A previous posting about voucher schemes as part of the right wing’s larger War on Public Education solicited this highly enlightening comment from Daniel Newby:
I promoted tax credits, and even vouchers, for many years, until I realized the damage they would do to the private institutions we are attempting to empower.
There are better ways to speed the inevitable collapse of the government school system.
Actually, I found Daniel’s comment to be refreshingly honest. After all, most pro-voucher types couch their arguments with feel-good terms like freedom of choice and claim that vouchers will actually improve public schools; few will come out and admit that the ultimate goal is to destroy public education as we know it and replace it with government-funded religious education and corporate-run schools (yet another example of the religious fanatic/corporate alliance).
The article begins by rejecting the most commonly pursued tactics of the anti-public-education crowd—vouchers and tax credits.
But his reason for this stance is the danger that private schools could be forced to accept government regulations as a condition for receiving government money:
All that is required is a small statutory change: Redefine what an eligible school is. By redefining who is eligible, you redefine who gets money.
As an example of this evil government tactic, Mr. Newby cites the G.I. Bill, which was
passed under the rationale of providing veterans with sufficient funding for a college education—nothing more.
But the G.I. Bill plot thickens:
As colleges increasingly based their budgets on the additional revenues of the G.I. Bill and other similar federal subsidies, they became more susceptible to additional, incremental regulation.
Hence the title of Mr. Newby’s article: “The Trojan Choice.” See? The G.I. Bill, vouchers, and tax credits are just a conspiracy to get private schools to swallow government regulations, when those schools need to reserve the right to discriminate against various undesirables, such as heathens, minorities, and—gasp!—liberals.
However, Daniel and I do agree on one point—that a long-term consequence of voucher schemes will be an education industry dominated by large corporations:
Larger, more established private schools will have an enormous market incentive to actually increase regulation. The more costly and time-consuming the hoops, the less likely their smaller competitors can afford it, and—Walla!—the less competition they have and the more tax credit and voucher dollars for their own budgets.
Nevertheless, Daniel still feels that the greater threat is not Halliburton Indoctrination Centers, Inc. or Jimmy Swaggart Praise the Lord High Schools, LLC but rather the federal government, so his movement’s goal should be to
speed the collapse of public schools by pulling our own children out of government schools, and by supporting others who do the same. We can send our children to private schools, or, better yet, educate them ourselves whenever possible.
Which only confirms my suspicions that many homeschoolers are simply parents who want absolute, lifetime control over their children.
In fact, this whole argument is ultimately just an advocation of homeschooling:
Our society will improve as parents recognize their own innate skills and insights to educate their own children, as they cherish the free mind of their children, and as they protect their children from sterile environments they themselves avoid whenever possible (think of traffic school, college, mandatory employment workshops, career days, etc.).
Jeez, Daniel, are you sure you’re not just antisocial? And if you want to homeschool your kids, then why not just go ahead and do it? Why do you feel you have to dismantle all public schools? Is it so Junior won’t look with envy at the other kids in the neighborhood going off to school to be with their friends?
This mindset is very similar to the attitude of right-wingers toward the teaching of evolution: Anything that doesn’t reinforce their own comfort-fantasy world shouldn’t be taught to anyone.
But then that is consistent with the conservative mindset in general—an obsession with how other people live.
And to people who point to statistics about poorly performing schools: Conditions at any school are absolutely tied to conditions in the community around it. Poverty and everything that comes along with it—crime, drugs, absentee parents—are responsible for conditions at schools. One way to counter those built-in disadvantages is to “reach out” (to put it diplomatically) to parents or whoever is at home, so a high school or GED diploma comes within reach.
But putting more money into corporate hands—through vouchers and privatization and whatnot—will only further increase the economic disparity that is at the heart of so many of our problems—including education.