Heresy: why I support school vouchers

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Mon Aug 2 20:55:20 MDT 1999

You're quite right that behind what I'm advocating is simply a variant of
the demand for free, universal publicly-funded (though not "public," in the
sense of state-monopolized) education. It is also true that the efficacy of
anything like vouchers -- even if suburban districts and private schools can
be forced to accept them -- will be undermined by practical considerations
like the distances involved, and so on.

And you're right that this issue --vouchers-- in a way only raises more
questions than it answers. I think that's pretty much in the nature of all
demands working people raise under capitalism. They way I see it, though, is
that despite overwhelming opposition from those the Black community
traditionally looks to for leadership, the simple idea of parents taking the
money for a child's education and choosing which school they go to has
struck a very deep chord in the Black and Hispanic communities.

That it should have done so is, in a way, surprising, given the unalloyed
right-wing credentials of its main proponents. I'll confess that I did not
consciously set out to figure out why. "Why" clubbed me over the head as I
tried to comfort my five-year-old daughter who wondered why her mommy and
daddy were insisting she had to go to this place of torture and abuse called
a school.

But my experiences were similar to those of millions of other parents, who
have, in one way or another, confronted the reality that inner-city schools,
even the "best" ones, view their mission as breaking wild animals to a life
as beasts of burden. That's why you get these 50 and 60% majorities for an
idea whose visible advocates are the racist enemies of the Black and
Hispanic community and are opposed by most of the liberal "friends" of the

They do not necessarily think of it in the same terms I do. But one way or
another, they know the Atlanta schools, for example, are DENYING their
children the education other children are receiving at private schools or
"outside the perimeter", i.e., in the suburban counties that lie outside the
285 highway that surrounds the city core.


-----Original Message-----
From: Patrick Bond <pbond at>
To: marxism at <marxism at>
Date: Monday, August 02, 1999 1:23 AM
Subject: Re: Heresy: why I support school vouchers

I once studied with a progressive historian (probably the leading
critic of US turn-of-the-20th-c. education policy) who was quite
friendly to historical materialism, Michael Katz of U.Penn. He
surprised and disappointed me by endorsing vouchers. I don't know if
he's written about them. I doubt he'd have as nuanced a line as Jose.

But Jose, if you mean 100% vouchers, you mean free universal
public education (Michael Perelman's position). And if you
(correctly) attack liberals for fruitlessly throwing money at
structural problems associated with CLASS (overlaid with race)
segregation, you also have to get deep into US housing/neighbourhood
processes. That also means going after banks, developers and the real
estate industry. And ultimately, addressing territorial consciousness
amongst populations whose consciousness of community is being
ever distorted by communitarian, apartheidesque sentiment
(undergirded by a petit-bourgeois awareness of property valuation
which never fails to stun me).

A tall order for a popular education movement?

Patrick Bond
email:  pbond at * phone:  2711-614-8088
home:  51 Somerset Road, Kensington 2094 South Africa
work:  University of the Witwatersrand
Graduate School of Public and Development Management
PO Box 601, Wits 2050, South Africa
email:  bondp at
phone:  2711-488-5917 * fax:  2711-484-2729

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