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[Ilya Somin (guest-blogging), April 6, 2006 at 9:33pm] Trackbacks
Public School Curricular Decisions and the Constitution:

This is a post I sent to a con-law e-mail list about Eugene's analysis of the Miami school's decision to exclude a pro-Castro book from the school library. I thought it might be of interest to some VC readers as well:

It seems to me that running a public school necessarily involves choosing between different ideas on the merits, and excluding at least some of them. We cannot teach all conceivable viewpoints in, say, a public school history class. Therefore, schools will probably teach the Holocaust without much (if any) consideration of the views of Holocaust deniers. Similarly, they will teach science courses without including the views of the Flat Earth Society. To say that this is unconstitutional is to say that public schooling itself is unconstitutional.

The same goes for school libraries. They cannot stock copies of every book ever published. Therefore, they have to make choices based in part on the quality of the book's content and how it fits in with the school's curriculum. The perceived accuracy of the ideas in the book is going to be a part of any evaluation of quality. Holocaust denial books, pro-flat earth books, and others will inevitably get short shrift.

Although I agree with the Miami school's decision in this particular case, I do not like the general idea of giving government such power. Obviously, they will sometimes use it to indoctrinate children in ideas that are wrong and exclude ideas I think are right; and even the exclusion of mistaken ideas can also cause harm for Millean reasons. Worse, the indoctrination - if adopted as policy by a state or federal government - could spread to millions of children across a wide area, not just to those who attend any one school.

To my mind, the best solution would be to get government out of the business of supplying education (though it could still fund it through vouchers or tax credits). That would reduce, if not eliminate, the state's ability to engage in large-scale indoctrination of children. Individual private schools might still make bad decisions on these issues, but there would be no centralized authority capable of enforcing a dangerous orthodoxy throughout the whole of the nation or an entire state. But I do not think that this approach is required by the Constitution. So long as we have public schools, we must also give the state the power to determine which ideas will be represented in the curriculum and which will not.

UPDATE: This is not essential to the more general argument I am making in the post. But it may interest readers to know that my parents (like nearly all children in the Soviet Union) were members of the Soviet Pioneers, the youth organization group on which the Cuban Young Pioneers were explicity modeled (even the name is virtually identical). The main purpose of both organizations was to indoctrinate children in communist ideology and teach them to hate the regime's enemies (both domestic dissidents and foreign opponents, especially the US). Most if not all the children were well aware of this for the good reason that it was constantly drummed into them. An elementary school textbook that discusses the Pioneers without mentioning their main function is inexcusably misleading. It would be like a textbook that portrayed the Hitler Youth (which had many similarities to the Pioneers) as an organization focused on sports and camping without mentioning that its main purpose was indoctrinating German children in loyalty to the Nazis.

I still remember watching a documentary on the Hitler Youth with my father when I was 9 or 10, and him commenting on how the rituals and indoctrination methods portrayed in the film were so similar to those he experienced in the Pioneers.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Public School Curricular Decisions and the Constitution:
  2. School Libraries and Kids' Books That Seem To Put Communist Cuba in a Positive Light:
Justin (mail):
I cured the cancer...all I needed was a gun, a bullet, and a mop to clean up the mess.

Destroying public education in America would destroy America. The problems with economic inequality in this country are big enough to take care of your concern that a public high school might carry Rawls and not Nozick, neither of which would be read anyway.
4.6.2006 11:11pm
M (mail):
My wife was a pioneer somewhat more recently than your folks, I guess, and I think you're rather exadurating their function. Surely they had an indoctrination function, but to say their main function was to teach hatred of the enemies of the state (at least as of the 80's) is just not true.
4.6.2006 11:22pm
Ilya Somin:
As shelves of studies attest, the quality of public schooling for poor children is far from good. If inequality were the main reason for public schools, it could be addressed simply by giving poor children larger vouchers to attend private schools of their parents' choice. As the post notes, the government can pay for schooling without producing it itself.
4.6.2006 11:22pm
Ilya Somin:
My wife was a pioneer somewhat more recently than your folks, I guess, and I think you're rather exadurating their function. Surely they had an indoctrination function, but to say their main function was to teach hatred of the enemies of the state (at least as of the 80's) is just not true.

There was a period of relative liberalization late in the history of the USSR, during the Gorbachev perod. It may have affected the Pioneers as well. Cuba, however, has not had any comparable period of liberalization.
4.6.2006 11:26pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
Government might undertake indoctrination through the public schools, but it would require sustaining an unusual political consensus for an extended period of time.

I think the best way to address this problem is the maintenance of democratic institutions. I like the controversy in Miami. Let there be a controversy -- that's democracy in action. That's not a problem to be solved; that's business as usual in a democracy.

Government funding of private indoctrination is no solution at all. All sorts of groups, which would not otherwise be capable of either creating a political consensus in favor of their wacko views or able to finance their own school systems, would be able to indoctrine some part of the population in various, and no doubt, conflicting ideologies and delusions. And, it would all be a private affair, and no business of the public at large.
4.6.2006 11:56pm
Ciarand Denlane (mail):
I'm with Ilya. I'd rather have the people (plural and pluralistic) decide what kind of government we ought to have, rather than have the government decide what kind of people it wants.
4.7.2006 12:04am
Lev:

There was a period of relative liberalization late in the history of the USSR, during the Gorbachev perod. It may have affected the Pioneers as well. Cuba, however, has not had any comparable period of liberalization.


What? Fidel is not a liberal?
4.7.2006 12:42am
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Prof. Somin's analysis would be more persuasive if the school board had decided not to buy the book in the first place, but that isn't what happened. The book was already on library shelves -- presumably because the process Prof. Somin describes of evaluating books on their merits had taken place and the book had passed muster. A decision to actively remove a book already in the libraries is quite different from a decision not to put it there in the first place.

Prof. Somin's analogy to flat-earthers and holocaust deniers also misses the mark. Those groups make claims that are factually inaccurate and can be disproven. The Castro book seems to be truthful, albeit only in the way Fox News reporting is truthful.

As far as I can tell the Castro book doesn't conflict with the facts, but rather conflicts with the school board's wishes -- wishes, of course, which are heavily influenced by Miami's large voting population of Cuban expatriates and their descendants who (quite justifiably) despise Castro. It's one thing to base a decision about what books the library should have on educational concerns but quite another to base it on political expediency, which is almost surely what happened here.

The way this decision was made is troubling regardless of what the book says or how educationally valuable it might be. In a different post Eugene sensibly asks how we would feel if an apartheid-era book about South Africa showed only happy white people, and he has a point. But what if a school board took a similar view of a book that shows Jews in a good light? Or one that points out the factual errors in the "theory" of creationism? When the majority -- instead of the schools -- gets to decide what everyone else's children are taught there is a serious problem even though the majority will sometimes get it right.

And eliminating public schools isn't the answer, since market forces will lead private schools to pander to the majority just as the Miami schools have done here. Granted, many schools in such a system would not try to appeal to everyone in the area, but not appealing to the majority is one thing and ticking the majority off is quite another. Anyone who thinks a private school in Miami would have this particular book in its library please chime in.
4.7.2006 1:35am
Ilya Somin:
I don't see why a decision to acquire books is so different from a decision to remove them. If a public school only acquires books that the majority (or some interest group that influences the local government) approves of, the same result will occur as if they removed any books that didn't meet this standard.

As for factual errors vs. misleading presentations of the "truth," I think that a is a difference of degree rather than kind. I don't see a principled distinction between the two. Eugene's example of South Africa (as well as the parallel of the Hitler Youth) shows this well.

Finally, numerous private schools cater to minority preferences of various types (including ones that are unpopular). It's called filling a market niche.

I'm sure there are lots of private schools in Miami that stock books the local majority might not like, just as there are such schools elsewhere. There are conservative Christian schools in liberal Massachusetts (where I grew up), and the liberal majority doesn't interfere with their curricula though it certainly wouldn't care for them. Many Catholic schools in MA teach the Church's position on abortion even though Mass. is one of the most pro-choice states in the nation. Similarly there are liberal private schools in conservative parts of the country.
4.7.2006 1:56am
Vovan:
Reagarding the update

As a child of the emigres it is quite natural for Professor Somin to despise anything associated with Soviet Union including its youth organizations. However perhaps Professor Somin would like to know what would like to know what replaced this organization designed to hate the regime's enemies (both domestic dissidents and foreign opponents, especially the US

To anyone who follows Russian news from "Russian" sources, it is apparent that at this time Russia could use some more pioneers, unlike the real Hitler's youths that are taking over Professor Somin's parents country of birth.
4.7.2006 2:18am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
I've always maintained that it is a conflict of interest for a government barred from controlling the flow of information through the press to control the flow of information through the schools.
4.7.2006 2:55am
Splunge (mail):
Wait...you mean there's a purpose to a public school other than indoctrination into the political ideology fashionable among its supporters? Golly, I never would have guessed. Not from the experience of my children in one, that is.

All of the parents of my acquaintence who have considered private or religious schools instead of public schools have done so for one reason only: competent teaching. Ideology is rarely important. I've never known a parent consider a Catholic school, say, because they want to make sure their kid doesn't get taught that abortion is OK. On the contrary, they consider the Catholic school because, in contrast to the public school, with which they are usually utterly fed up, their kid might actually be competently taught when to use who and when to use whom, how to solve a quadratic equation, and who won the first battle of Bull Run.
4.7.2006 2:55am
Tim DeRoche (mail) (www):
I'm not a lawyer, but I've followed the school choice wars fairly closely. Is it really not possible to make an argument that government-run schools are unconstitutional?

As Professor Somin points out, these schools are in the business of "choosing between ideas" and indoctrinating children. By definition, they will be teaching some ideas that are politically-abhorrent to at least some subsegment of the student population. In addition, by choosing between evolution and creationism and ID, they're choosing between religious ideas and non-religious ideas.

As a science journalist, I'm obviously pro-evolution. But it seems deeply problematic that government-run schools would be in the business of teaching an idea (like evolution) that conflicts so squarely with many people's deeply-held religious views, *even if that idea is correct*.

I'd love to be able to use this problem to argue for the abolishment of government-run schools....Are there any constitutional law experts who would agree with this?
4.7.2006 3:25am
Brian G (mail) (www):
I have a better idea. Have everyone of those authors who write pro-Castro books live in Cuba for a while. They'll hop on the nearest raft back.
4.7.2006 3:26am
Portia (mail) (www):
As I remember Pico, one basis for the plurality opinion is that the decision to remove from a library is different from the decision to include a book. When choosing what books to buy, a school is making a decision on how best to allocate its scarce resources, much like a history teacher who chooses not to teach holocaust denial is choosing how to allocate scarce class time. When choosing to remove books, it is generally caused by (impermissable) viewpoint censorship.
4.7.2006 3:27am
pgepps (www):
Education depends upon basic data/skills training, but it is an unavoidably interpretive, value-laden task. There is no education as such that does not implicate some religious or moral POV, and government cannot and ought not undertake to choose what will and won't be taught. There may be some role for supporting basic data/skills training, but there can be no such role as envisioned by the founders of mandatory universal education systems which is not invidious to our Constitution.

I ask those who think public schools are essential to our well-being to consider whether the era before public schooling, or the era since public schooling, was more likely to produce our founding documents; and which was more likely to produce the vapid nonsense of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (paid vacations, anyone?) and the lunacy of genocidal despots being given supervision of human rights commissions?

Take care,
PGE
4.7.2006 4:16am
Ilya Somin:
2 small additional points.

1. It is certainly POSSIBLE to make an argument that public schools are unconstitutional. But the argument would be relatively weak. Perhaps more to the point, no court is likely to accept it.

2. Removing books involves allocation of scarce resources no less than ordering them. Shelf space is costly and limited and the decision to put book A on the shelf means that there is one less space available for other books. Schools can and do decide to allocate their limited shelf space to those books they believe (perhaps mistakenly) to have greater educational value. As for Pico, there is no plurality opinion in that case, as it was a 4-1-4 decision where there were not 5 votes for a resolution of the issue on the merits either way.
4.7.2006 4:24am
Anthony (mail) (www):
For me all books are divided into those that have scientific value and those that do not have it. If there is no scientific value in this book, it should be removed from the shelves. There are plenty of opportunities to study Castro's view on various subjects, for those who are really interested in it.
4.7.2006 5:13am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Also, the cost of one book, out of a library's budget, is de minimis.

Yes, many parents pick private schools because of the level of teaching. I know I sure did. But there is a large percentage who pick them for their ideological (mostly religious) bent. You just don't live around them, and, really, neither do I - I just have met them, not so much here, but over the Internet. You just need to travel more - maybe go down south, or even here in Colorado, down in Colo. Springs.

I was frankly surprised at how many kids transferred from a top nonsecular tier prep school here to a Catholic school for high school, despite the nonsecular school getting a lot higher percentage of its kids into the top colleges. And for a lot of them, it wasn't that the kids were struggling, and it wasn't because of money. Yes, it was a bit cheaper, but with some of these parents living in million dollar houses, that wasn't the issue.
4.7.2006 5:15am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Anthony,

I thought that Communism was built on science - scientific methods utilized to produce a utopian society on earth. So, how can you imply that Castro's books aren't scientific?
4.7.2006 5:17am
Steve:
If anything, the trend in the public schools has been AWAY from what a cynic might call American "propaganda"; reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is less common, history books have trended towards "multiculturalism" and the like, etc...

When it's the federal or state government making a choice about what books appear in the school library, I'll be concerned, but when it's school officials or the local school board making that call, it's no different in reality from what would happen at a private school.
4.7.2006 6:47am
Smithy (mail) (www):
It's sad when every school library has a copy of Das Kapital yet are forbidden from having a copy of the bible.
4.7.2006 9:40am
Smithy (mail) (www):
Similarly, they will teach science courses without including the views of the Flat Earth Society.

While that is probably a good idea, they use this same pretext to exclude more valid theories that fall outside the realm of current liberal dogma, such as creation science and ID. There's a double standard here: they insist on teaching the (provably) false theories of Marx, but refuse to teach the scientific theories of the bible. Tell me that isn't anti-Christian bias.
4.7.2006 9:43am
Freder Frederson (mail):
they use this same pretext to exclude more valid theories that fall outside the realm of current liberal dogma, such as creation science and ID.

These "theories" are no more valid than the views of the Flat Earth Society. In fact, the views of the Flat Earth Society are perfectly valid "scientific theories of the bible". To to deny a flat earth is to deny God.
4.7.2006 10:11am
DK:
My (private) high school DID address Holocaust deniers, geologic uniformitarians, creationism, the Ether, and the Ptolemaic system. How can you teach anything without teaching that there are plenty of wrong people in the world, both today and in the past, and that their errors are best combatted via facts and logic instead of fear? We knew exactly who David Irving was, exactly what was wrong with him, and the essentials of the documents that proved his "research" wrong.

It always depresses me that our public schools think that teaching fear of oddball views is more important than teaching the critical thinking and judgement necessary to know an idiot when you see one.
4.7.2006 10:21am
Freder Frederson (mail):
My (private) high school DID address Holocaust deniers, geologic uniformitarians, creationism, the Ether, and the Ptolemaic system. How can you teach anything without teaching that there are plenty of wrong people in the world, both today and in the past, and that their errors are best combatted via facts and logic instead of fear? We knew exactly who David Irving was, exactly what was wrong with him, and the essentials of the documents that proved his "research" wrong.

That is different than setting up a private school that uses public funds (in the form of vouchers) that teaches that these "theories" or proponents of these lies are correct.

For instance, my best friend's brother has fallen deeply into the Christian Identity movement. As much as they hate the Zionist Controlled Government, they would like nothing more than to get their hands on some of that voucher money so they could set up their own schools and teach their children that the holocaust never happened (it is a viscious rumor spread by the zionist media to denigrate Hitler who saw the true evil of the international zionist conspiracy), that non-whites are "mud-people" that are not even human, and so on.
4.7.2006 10:37am
Whatever:
I currently teach at a private school and have taught at public schools and can agree, wholeheartedly, with IS's concerns re: centralized curriculum. However, I fear that privatizing the school system will not solve the problem. I live in a town of 600 people in the middle of the woods. More than 20% of the households in town are below the poverty line. There is no way that my town could support more than one school, public or private. Our school has 80 kids in it and serves two towns with a combined population of less than a thousand. Realistically, there's only ever going to be one school, I'd rather it be a public school where on a yearly basis we get to vote on the budget, the school board, and the teachers contracts than have it be a private school and have no voice in the matter.

It seems that in much of the country, privatizing the school system would ensure less public accountability, not more.
4.7.2006 10:38am
Freder Frederson (mail):
And by the way, so did my public high school. Public education is a treasure that should be nurtured, not destroyed because some portions of it are inadequate.
4.7.2006 10:40am
Anthony (mail) (www):
Bruce,

On what science?! Have you read any scientific research that can prove that Communism can be established?!
4.7.2006 10:51am
jackson dyer (mail):
"I still remember watching a documentary on the Hitler Youth with my father when I was 9 or 10, and him commenting on how the rituals and indoctrination methods portrayed in the film were so similar to those he experienced in the Pioneers."

How did we get from a school board deciding on the merits of a book to the above statement.

Liberatarians seem to use any excuse in order to attack government.

Liberatarian government is an oxymoron. Why not stop pretending that Libertarianism is a political philosophy at all? Libertarianism is an anti-political philosophy. Politics deals with the "polis" and what kind of polis would do your own thing liberterianism produce?

Could libertarianism have built ancient Athens, or even a small American town?
4.7.2006 11:01am
anon6:
As shelves of studies attest, the quality of public schooling for poor children is far from good. If inequality were the main reason for public schools, it could be addressed simply by giving poor children larger vouchers to attend private schools of their parents' choice. As the post notes, the government can pay for schooling without producing it itself.

This does not solve the problem though. The good private schools are not located in the same places as the poor children are located (at least in urban areas). What good does a voucher do if you can't physically get to the school? A lot of poor people don't have cars, and so going to the school thats 20 miles on the other side of town is not a great option.

What inevitably happens is that kids end up having to take public transportation by themselves to get to school. I've seen many 9 or 10 year olds riding buses (to school) by themselves that I (an adult male) wouldn't feel comfortable riding. The parents normally have to work, and since the jobs are not located in the same areas as the nice schools, they can't ride the train or bus with their children. How many non-poor people would see sending their elementary school/junior-high aged students on sketchy public transportation as a viable option? I think we all know the answer. It gives the poor a choice: send your kids to the local crappy school or send them to the far away good school at their own risk.

