Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Many people favor making our economy freer, but haven't thought that deeply about some of the difficulties of actually achieving that goal. And many of these same people innocently support such measures as charter schools or voucher programs, thinking of them as viable alternatives to public education, or even as steps towards privatizing education.
Unfortunately, decreased government regulation will not, yanked out of the greater context of the need to protect individual rights, necessarily lead to private education or even a freer economy. In fact, half-measures such as charter schools can backfire spectacularly, as we can see in Minnesota.
Recently, Amanda Gertz, a substitute teacher who filled in at Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, volunteered some very interesting news to a reporter whose efforts to learn more about the charter school had been met with stonewalling:
Arriving on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, she says she was told that the day's schedule included a "school assembly" in the gym after lunch.Certainly, Moslem parents should be free to send their children to a Moslem school -- at their own expense. A private system of education would not prevent that. But it would prevent ordinary citizens who -- like myself -- would never voluntarily donate money towards the spread of Islam, from being forced to do so through taxation.
Before the assembly, she says she was told, her duties would include taking her fifth-grade students to the bathroom, four at a time, to perform "their ritual washing."
Afterward, Getz said, "teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap, who had been at the school all day," was preparing to lead prayer. Beside him, another man "was prostrating himself in prayer on a carpet as the students entered."
"The prayer I saw was not voluntary," Getz said. "The kids were corralled by adults and required to go to the assembly where prayer occurred."
Islamic Studies was also incorporated into the school day. "When I arrived, I was told 'after school we have Islamic Studies,' and I might have to stay for hall duty," Getz said. "The teachers had written assignments on the blackboard for classes like math and social studies. Islamic Studies was the last one -- the board said the kids were studying the Qu'ran. The students were told to copy it into their planner, along with everything else. That gave me the impression that Islamic Studies was a subject like any other."
... [B]uses leave only after Islamic Studies is over. [This is despite it being an "optional" activity. --ed]
It could conceivably be that something like charter schools or voucher programs will one day serve as a transitional step from our current socialized system of education to a free market system. But such programs must avoid state funding of religious instruction. This is clearly difficult to do, which is why such programs would deserve support only if there is a definite plan to privatize the entire system on a definite timetable.
In a mixed economy, controls breed controls (and not just in the economic realm), making all arrangements inherently unstable. This is partly because of distortions in the economy created by the controls, and partly due to the fact that there are always people willing to take loot when it's being passed around. In other words, mixed economies foster bad decision-making and dishonesty.
The longer a provision, such as that which allows for charter schools, is on the books, the more likely it will be to invite widespread and spectacular abuses. (And as we have seen, the public system is already being subverted for such tax-funded indoctrination as religious instruction and leftist reeducation!) Without a clear movement towards capitalism, many such measures are better left on the cutting room floor.