How about some more controversy.
I find myself at odds with my fellow conservatives over a handful of issues. Public education is one. I keep reading comments on conservative blogs to the effect that everyone must pull their kids out of public school, now. And some hope for the day when there are no public schools, only private ones. News articles like this make this idea hard to argue against. Still, I just really differ about this issue.
Let me say first that I have no problem with people homeschooling or sending their kids to private school. F attended a parochial school for K-6. Our kid, our choice. I do think it's silly for people who want vouchers to point to the fact that politicians send their kids to private school and claim that they don't want others to have that choice. No one tried to stop us from sending F to private school. Yes, we had to pay tuition. She's our kid; who should have paid it?
The idea that we should have gotten our taxes rebated to the extent that they would have paid for her public school education is also silly. You don't pay taxes to educate your kids; you pay them so that you can live in a society in which people have at least a minimal education. Otherwise you're surrounded by an illiterate, unemployable permanent underclass. I can see people saying, "So how is that different from what we have now?" It's a lot different.
I remember listening to Ken Hamblin back when he was on the radio. This must have been years ago. A caller was complaining that black people are not given opportunities like white people are; no one helps them; no one gives them a hand up. They are excluded from the American dream. Here is a paraphrase of Ken's reply: "You're right. But I have an idea that is so radical, so far-reaching, that it will knock your socks off: Let's offer every child a free education in a public school." There was a moment of silence, then the caller started chuckling and said, "You got me. Tip of the hat to you, bro', " and then he hung up.
There are those who say that if all schools were private, and parents got vouchers, the parents would pick the best schools for their kids. I don't want to speak ill of parents; I am one. But some parents are completely out to lunch when it comes to making decisions about their kids' welfare. I'm not talking about parents making bad decisions about where their kids go to school, I'm talking about parents not giving a damn about their kids' welfare AT ALL. I remember reading a letter to the editor in the local newspaper that was written by a teacher. She noticed that one of her students had missed three days of school and she asked the office personnel to call his home and check on him. It turned out that his mother had sold all of his clothes to pay for drugs. All he had to wear was a bedsheet. Of course Social Services was called and the kid removed from the home. That public schoolteacher was the only person in that child's life who cared enough about him to come to his rescue. But according to some people, his mother was fully capable of deciding which school he should attend, or whether he should attend school at all. And even given this exact story, they still would shut down the schools although it would mean leaving this child in misery and sacrificing his chance at any kind of future. Situations like this one come up every day in schools across the country. And I keep coming back to the fact that these are American kids, who deserve the best we can do for them. They deserve their crack at the American dream every bit as much as F does, or any other child whose parents carefully plan their education and their future.
I know there are problems with the public schools. But we need to fix them. We certainly don't need to abandon them.