Giving vouchers may help, especially for high school-aged students who can more safely and responsibly ride public transportation by themselves; but by this time, if they have had subpar schooling leading up to high school, going to a good high school will not likely help them much. The issue of education is a tough one, especially with regards to inner-city education, and I'm not sure what the answer is. Merely giving vouchers to the urban poor though, is like giving fishing poles to Sahara Desert locals--they can use them, but they'll have to travel a very long way in order to do so.
4.7.2006 11:31am
Proud to be a liberal :
Regarding teaching science &evolution, I think it is useful to note that the debate over teaching evolution was quiet after Sputnick. At that time, there was a consensus that the US needed to focus on producing great scientists so that we could compete with the Soviet Union.

I do think that there is a strong public interest in teaching students about the scientific method in order to produce good scientists.

Also, there is no reason why a Bible cannot be included in a public school library; of course, perhaps there should be several different Bibles,representing different faiths, and the Koran and other religious books as well.
4.7.2006 11:34am
Justin (mail):
As the studies from Cleveland and Milwaukee show, vouchers do NOT improve the quality of education, as private schools do an equally poor job of educating at risk kids as public schools. Private schools traditionally do better because they can (and do)discriminate against at risk, disabled, undisciplined, and poor students. If you remove those barriers, there's no advantage. If you do not, you simply increase the human capital distribution problems that an education market creates. Furthermore, because of several reasons (vouchers will be abused, they won't cover all the costs of most schools, they'll be cut, and they will continue to fund those kids who were going to expensive private schools anyway), the total amount of money spent on these kids will diminish.

All in all, its bad for poor kids. Since poor people are discriminated against in society all the time, they're desperate for a try and are willing to give anything a shot, but there's a reason why all the education "experts" in this country who support vouchers tend to look like Jerry Falwell or James Thorrington the Sixth, Esquire.
4.7.2006 11:44am
Smithy (mail) (www):
Also, there is no reason why a Bible cannot be included in a public school library; of course, perhaps there should be several different Bibles,representing different faiths, and the Koran and other religious books as well.

Great, let's indoctrinate our kids into Islam as well as communism. Sounds like a great idea.
4.7.2006 12:02pm
Bill S (mail):
As long as governments fund public libraries, they must make choices about the books included in those libraries. If a public library chooses not to include the work of a particular author, he is free to distribute the work by other means. With the internet available to almost everyone, the excluded author cannot credibly argue his free speech has been limited. At most, the author's free speech has not be subsidized.
4.7.2006 12:15pm
Houston Lawyer:
Mismanagement of public schools is the main reason for white flight to the suburbs. The Houston Independent School District is currently 8.5% white, 3.1% Asian, 29% Black and about 58% Hispanic. Ask those poor Black and Hispanic families about where they'd rather send their kids to school.

The idea of public schools is currently used by the Left to extort ever higher wages for union employees at the expense of our minority children. Intermeddling by the courts into the public school systems has resulted in a breakdown in the discipline that is necessary for learning.

The system is broken but is heavily defended by those with no children at risk there.
4.7.2006 12:27pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Great, let's indoctrinate our kids into Islam as well as communism. Sounds like a great idea.

Having a book on a library shelf is hardly "indoctrinating" students. In fact, I think forcing school children to read Das Kapital would be a very effective form of punishment. I tried to read it in college and I can honestly say I couldn't figure out what the hell Marx was talking about. In fact I don't believe anyone who claims they understood that book.
4.7.2006 12:30pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
The idea of public schools is currently used by the Left to extort ever higher wages for union employees at the expense of our minority children.

So are you saying the way to attract quality teachers is to pay them less? Isn't that contrary to all the ideals of capitalism? In a free market education system, wouldn't the best education go to those who could afford to pay the most for it? And the best teachers gravitate to those schools willing to pay the highest salaries for their skills, leaving the poor and disadvantaged even further behind?
4.7.2006 12:35pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"So are you saying the way to attract quality teachers is to pay them less?"

"Attracting" quality teachers isn't the problem... getting rid of bad ones is. Also, many schools would prefer to have quality math or science teachers with degrees in MATH OR SCIENCE and not "secondary education."

Please don't talk about market principles... public schools are not a market. The consumers are a captive audience, and the suppliers have a monopoly. Once that's broken up, we'll talk about attracting talent through better compensation.
4.7.2006 1:25pm
Hoosier:
Splunge--

Just one vote here from a dad who sends his kids to Catholic schools mainly for reasons of the content, as well as the quality, of education. Parents have more influence in parochial than in public schools, at least in our city. This is hugely important to me and Mrs. Hoosier.
4.7.2006 1:27pm
Whatever:

The idea of public schools is currently used by the Left to extort ever higher wages for union employees at the expense of our minority children. Intermeddling by the courts into the public school systems has resulted in a breakdown in the discipline that is necessary for learning.


I'm totally unclear as to what you are arguing here. What "intermeddling" has resulted in a "breakdown of discipline?" How is the left using "the idea of public schools" to "extort" wages at the "expense of minority students?" I don't let my ninth-grade special-ed students write like that. Explain your nonsense.
4.7.2006 1:27pm
markm (mail):
"I thought that Communism was built on science - scientific methods utilized to produce a utopian society on earth. So, how can you imply that Castro's books aren't scientific?"

The core of science is testing your theories and changing or abandoning them when they make inaccurate predictions. Any remaining Socialists and Communists are doing the opposite of that - sticking to their theory no matter how badly it has worked out in the real world - quite as dogmatically as any Flat-Earther. For that matter, Marx himself either ignored evidence against his theories or knew nothing whatever of what had transpired on the other side of the Atlantic: forms of communism had been tried already and failed, in Robert Owens's New Harmony community, several other utopian socialist projects of the 19th Century, and even in some of the first colonies of white men to land in North America,
4.7.2006 1:27pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
It's sad when every school library has a copy of Das Kapital yet are forbidden from having a copy of the bible.

Smithy's comment is devoid of factual accuracy &hence ripe for removal from the shelves of this blog?
4.7.2006 1:50pm
Whatever:
I have no problem with the concept of private schools (I work at one) and I don't even have a problem with private schools receiving public monies (the private school I work at receives mostly public $$$ because we are a placement for special-ed students). I find public education to be, generally, accountable and accessible, if often inadequate. School board meetings are open to the public, it's not too hard to get on the school board, and the budget is voted on in the open and can be amended, line by line, at town meeting. When a parent has a problem with a book or a teacher or a policy, they are usually heard fairly. At the private school where I currently work there is NO accountability. Meetings of the board of trustees are closed, even to paying parents or school district reps, decisions are made from the top down with no means of recourse or redress, and parents' complaints/problems are often met with the standard "this is our program, take it or leave it" response. This works out OK because they have a pretty good program that works well for certain kids, but I wouldn't want to be a parent with a question or problem here.

I'm not an idealogue on this issue, I have no problem with spending my tax dollars at a private school if they're going to be everything my public school is and more. By the same token, I don't want to see my money being spent at a private school where taxpayers lack input and access. I think that's fair.
4.7.2006 1:55pm
Houston Lawyer:
Contrary to what you might think, most private schools pay their teachers less than the local public schools. They can pay less because they offer better working conditions. Every year we hear that the solution to the schools is to pay the teachers more, despite the evidence that spending more money doesn't result in more learning. Teachers unions fight tooth and nail any proposal that would allow parents to choose a nonunion school.

No teacher of mine was ever sued based upon discipline meted out to a student. The principal, or, if necessary, a football coach, was always ready with a paddle to deal with trouble makers. And distinctions were made between chronic offenders and occasional offenders. Lawsuits have resulted in schools adopting idiotic zero tolerance policies, which in turn have resulted in more lawsuits. Explain to me how the situation is better now than it was before.
4.7.2006 2:00pm
SLS 1L:
HL - fair point about most private schools, but most private schools are religious schools that do not offer a substantially higher-quality education than other schools. The private schools that systematically provide better educations - unaffordable private schools for children of the wealthy - pay substantially more than public schools.

Ultimately, the quality of teachers schools can attract will depend on what they are willing to pay. Imagine for a moment that teaching certification and a Master's degree in your field would get you a public school teaching job that pays as much as biglaw jobs in major markets do. The prestiege of public school teaching would skyrocket. Teaching jobs would be the subject of heavy competition from Ivy League graduates. A degree from a competitive college or university would be a minimum qualification. This would obviously be unaffordable, but the caliber of teacher would go way, way up.
4.7.2006 2:26pm
Whatever:
Never said it was "better now than it was before" in fact, I think it was, by many measures, better before than it is now.

First of all, the pay problem: Teachers' unions are a pain. They are responsible for a lot of the problems, and they are overwhelmingly powerful. BUT they are a reaction to the root of the problem. The pay for teachers is not high enough to attract and hold really good teachers. Teaching is not some mystical art that some people can do and others can't. It requires, like most professions, some brains, some patience, and some intuition. Most people who have enough brains, patience, and intuition to be a GREAT teacher, also have enough of the same to be something else. This has made teaching a terminal career for the mediocre, and either a stopover job or not even an option for exceptional thinkers. I consider myself to be a good teacher. I deal well with kids, I have no dicipline issues in my classes, I engage a lot of kids, I develop interesting material, I think I do pretty well. I get paid 22,000 per year. You know what I'm doing next year? Going to damn law school. There's lots of others in my shoes. The English teacher next door to me is returning to grad school next year, the science teacher on the floor below me is going into environmental impact survey work next year, and these are great teachers. You know who sticks around? Those who couldn't get into an academic field if they tried. Pay teachers enough money and I'd be a teacher forever, I love teaching, I'd do it without a union too.


