically or creatively, cannot balance a checkbook or practice basic life skills, are not equipped to succeed in any work environment. They have experienced “social advancement” without real learning or even “graduated” without passing required courses. (Many public schools now give high schools students “Certificates of Attendance” and allow them to pretend to graduate in commencement ceremonies without having demonstrated any real competence in anything related to high school.)

6) Finally, parental choice via a voucher system of public education is fairer to less affluent families who would like to send their children to quality schools where public schools are failing in the ways described above. As it is, often only affluent families can afford to send their children to good schools.

Now, I am not saying that every public school fits the above descriptions equally; some may be excellent schools—especially some charter schools (that are public). However, given the sad and sorry state of many public schools, I am very much in favor of parents having the option of sending their children to public schools, but I am also very much in favor of public schools having to compete with private schools for tax dollars. And I am now very much in favor of parents having the option of sending their children to religious or non-religious private schools without having to pay for failing government-operated public education for other parents’ children.

*Special note to commenters: Do not ask me about details such as the particular “how tos” of funding home schooling, etc. I do not pretend to have any opinion about such problems and believe they can be worked out satisfactorily once the principle of public funding of private schooling is accepted and established.

*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined).