In a new op-ed published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, retired journalism teacher Susan Johnson makes a case against school choice that’s so godawful it proves why we need it in the first place.
The article is titled “Charter Schools, Vouchers Will Erode What United Us” – and it’s all downhill from there.
She begins her piece by laying out her philosophy for the role of public schools in our society: “In short, the American public school is where we learn to be Americans.” A frightening thought for sure, but it is the liberal philosophy on public education, and exemplifies why they so adamantly oppose school choice; because it represents a lack of control.
The current status quo in public schools is the progressive agenda, and she doesn’t want that to change, so she has to pretend there’s something wrong with alternatives.
Here’s a sampling of her arguments:
In public schools, the public decides the curriculum. The public votes to elect school boards who decide the facts our children will be taught. We leave high school and enter college or the workforce with a common set of civic norms and agreed-upon facts that are derived from reason, critical thinking and the scientific method.
So certainly the fact that charter schools produce better educational results (on average) than public schools at a lower cost would be an argument for them? Not in the left’s world, because their concerns are not actually about results, it’s about what’s taught in the first place.
In charter schools, a private board decides the curriculum. Same for private schools. One board might teach that the earth is flat. Another might teach that the pope is infallible; another might teach he is the anti-Christ.
An interesting argument considering the zero documented cases of charter schools teaching that the Earth is flat – and lack of awareness that charter schools are prohibited from providing religious instruction (only being able to teach about religion from a secular perspective, like in traditional public schools).
She then tells us the kind of curriculum she fears:
Many children are homeschooled using private instructional programs — some that are online — that are marketed for particular religious and political persuasions. For instance, one might teach that the Founding Fathers were white men and, therefore, only white men should be deciding things. The state — whose reason for funding education is to have an enlightened citizenry — will be spending our tax dollars on a mishmash of ideologies and alternate facts.
Like was the case with the “Earth is flat” hypothetical, the reason she doesn’t cite a single example of a school where children were taught they should “only listen to white men” because the “Founding Fathers were white men” is because she’s creating a caricature in her head and then arguing against it. What she’s really saying is “I don’t want children learning about the Founding Fathers, and I’ll cite the latest buzzwords to justify why.”
She then continues, worrying that charter schools could apparently breed the next generation of Islamists…. or something like that.
We have seen where this leads. In some Middle Eastern cultures, private schools called madrassas have been known to engage in religious and political indoctrination beginning at a very young age, even including combat training with military weapons. These are the people who brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
Hilariously, if a right winger were to make this identical argument you know she’d complain that it’s Islamophobic and remind us that most Muslims are peaceful. And more relevant to her “point,” what young Muslims in Madrasas experience is a single point of view and philosophy of life – like she wants enforced in public schools.
And then, she finally gets to the point of what she’s specifically arguing against, new legislation in West Virginia allowing a charter school expansion (that passed the House):
With West Virginia continuing its lurch toward more charter schools and broader vouchers, prepare for a further weakening of public schools and common curricula. Get ready for cuts in teacher positions, salaries and benefits. Less money for arts and music and special programs like the one that sent me to Washington, D.C.
Or phrased differently: get ready for underperforming schools to see fewer students while the best schools attract more.
So what’s the main argument she then offers up against this bill? That if we allow charter schools, they might not enforce proper social distancing!
The pandemic has had the unexpected consequence of drawing millions of kids into private schools, many of which had a more relaxed policy toward attendance, mask wearing, distancing, etc.
Those private schools also produced much better educational results – which is why two-thirds of her arguments against them are coronavirus related.
One could make a very strong case that Susan Johnson’s essay would’ve been argued had we lived in a world with more school choice when she was a student.
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