As far as dicipline goes: I think this also stems from mediocre teachers. I'm assuming you're a bright guy (or gal), even though I did compare you to a ninth-grade sped earlier (sorry about that.) I bet you could walk into the rowdiest classrooms and bring order. It ain't hard. It can be a bit overwhelming for people who act irrationally, but for most people with a lick of sense, kids are not too much trouble. What we have are irrational teachers who couldn't teach their way out of a shoebox. They can't maintain order in a classroom, and often they are responsible for the escalation of dicipline problems.

And I agree with you as to the complete idiocy of zero tolerance policies and the like... Class is starting... I'm off...
4.7.2006 2:33pm
David Berke:
I would like to propose a few problems with the privatization of public schools.

1. There's no going back. If things don't work out, the cost of attempting to make the schools public again would be incalculable, and far more than could be afforded. (Essentially, you would have to, all over again, pay for 150 years of school projects - in one shot.) Furthermore, all the political and bureaucratic structures which were dissolved would have to be recreated in some form, which would be extremely difficult to manage, given the dislocation, personnel movement, etc.

2. Likely to exacerbate the current schooling problems of the poor. Whatever the govt initially decides, ultimately it seems likely that it will only provide vouchers for the smallest possible sum. I.e., only enough for the least expensive (and probably worst) schools. It will be difficult to quantify the minimum educational standards (look at what's happening right now), and there's no way of knowing if their education will be better, worse, or the same. People with more money will attend better schools, guaranteeing better prospects.

3. Private schools are generally pretty small. There's no guarantee that they are able to scale their operations up to provide services for the 98% of students they do not presently serve. It seems exceptionally unlikely that there will be thousands of tiny schools rather than dozens or hundreds of large schools, so this is an issue. Therefore, there is no way of knowing whether the educational result will be better.

4. Private Schools, unlike the government (public schools), do not appear to be subject to constitutional oversight. Nor do they appear to be subject to anywhere near the same level of public or political oversight as public schools.

5. Likely to further the fracturing of American Society into distinct subgroups. There's obviously a lot of distinct cultural subgroups in this country, but to some degree these groups are forced to interact by public schools. Replacing the generic public school with a greater number of smaller, tightly focused and marketed private schools is likely to cut down on that significantly.

6. (Related to #3) Private schools generally deal with students from families that are either (1) Wealthier than average, (2) More committed to educatio, or (3) Both. These are substantial advantages for the students, and appears likely to make it easier for them to be taught and get better results. How can you know that once you change the mix to reflect students at large, that the educational result will be any better than public schools? That seems to be an unreasonable comparison.
4.7.2006 2:34pm
Hoosier:
SLS 1L--I don't know what you mean whenh you say that "most private schools are religious schools that do not offer a substantially higher-quality education than other schools." If one judges by standardized test scores, this is not correct in the cities in which I have lived (Chicago, South Bend, Dallas, Indianpolis, Cleveland). Granted, this is a limited mumber of towns. But I have no reason to think that other large- to medium-sized cities are diffent. In Dallas and Chicago, the scores of students in parochial schools were *phenomenally* higher than those at even the better-performing public schools.

Testing is problematic. But within broad ranges like these, it indicates something. Perhaps it indicates that children who attend private schools have more social and cultural capital than the public school kids. (And please note that I'm not knocking the publics, since I was in public school in Chicago K-12). The public schools have to deal with problems that don't present themselves at the private schools, etc., etc.

But it is not true that one has to be super rich, or even upper middle class, to attend a high-performing private school. We pay $2,200 per year for my son's Catholic school. My income as a history teacher with a stay-at-home wife puts me in the pPetite bourgeois category--you know, the people who brought you the French Revolution. Not the wealthy. And yet we can save enough to make this choice. And for those with less than we have, there are scholarships.

Catholic schools may not be for everyone. But, hey, the Reformation really wasn't MY fault, was it?
4.7.2006 2:43pm
ziske68 (mail):
One quick note I'd like to point out.


THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PUBLIC MONEY.

All "public money" is money taken from private individuals under threat of force.

Thank you,
Carry on.
4.7.2006 2:43pm
Whatever:

If one judges by standardized test scores, this is not correct in the cities in which I have lived (Chicago, South Bend, Dallas, Indianpolis, Cleveland). Granted, this is a limited mumber of towns. But I have no reason to think that other large- to medium-sized cities are diffent.


This is true, but doesn't tell the whole story. Particularly in cities, where there are many low-cost private school options, many students leave public schools to go to private ones. Those left are often the ones that private schools will not take. In particular, the learning disabled, emotionally troubled, and behavior basketcases. This leaves the public schools with a bunch of students who are going to score low no matter where they go to school and the private schools with a selection of the average range.

Again, I'm not opposed to private schools, and would consider sending my daughter to a private school if I lived near one that I liked, but you can't compare two unlike institutions based on their average SAT scores...
4.7.2006 2:52pm
MikeR (mail):
I would like to propose a few problems with the privatization of public schools.

The debate isn't about the privatization of public schools. It's about improving education by introduction more school competition. One way of doing that is programs such as school vouchers to make private schools more accessible.

1. There's no going back.

I don't believe there are any serious suggestions of going forward (wherever forward is) in one fell swoop. The programs that are being tried and suggested are making incremental changes to our system of education, and presumably could go incrementally in the other direction as well.

2. Likely to exacerbate the current schooling problems of the poor.

It is my understanding that most private schools operate on a budget that is significantly less per student than public schools. It seems that a voucher program or a school choice program stands a good chance of improving schooling problems of the poor. This article suggests that the poor think so.

3. Private schools are generally pretty small. There's no guarantee that they are able to scale their operations up to provide services for the 98% of students they do not presently serve.

Markets respond to demands. I see no reason why the private school market could not incrementally respond to incremental demands.

4. Private Schools, unlike the government (public schools), do not appear to be subject to constitutional oversight.

They are subject to laws, and to the demands of the marketplace. I see no great movement to subject daycares, for instance, to greater constitutional oversight.

5. Likely to further the fracturing of American Society into distinct subgroups.

Could be. I would only note that Catholic schools turn out a lot of non-Catholics.

6. (Related to #3) Private schools generally deal with students from families that are either (1) Wealthier than average, (2) More committed to educatio, or (3) Both.

I'm not sure that this is true, but in any case see my comments to #2 above.
4.7.2006 3:59pm
Hoosier:
WHATEVER--

Apologies if the second half of my post didn't make things plain enough. I think that the primary determinant of a school's test scores is the kids that go into the school. And that means that the public schools will never be able to equal the test performance of even the "under-funded" Catholic schools in most cities. Private schools usually lack the resources to hire special-ed teachers, for instance. So these kids--who will tend to have lower test scores all along the line--are going to be in the public system. So are kids who are too young to drop out, and too troublesome to keep in private school.

I am responding to the statement that the only private schools that outperform public schools--again, in urban areas--are the secular, elite institutions. Bishop Chatard HS in Indianapolis, Nolan in Ft. Worth are not Groton and Choate. They are affordable to families of modest menas. And yet they outperform the neighboring public schools by a significant percentage.

Again, there is a self-selection factor at work: the very fact that a child is at a private school indicates that the parents had to make a decision about education, and write a check every four months. This doesn't mean public schools are bad and religious chools are good. But it does help explain why the students perform better than average.
4.7.2006 4:12pm
Ziske68 (mail):
Mr. Berke brings up some interesting points which do deserve discussion.

#1 A voucher system would not in fact destroy the existing ISD's of a community, it would only attach the money to the child rather than the location. There is little cost involved.

#2 In fact, the avg spent per pupil in public schools is nearly 10k/student, whereas the avg tuition at private schools is 7k. True enough there are no guarantees, but the market his historically been pretty accurate. And one thing that IS guaranteed now is that public schools are, for the most part, NOT getting the job done. In addition, the wealthier families are already getting a better education in private schools, so your last point is moot imo.

#3 True, most private schools are smaller and perhaps not capable of scaling up their operations. However, in a competitive environment there will more than likely be new schools created, and, market forces will ensure that those pvt. schools that do attempt to upscale their ops. will maintain their quality. Competition works...really.

#4 Those who maintain that "political oversight" of schools is a good thing I just can't argue with. See my notes on competition above.

#5 There is perhaps some merit to this claim, yet it seems unlikely to be the driving force behind this phenomenon.

#6 Again, market forces will drive those more interested in better education for their children to the better schools, those that do not care will choose the most convienient option. But it must also be said that "a rising tide floats all boats" competition will almost necessarily improve all schools in the area. And there are certainly to be niche schools based on at-risk/special-ed schools which will also release the pressure to teach to the lowest common denominator everywhere.
4.7.2006 4:14pm
Ziske68 (mail):
On a side note, I want to have MikeR's children.


Carry on :)
4.7.2006 4:17pm
David Berke:
MikeR,

I would like to propose a few problems with the privatization of public schools.

The debate isn't about the privatization of public schools. It's about improving education by introduction more school competition. One way of doing that is programs such as school vouchers to make private schools more accessible.

1. There's no going back.

I don't believe there are any serious suggestions of going forward (wherever forward is) in one fell swoop. The programs that are being tried and suggested are making incremental changes to our system of education, and presumably could go incrementally in the other direction as well.

How can you incrementally change from public to private education? The more you limit the changeover, the less useful it is as a basis of comparison; a mere optional program is going to have the problems identified in #6. Are you going to flat out change one school to private and see what happens? Won't buying that school back and getting it started again as public be rather expensive? What about the difficulties in switching back and forth?

2. Likely to exacerbate the current schooling problems of the poor.

It is my understanding that most private schools operate on a budget that is significantly less per student than public schools. It seems that a voucher program or a school choice program stands a good chance of improving schooling problems of the poor. This article suggests that the poor think so.

Most private schools do, but they also deal with fewer students with fewer difficulties. (The self-selection problem) They also pay teachers substantially less. Many of them (although there are exceptions among the more exclusive schools) are much smaller, physically, and have much less in the way of facilities to support.

3. Private schools are generally pretty small. There's no guarantee that they are able to scale their operations up to provide services for the 98% of students they do not presently serve.

Markets respond to demands. I see no reason why the private school market could not incrementally respond to incremental demands.

This was a facile response largely devoid of meaning. Here I am, suggesting that the benefits of private schooling will be dissipated by absorbing a much larger and more diverse group of students, and your response is the market will make it otherwise? Your invocation of the market in this context, completely unexplained, is not much different from prayer.

4. Private Schools, unlike the government (public schools), do not appear to be subject to constitutional oversight.

They are subject to laws, and to the demands of the marketplace. I see no great movement to subject daycares, for instance, to greater constitutional oversight.

This comparison is silly. The values of the 1st Amendment, freedom of expression and the relatively free society that suggests, are obviously more relevant to 16 year olds than 3 year olds.

5. Likely to further the fracturing of American Society into distinct subgroups.

Could be. I would only note that Catholic schools turn out a lot of non-Catholics.

6. (Related to #3) Private schools generally deal with students from families that are either (1) Wealthier than average, (2) More committed to educatio, or (3) Both.

I'm not sure that this is true, but in any case see my comments to #2 above.

See my response to your response to #3 above.
4.7.2006 4:24pm
Sean FWJ Fowler (mail):
The concept of education is slippery because, as Professor Somin and others have mentioned, it involves the education of certain things to the exclusion of others.

In making decisions about what should be taught, governments have traditionally looked to educate on matters that indoctrinate the students in the values of the country or in matters that serve to make the student more useful to the country. Looking as far back as one can to the public education system, we find that the most militant polis of the Ancient Greeks, Sparta, was also the one that mandated education from 7 until about 18. It was a requirement for citizenship. Lutherans spread public education to Scotland as a means to educate students about their religious beliefs. The nascent Germans used public education as a means to strengthen a new union of German kingdoms. Public education is a critical tool of the government.

The problem with the US is in the refusal to recognize that part of the role of public education is indoctrination. As the leading face of democracy, it seems contrary to the spirit of our independence for us to use education in such a way. However, in even attempting to educate our students in a way that does not indoctrinate the students into the common belief system of the country, we will make choices that will adversely affect the education of our citizenry in less popular ideas. Such decisions spark controversies such as the one spoken of here.

If we are seeking a means to reduce the amount of indoctrination to which we subject our children, perhaps we should just reduce the number of years required of students to stay in a common public education.
4.7.2006 4:30pm
Hoosier:
Re: Mike R's #2 above--

"The Poor" aren't an undifferentiated group. If I were a parent and poor, I would want a chance to send my children to a school that was better, or at least safer. The question of how to improve inner-city schools will never be answered wholesale, since it is so deeply intertwined with other issues--crime, drugs, family-breakdown, teenage motherhood, lack of jobs--that we have no clue how to solve.

I don't think it's radical to suggest that underclass parents who have the "social capital" and values that might help their children escape this predicament should be allowed a choice of schools. The option of public-school choice is certainly desireable. But I have trouble coming up with a public school on Chicago's South Side that I would choose. Choice has to involve actual differences. Until things become, somehow, very, very different for the urban poor, denying the people who want to escape a chance to do so is immoral. I'd love to be able to promise to "leave no child behind." But that won't happen. Let's at least leave behind no child who *can* get out of heritable poverty.

QED
4.7.2006 4:30pm
Hoosier:
Sean--

I'm not sure Thucydides would agree that Sparta was the most "militant," just the most "militarized." Athens was a bit of a threat to her neighbors . . .

But the point about Germany raises the problem that sent my family--for generations before I went to public schools--into the Catholic schools. Bismarck sought to use the state school system to break the Catholic community in the Reich to the saddle of Prussian Protestantism. So my family--and many other western Germans came here during the Kulturkampf, only to find a narrow Evangelical attempt to Protestantize young Catholics in the public schools. Thus the rise of the separate school system for Catholics children.

I don't worry about public school attacks on Catholicism anymore, of course. But it's empirical evidence that government-run schools--including those in the US--have been used to "melt" groups that don't want melting.

Again, I was educated entirely at public schools, and I have few complaints. But it's easy to support any institution that reflects your own values.
4.7.2006 4:40pm
David Berke:
Ziske68,

Let me address your comments, as below.

#1 A voucher system would not in fact destroy the existing ISD's of a community, it would only attach the money to the child rather than the location. There is little cost involved.

Who would own the schools in existence now? Something has to happen to them, and they may well be too large for most private schools. What about all the educational contracts, etc? Something happens to those. Then, if the change does not work out, you have to shift back, reacquire all the property, renegotiate all the contracts, etc. Sounds prohibitively expensive, at best.

#2 In fact, the avg spent per pupil in public schools is nearly 10k/student, whereas the avg tuition at private schools is 7k. True enough there are no guarantees, but the market his historically been pretty accurate. And one thing that IS guaranteed now is that public schools are, for the most part, NOT getting the job done. In addition, the wealthier families are already getting a better education in private schools, so your last point is moot imo.

At the outset, I disagree with your assumption that public schools are not getting the job done. I agree that they are not optimal, and need improvement. But "not getting the job done" - I'm not sure that's true. Your market comment seems out of place, as well. That tuition is 7k with a group of self-selecting individuals without many of the problems faced by others does not mean that it would stay the same. The introduction of more difficulties suggests that the cost would instead rise. However, you are also missing out on my point regarding exacerbation; the wealthy are already opting out, as are the upper MC. But, the imposition of this system suggests a continuum of schools, from least to most expensive based primarily on educational quality; forcing the poor to take the worst, while progressively better off individuals attend progressively better schools.

#3 True, most private schools are smaller and perhaps not capable of scaling up their operations. However, in a competitive environment there will more than likely be new schools created, and, market forces will ensure that those pvt. schools that do attempt to upscale their ops. will maintain their quality. Competition works...really.

Again, this isn't a competition issue. This is a question as to whether techniques and results generated in situation A - Fewer students, more homogeneous backgrounds, more money, higher commitment to education, can be replicated successfully in situation B - more students, more heterogeneous backgrounds, less money, more other problems.

#4 Those who maintain that "political oversight" of schools is a good thing I just can't argue with. See my notes on competition above.

I'd prefer not to have schools where any of the following are acceptable: (1) Caning, (2) Communism = the answer to all our problems, (3) Killing the jews = the answer to all our problems, (4) Enslaving the blacks = the answers to all our problems, etc. I'd also prefer that schools be subject to some oversight to ensure that constitutional values are respected as well as taught. Call me crazy.

#5 There is perhaps some merit to this claim, yet it seems unlikely to be the driving force behind this phenomenon.

I agree that it is unlikely to be the driving force. I think the possibility encourages some, but I don't think it's the driving force. However, it could be the end result, regardless of whether that was the reason.

#6 Again, market forces will drive those more interested in better education for their children to the better schools, those that do not care will choose the most convienient option. But it must also be said that "a rising tide floats all boats" competition will almost necessarily improve all schools in the area. And there are certainly to be niche schools based on at-risk/special-ed schools which will also release the pressure to teach to the lowest common denominator everywhere.

Because I suggested that the problem here is one of self-selection, in which results from existing private schools are unlikely to be matched by those from private schools dealing with the existing whole student population, I think you mistook my point. However, since you are not the only one, I assume that I did not state it clearly, and apologize for that.

I'm not sure that you can really anticipate meaningful competition. Because of the limited funds available, you are more likely to see product differentiation instead of product comparison. I'm fairly certain that, as a general rule, where extra profits may not be extracted from an activity, products compete by differentiating rather than directly competing. I could be wrong. My examples include: "Our school is better for your kid because we're the only local school that primarily deals with the needs of children with ADD" or "Our school is better for your kid b/c we're the only local school that deals with the distinct issues facing Muslims"...etc.
4.7.2006 4:43pm
Ziske68 (mail):
MikeR,

At some point we just have to agree to disagree, my personal belief is that the gov't typically does lousy,low-quality, inefficient work in most things. Schooling to me is too important to leave in the hands of politicians and bureacrats. Especially when our 100yr old experiment with universal education is failing miserably in many areas.

The only point I would like to address is your answer to #4, I believe this statement is fairly disingenuous, as in order to actually keep that from happening you must not allow ANY private schools at all. And I don't believe you advocate that either.
4.7.2006 4:53pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
The problem with public education is very simple - it is run by the state. Those who suggest that if we just tried a little harder, or spent just a little more money, are engaged in wishful thinking.

The problem with it being run by the government is that ultimately that is going to make it fail. Why? First, the accountability issue. Private schools face monetary accountability. The kids either learn, or the schools shut down. Simple economics. But public schools have a lot of masters, and a lot of agendas. There are, of course, the tax payers, but they don't have nearly as much power there as you would expect. Then there is the entrenched bureaucracy, plus the teachers. But they also have to worry about social engineering, sex education, federal and state governments, and a host of other agendas. The natural result is that those in the system can often do whatever they want, by paying lip service to the agendas that promote their own, and minimize the time spent on others. In short, I don't see how to make it responsive. It is systematically almost impossible to do so.
4.7.2006 5:31pm
Challenge:
The quality of public schools is not only degraded by poor pay for teachers. The environment of the urban, poor public school is not the environment most qualified, experienced teachers wish to teach in. Upping the pay will only do so much. Discipline, respect, and order must be restored before the quality of teachers is likely to increase, and in this area I think private schools are far superior.
4.7.2006 5:36pm
DK:
Umm, Fred Frederson, my statement that my high school covered Holocaust deniers was not an attempt to argue with you about creationism (which you seem to have taken it as). It was an attempt to argue with Ilya -- I totally disagree with the idea that Miami schools should remove pro-Castro books. Now if it's true that the book is more factually wrong that most school library books, it shouldn't be there. But students in Miami of all places SHOULD be exposed to the pro-Castro point of view; how can you be a good anti-Castro activist without knowing what Castro's friends say?

People who are only exposed to only one viewpoint come out brittle, and IMHO are more likely to adopt nutty or dangerous views later on when they find out they were taught only a partial truth.
4.7.2006 5:42pm
MikeR (mail):
Ziske68,
What happened between this and this?
I didn't say ANYTHING in the interim! How narrow the window of opportunity...
4.7.2006 5:42pm
Justin (mail):
SO MANY of the points people make here, involving the superiority of private schools, involve the inherent advantage those who are at private schools already had over the class of people currently in public schools.

Private schools, through tuition, can exclude poor students who overall underpeform to the mean. Through standards and expulsion, they can also exclude problematic students, disabled students, mentally challenged students, and for many schools, simply average students.

Furthermore, those parents that are willing to make the proactive decision to send their kids to private schools are more likely to be making other, positive proactive decisions in their education. While you can be a great parent and send your kids to public school, and while you can be a s***y one and shoot them off to private schools, there is probably some correlation between being a good, attentive parent and a child being placed in private schools.

This can explain the fallacies of the following points:

"They can pay less because they offer better working conditions."

"Math scores in DC private schools are better than Math scores in DC public schools"

"It is my understanding that most private schools operate on a budget that is significantly less per student than public schools. It seems that a voucher program or a school choice program stands a good chance of improving schooling problems of the poor. This article suggests that the poor think so. "

Much of the other arguments are simply unsupported speculation, often already disproved by studies in Cleveland and Milwaukee, such as:

"a rising tide floats all boats" competition will almost necessarily improve all schools in the area.

"Until things become, somehow, very, very different for the urban poor, denying the people who want to escape a chance to do so is immoral." (speculates two assumptions: that the poor will be able to afford good private schools with the credit, that good private schools wont just raise their tuition in order to keep these people out, and that, given that the quality of the school is related to the quality and resources of the students, that the good private school wont respond by raising tuition)

Finally, some of the arguments are, restating, that inequality is desireable, such as:

Let's at least leave behind no child who *can* get out of heritable poverty.

P.S. I think one can be against privatized education, and think that decentralized decisionmaking and standards-based/NCLB goalsetting is a good idea. Professors Mark Tushnet, James Liebman, Michael Dorf, and Charles Sabel (all liberal, at least by VC standards) have all written on the topic in various law reviews.
4.7.2006 5:44pm
Challenge:
"But, the imposition of this system suggests a continuum of schools, from least to most expensive based primarily on educational quality; forcing the poor to take the worst, while progressively better off individuals attend progressively better schools."

The poor are likely to get the worst regardless. How to make the worst better is the appropriate question.

Ask a poor person if they would prefer A) Having $10,000 per year to spend on the education that they decide best serves their needs and aspirations or B) Give the $10,000 to the government and have the government decide what is best for their needs and aspirations. I think the vast majority of poor and middle class will choose A. Which isn't that suprising if you consider the question with an open mind.

The sentimental and conservative attachment to the status quo is understandable. Transition costs are likely significant. But if I were to design an educational system today, from the ground up, I think the choice would be relatively easy.
4.7.2006 5:52pm
Houston Lawyer:
So apparently we should just send as many good students to poor schools as possible. I agree with the sentiment that depriving parents of a choice is immoral. Its just you, spending my money, to experiment on my children and the children of others.
4.7.2006 5:55pm
Challenge:
Justin,

While your points are relevant and for the most part correct, I don't see how they prove all those other points to be "fallacies."
4.7.2006 6:02pm
Justin (mail):
Challenge, they're fallacies because they show evidence in support of a conclusion (A proves B) when B is adequately explained for by another factor. Thus, their evidence doesn't prove their point, and their argument is a fallacy.

In your other post, you made me think of one other reason to oppose privatized education. You simply assume that the number is $10,000 rather than say, $1,000, $7,000, or $50,000. If the number was $50,000, of course, it would be hard to argue that this would lead to more inequity.

But whatever the number, the way to get to it would be political, and it would continue to be exposed to political manipulation. As other programs have shown, subsidies for the poor are the first things cut by the political majority (in part because the poor are definitionally a minority, and an adverse interest group to "not poor", in part because the secondary effects (both in "maybe I'll be poor one day" to "reducing poverty increases productivity, decreases crime, etc" are simply not taken into effect by voteres). Thus, though liberterians and conservatives try to create majority support for vouchers, it is unlikely that the vouchers will continue to be substantial. Indeed, this is probably why many conservatives support the idea - killing a subsidy for the poor is much easier than killing education as an institution.
4.7.2006 6:17pm
Justin (mail):
Houston,

Eliminating public schools is a moral requirement? Maybe we've taken whatever hypothetical we've started with a little too far afield, if that's the claim you're ending up with (note, as well, your position should not logically change if you eliminate vouchers, and indeed, would probably be strengthed by doing so).
4.7.2006 6:19pm
MikeR (mail):
Indeed, this is probably why many conservatives support the idea - killing a subsidy for the poor is much easier than killing education as an institution.

I think that as a principle, debates produce a better airing of the issues and better results when you don't ascribe poor motives to the opposition.

I would add, as a conservative, that I don't support vouchers because it will be easier to kill at a later date. I support them because I think they are a good way to introduce competition into the system so that better results are produced in the public schools (which I don't envision vouchers killing off).
4.7.2006 6:30pm
SenatorX (mail):
Anthony,
I thought that Communism was built on science - scientific methods utilized to produce a utopian society on earth. So, how can you imply that Castro's books aren't scientific?


That's not correct. Historicism was refuted (pun intended) by Karl Popper with good reason. The delineation of Science and Metaphysics (or Pseudo-Science) is that Science relies on REFUTABLE theories. Metaphysical theories rely on CONFIRMATIONS. You simply can always find what you are looking for if you look hard enough(or ignore enough data...)

A great discussion here mostly by people who I think know a lot more than I on this subject. I will say that I went to a non-religious private school from 6-11 and it was one of the best things that ever could have happened to me at that age. Then I was sent to public school for 11th grade and it was a HUGE failure. We were reading books in 11th grade that we had read in 7th grade at the private school. There was very little learning and the real focus was social interaction in hallways etc. Eventually I skipped a lot, dropped out and got my GED a week later. When I later had to join the Army to get out a rut and get some college money they only would give me HALF as much because of the GED (side note but still pisses me off). So I had to work night jobs as a cook for the many years it took me to get my college degrees. What a great country!


Bruce Hayden, I agree with you.

On a pure philosophical note I have always thought education should be a mix of "pure" learning and self discovery. In other words comparative ideals should be taught so that individuals could discover for themselves what they want to internalize.
4.7.2006 6:36pm
Challenge:
"Challenge, they're fallacies because they show evidence in support of a conclusion (A proves B) when B is adequately explained for by another factor. Thus, their evidence doesn't prove their point, and their argument is a fallacy."

Um, no. To take just one example: Arguing that the poor discipline in some public schools undermines the ability to attract quality teachers is not a "fallacy" just because there are other reasons for poorer public school performance. Somebody making this argument is no more committing a fallacy than you are when you suggest that the legal obligation to educate the mentally and physically handicapped explains some of the performance gap and higher expense of public education. It's a complicated issue with a lot of potential explanations.
4.7.2006 6:39pm
Ziske68 (mail):
Doh!

Sorry Mike, that should have been addressed to Mr. Berke.

Apologies.
4.7.2006 6:41pm
Justin (mail):
Arguing that the poor discipline in some public schools undermines the ability to attract quality teachers is not a "fallacy" just because there are other reasons for poorer public school performance.

That's not the argument. That's the evidence. The argument made (in context) is that one can reduce wages (and maintain the quality) of teachers by privatizing education, because there is something inherent about, using your example, discipline problems in public schools - other than the obvious fact that discipline prone-students are currently mostly in public school settings.

It's incidentally not correct for other reasons - private schools are such a small part of the market that they can achieve their recruitment goals for the most part by relying on young graduates of top schools who do not consider teaching a career, that, while undermining the argument for different reasons, was not relevant to the point I was trying to make.
4.7.2006 6:45pm
Challenge:
I don't know what you mean by it's not the argument, it's the evidence, but let's not slip into a debate on sematnics. Admittedly, the example was slightly different than what you attacked as a "fallacy" but I think my point stands.

If anybody is guilty of commiting a fallacy, I think it's you for assuming there is no other reason for poor discipline in public schools other than what you've stated. It is possible that you're right, and they're right. Imagine that!

"I've always felt that a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic."

Abigail Adams
4.7.2006 6:54pm
Justin (mail):
It's possible that I'm right, and they're right. But the only thing they have going for them is an empirically useless fact, twice removed (their only direct evidence is the lower salary for teacher wages), whereas my argument makes logical sense... without playing study for study, logic has to hold some actual value in a debate, and there's no "logical" reason that public schools are inherently bad at maintaining discipline (I could think of a few, such as the inability to use physical force to discipline, but those would be pretty far afield).

And as for the whole "don't attack the person's reasons" I first want to clarify that not all, or even most, conservatives are currently/actively seeking to undermine subsidized education via privitization....and indeed, most conservatives don't even think about this pipe dream.

That doesn't mean that we can't consider what people's political decisionmaking will be in the future - and there is absolutely no reason to believe (particularly in light of NCLB) that conservatvies have the will or the ability to fund their reforms.

This particular program leads to a particularly horrible result if inadequately funded, and the funding question is therefore part and parcel of the discussion.
4.7.2006 7:27pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Government might undertake indoctrination through the public schools, but it would require sustaining an unusual political consensus for an extended period of time.

Government already undertakes indoctrination through the public schools. It does not require sustaining an unusual political consensus for an extended period of time. It requires sustaining a normal political consensus among teachers for an extended period of time. That time is now, and always has been.

Look, there is a basic problem here. We expect our schools to teach history. Well, you can't teach history without value judgements about politics and religion. We expect our schools to teach social studies. Well, you can't teach social studies without value judgements about politics and religion. We expect our schools to teach literature. Well, you can't teach literature without value judgements about politics and religion.

I'm sure you would think it horrible if the government provided over 90% of the books, newspapers, magazines, TV and radio shows. You'd talk about freedom of the press and speech, the ability to think and speak concerning value judgements about politics and religion.

I'm sure you would think it horrible if the government provided over 90% of the churches. You'd talk about freedom of religion, the ability to think and speak concerning value judgements about politics and religion.

I'm sure you would think it horrible if the government provided over 90% of the instruction of our children. You'd talk about freedom of the press, of speech and of religion, the ability to think and speak concerning value judgements about politics and religion.

No, wait, you don't say that last bit. Even though our children are the most vulnerable to manipulation by the government.

I don't get it. How can one philosopically be in favor of freedom of the press, of speech and of religion and also favor government run schools? Where it is prohibitively expensive for most people to send their kids elsewhere? Do you also want government provided books, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio shows and churches?

School choice is about human rights and human freedom. John Dewey and the others who founded the public schools movement - which came here from Prussia - were elitists. They were not serving freedom or liberty. The people of this country are quite capable of choosing good schools. It is only fair to give them that choice. If we did, I expect most Americans would choose the public schools their children already attend. Most Americans like their public schools. But that doesn't give them the right to trample on the human rights of those who don't.

In the spirit of transparency, we home school, for both ideology and quality. We want our kids to be taught moral values, not multi-cultural relativism. We want them exposed to the best of popular culture, not the dregs of it. We want them to learn modesty, chastity and honor, not "do what feels good". I understand that many would consider us hopelessly old fashioned. Well, I don't want the public schools to force my ways on your children. I'd rather we all got the schools we chose. Maybe I could persuade you to send your kids to one that I favor.

Yours,
Wince
4.7.2006 7:55pm
Justin (mail):
Wince,

One of the nice things about the indoctrinating "liberal" teachers is that much of that consensus is seen in your post - the absolute correctness of freedom of speech, of freedom of the press, of the free market, of "freedom" and "liberty."

Ironically, the reasons you seem to home school is to deny your children the liberty of learning about other cultures and ideas, in order to indoctrinate them to your worldview through the power of your authoritarian position over them to distribute propoganda.
4.7.2006 8:12pm
Justin (mail):
I think there's a broader point there, actually.

You're working on the assumption, incorrect for your own children, that privitization of one's education gives the educatee more freedom and liberty in terms of their ability to make their own political and philosophical decisions. I think that's wrong. The privitization of one's education gives the educatee LESS freedom and liberty, and the educatee's parent MORE. But since the parent and the child are two seperate entities, and children are *not* property of their parents in a moral sense to most people, why is this not a *net* negative?
4.7.2006 8:23pm
Proud to be a liberal :
Much of the commentary on this blog would seem to suggest that all public schools are the same. There are thousands of wonderful public schools that do a great job of educating children. There are many thousands of wonderful, dedicated public school teachers who work tirelessly to educate children.

I also think the worries about "government indoctrination" are quite overblown given the fact that public schools are in the hands of local school boards. Also, nowadays, many children have access to the internet &all kinds of information (including much bad information).

It is interesting that many polls that show that people are critical of public schools also show that they are happy with their own schools.

It is important in evaluating costs to remember that public schools are required to educate all children. Private schools are selective in two ways: one, they can select their students, and second, the parents select the schools.

As a special education lawyer, I often met parents who first learned about their children's special needs (learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, etc.) from a private school experience. The children were often kicked out of the private schools because the private schools could not serve the kids. Special education is an enormous expense for many public schools.

There are many great programs, both public and private, that have done a good job of educating poor children. The programs generally require intensive supports for the children, including education outside of the school day. Children also desperately need personal attention.

As a parent myself, I can see that even bright middle class children benefit from parents who tell them to do their homework instead of watching television, who take them to the library, and who buy them books. Many programs that have matched kids with interested adults who take an interest in the children are successful. For example, Denzel Washington credit a local Boys and Girls club with helping him become a success.

If we all looked back at your own education, how many of us would be where we are if all we did to further our education was to go to school and do school work? Developing a thirst for education and a love of reading is critical to helping kids learn.

Sadly, the money allowed under the No Child Left Behind Hand for individualized tutoring has not been used to its maximum extent. Instead of a theoretical debate about ending public education, it might be more helpful to explore what works, what does not work, and how to help more kids get the education that will help them out of poverty.
4.7.2006 9:16pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
I find it interesting that all you free market advocates continually point out as the paragon of private education the Catholic Education system in large cities as an example of affordable, effective private education. Of course you ignore the fact that this is a non-profit, charitable system, that for most of its history depended on staff that lived in communal (dare I say "communist") circumstances and were paid literally nothing. Now the entire system is in crisis, because the supply of almost no cost instructors (ordered men and women) has dried up, and there are not even enough caretakers available to care for the retired teachers.
4.7.2006 9:22pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Justin,

You would be surprised at how much my children are learning at home about other cultures and ideas. More than I did, at their age. My wife specializes at this, in one of our home school cooperatives, and the other parents are very glad of it. Another big favorite among the homeschoolers I know is teaching our children about the Constitution and their rights. There are some truly excellent course available, some taught by actual lawyers, not education school grads. My kids are a little young yet, but I am very much looking forward to this, myself. Are you making assumptions of your own? I think you are...

I am not working on the assumption that privatization of ones education gives the educatee more freedom and liberty in terms of their ability to make their own political and philosophical decisions. I am working under the principle that it is the responsibility of parents to raise their children, not the state. Are you working under the assumption that it would be better if the state bore the ultimate responsibility for child rearing? In what way does that advance liberty? Sounds like tyranny to me. One of the key teachings of nearly every religion is that one should raise their children to follow it. Do you secretly desire to indoctrinate my children to follow some other creed? I doubt that. I have already established that, as much as I might like to proselytise your children in school, I don't think that's right. If you are intent on abridging my right to follow my own religion by teaching my children to follow it, I think you should reread the first amendment. I believe that my religion is the most valuable thing I can teach them. Do you propose to strip me of that right?

I also have an example from my own government run schooling. We read All Quiet On The Western Front, A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet. What's the common theme? That violence is evil. But violence is not evil. Responsible violence in defense of ones self, ones family and ones community is good. Now we did also read Joan of Arc, and one could say that MacDuff is an example of responsible violence, but the overriding emphasis in my school was that violence was evil. And I got the message. Now things are even worse, what with our ridiculous Zero Tolerance policies. This teaching is a political teaching. It is not a political teaching I am in favor of. I want my children to learn when self-defense is right and how to responsibly respond whether violently or not. For example, one could respond non-violently through verbal shaming, or violently by calling the police. Both of these are responsible ways to react. But if we are stuck on the all violence is wrong ideology, we never get to the other.

We could also talk about the political indoctrination in government run schools on ecological issues, and I haven't even touched on the moral and religious issues.

But so far you have been completely failed to respond to my original question. How can one philosophically be in favor of freedom of the press, of speech and of religion and also favor government run schools? I can understand that you believe in them because of tradition. Lots of human rights problems are caused by a slavish devotion to tradition. But I'm trying to raise people's awareness about this glaring philosophical contradiction. Wouldn't we get more diversity by having more diversity in our educational institutions? I thought diversity was the big goal around here. It's certainly mentioned often enough where I work. So why aren't we encouraging more cultural, political and religious diversity by allowing school choice?

Proud to be a liberal,

I don't want to end government run schools, since most people do like theirs. I want to treat those who don't like theirs fairly. With my three kids, I am foregoing a $250,000 benefit by not using public schools. That's not fair, especially for those who don't want their kids in public schools and can't afford otherwise. A fair response would be to give people access to schools which aren't government run. It would not be costly, and it would not ruin the government run schools. In New Zealand (a liberal country) they implemented school choice. It was not costly, and did not ruin their government run schools. I'm not asking for the moon and the stars here. I'm asking for vouchers, and choice, not privatization.

Yours,
Wince
4.7.2006 9:29pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
The incandescent light was invented by a homeschooler!

The Declaration of Independence was written by a homeschooler!

The Constitution was written by homeschoolers!

Yours,
Wince
4.7.2006 9:34pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
People who are only exposed to only one viewpoint come out brittle, and IMHO are more likely to adopt nutty or dangerous views later on when they find out they were taught only a partial truth.

I agreed with your point but disagreed with your rather condescending implication that public schools do not expose people to multiple viewpoints. I have never attended a private school in my life, but I believe I have received a well-rounded, comprehensive and excellent education. My public high school produced 13 National Merit Finalists in my class and offered college-level classes in Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, Biology, and English. There are public schools in this country that are every bit as good as the best private schools and we should never forget that.
4.7.2006 9:36pm
Justin (mail):
Wince,

The overblown rhetoric aside, the fact that you're going to teach them about other cultures with a very strictly controlled normative view ("Let's learn about Muslim people and why they're bad!"), does not mean you're giving them an education that promotes their freedom to think how they feel...the same idea you thought was PARAMOUNT in a liberal worldview.

Since you've otherwise moved the goalposts from your original point, saying that morality requires us to think of our children as property to control their own philosophy and thought, I'll concede that if one takes that view, privitization has a benefit. However, what I won't concede is whether that view itself is held outside of a strict subset of extreme Christian reactionaries such as yourself.

"How can one philosophically be in favor of freedom of the press, of speech and of religion and also favor government run schools?"

Because, as mentioned by others, public education does not as a practical matter affront those concepts, and to the degree they do, dealing with them on a regulatory basis seems vastly preferrable to denying people the right to an education in the first place - in which those skills become useless.
4.7.2006 9:45pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
Wince and Nod,

What's your problem? Nobody is forcing you to send your kids to public school. You are happily homeschooling them without government interference. How are your rights being infringed? I don't get it.

I don't have any children. Yet I pay exactly the same property taxes as my neighbors who do. I pay even more income taxes (both state and federal) because I don't have those little tax credits and deductions. Do I complain because my tax dollars are paying for education I am not even using? Hell no. Because I know public education benefits us all. I also pay for the fire department, but I don't demand that I get that part of my taxes back because I didn't have a fire last year.

We live in a freaking society! We all have to contribute to the basic necessities of the society. If we want extras or decide to opt out of the things that the government provides us (or don't use because we don't have children or our aged parents live in a different country), then we shouldn't complain because the government doesn't reimburse us for our individual choices.
4.7.2006 9:50pm
bluecollarguy:
Justin:
"Much of the other arguments are simply unsupported speculation, often already disproved by studies in Cleveland and Milwaukee, such as:"


There are no definitive studies proving or disproving anything. The study depends on the methodology, one study sees improvement, another doesn't. So let's call it a wash for arguments sake.

We know a few things about the state of public education, one it is in decline and two there is tension between the secularists and the religionists.

Now I happen to agree with Jefferson on the value of public funding of education. That view is currently in tension with my views on the decline of public education and the tension the SCOTUS has seen fit to cause between the secularists and the religionists.

However, I still maintain that education should be publically funded until the age of majority. Given that view and my dislike of slamming my head into the public education wall with no discernible results except a bump on the head, I support whole heartedly publically funded vouchers.

Are there drawbacks? Certainly could be but there could also be rewards. It's worth more extensive trials than have been done thus far.
4.7.2006 9:54pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
The Declaration of Independence was written by a homeschooler!

And then he went on to found one of the premier public universities in the United States.
4.7.2006 9:55pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Justin,

The overblown rhetoric aside, the fact that you're going to teach them about other cultures with a very strictly controlled normative view ("Let's learn about Muslim people and why they're bad!"),

You are truly assuming too much. We don't teach that way. Quite frankly, you are an insulting me, my wife and every home schooler I know. If you can't figure out how disgusting and bigotted your comments are, stop posting.

Not property, responsibility. Did you read my post? Or did you skim? I pick my words carefully. Most people understand the difference between guardianship and slavery. You will find that a very broad majority of Americans wish their children to be taught as they see fit because they wish to have the authority necessary to fufil their responsibility. You, however, appear to wish to strip parents of that necessary authority.

"denying people the right to an education in the first place" Well, you must be skimming, since I was very clear about keeping governent run schools but simply adding vouchers for those people who can't wear your one size fits all solution.

It is impossible to reconcile government run schools - and no choice - with freedom of religion, press and speech. One choice is not freedom.

More later for the rest.

Yours,
Wince
4.8.2006 12:06am
Sean FWJ Fowler (mail):
Hoosier,

You raise a good point about Sparta.

However, "melting" groups that don't want to be melted is not a failing of the public school system but one of its primary purposes. To the individual it is a great evil, but, to an organized society, it is a greater good.
4.8.2006 1:24am
Peter Wimsey:
Anthony writes -
For me all books are divided into those that have scientific value and those that do not have it. If there is no scientific value in this book, it should be removed from the shelves.


There goes Shakespeare.
4.8.2006 1:17pm
scepticalrepub:
I'd like to point out that those defending public schools on this thread undoubtedly went to schools with an active, vocal PTA or other outlet for parent participation and oversight. Today's schools, especially urban public schools, have been very successful in eliminating that hassle for the teachers' union's benefit.

Read this brief article by John Stossel of ABC News for an insight as to where we stand today:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/
articles/2006/04/
trying_to_accept_the_teacher_u.html
4.8.2006 1:43pm
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4.9.2006 8:17am
Unnamed Co-Conspirator:
Bruce, the public schools aren't really "run by the state," rather they're nominally "run" by the state, but the state is hamstrung by collective bargaining agreement.

Whatever, the teacher's unions aren't a reaction to the problem; rather they're a reaction to an opportunity created by the lack of organization against them, but the reaction and the real problem aren't related. Teachers unions are utterly uninterested in the quality of education except to the extent that maintenance of a minimal amount of said quality is required to prevent a popular revolt that will remove their influence. The interest of the teachers' unions is in maintaining job security for the very weakest members in the set of minimally qualified teachers. Good teachers don't need the unions' protection and are significantly harmed by the unions' efforts on behalf of bad teachers. The problem, as you correctly point out, is attracting and retaining good teachers. But the solution offered by teachers' unions is to make the jobs held by bad teachers more secure -- that is, to force the state to spend scarce resources (money) on bad teachers, leaving less of said scarce resources available to attract and retain good teachers. Solving the problem starts with a couple of changes and also with a commitment to maintain at least the status quo in another area. First, the changes: give teachers a choice between union membership and continued employment, and second, remove harmful features from the system (such as seniority-based pay scales and job security), so that good teachers can be rewarded and bad teachers fired. Maintain at least the status quo where funding committed to public eduction is concerned, so that teachers and prospective teachers will understand that at least some of the money saved by getting rid of unions and bad teachers is available to reward good teachers.
4.10.2006 6:03pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Justin wrote:

I think there's a broader point there, actually.

You're working on the assumption, incorrect for your own children, that privitization of one's education gives the educatee more freedom and liberty in terms of their ability to make their own political and philosophical decisions. I think that's wrong. The privitization of one's education gives the educatee LESS freedom and liberty, and the educatee's parent MORE. But since the parent and the child are two seperate entities, and children are *not* property of their parents in a moral sense to most people, why is this not a *net* negative?


No Wince is not claiming the children have more freedom, he is claiming the people who should be exercising the respobsibility to raise the children as they see fit have the freedom, those people are the parents and he's correct. I just read his posts, you're flat wrong. The educatee is no more and no fewer freedom than before--but they are more competently educated as a general rule, as among other things the winners of nation spelling (and other) bees shows.

This is not a net negative because the children are better educated, and at a lower cost to society.

Of course it comes at the expense of the NEA in its quest to indoctrinate children in it's memebers' mean worldview--of course that's also a net positive to society.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
4.10.2006 10:04pm
TDPerkins (mail):
educatee is no /= educatee has no TDP
4.10.2006 10:05pm
Yankee_Mark:
On a semi-related note ... the following letter was issued by a local school district that seems problematic to me and I thought I'd put it out there for discussion. I'm no fan of these particular protests ... but this seems quite heavy handed and apt to be aloser should a parent choose to take it to court. What do y'all think:

Dear Parent/Guardian,
Over the past two weeks, student demonstrations on immigration reform have affected schools around the city and received much media attention. I would like to take this time to remind parents/guardians about the district's position on student demonstrations.

While the District supports every citizen's rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, the district cannot encourage any activity that disrupts valuable class time or endangers student safety. Students are in the classroom for a limited time during the day and should use that time for instruction, as it is intended. This month, in particular, is crucial because of the administration of Annual Assessment Testing. In addition, disorderly demonstrations can endanger student safety. Last week, a student was struck by a vehicle off-campus when this student left school to join a group of demonstrators.

The Student/Parent Handbook addresses an "aggressive, disruptive action or group demonstration that substantially disrupts or materially interferes with school activities" as a Category IV Offense that can lead to placement in an alternative education program. Any student participating in a walk-out, demonstration or protest during school hours will face a three-day suspension. Any repeat offenders will be placed at an alternative school.

I hope that you speak with your child about these demonstrations and the consequences he/she may face if he/she participates during the school day. There are numerous ways for student voices to be heard on this issue, inside and outside of the classroom. Many schools across the district have discussed the demonstrations in social studies classes. Students also have opportunities outside of the school day to engage in freedom of expression. For example, we encourage our students to write the U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush to express their ideas on immigration reform. You can find contact information at www.firstgov.gov


Sincerely,
Superintendant
4.10.2006 10:46pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Yankee Mark.

Looks to me as if he's saying cutting class for the immigration demos is not going to be an excused absence.

What's the problem?

Ditto interrupting classes by aggressive (etc.) action is also a no-no.

This is all new?
4.10.2006 11:18pm