The Tyranny of Vouchers
cuito61 at onebox.com
Tue Jul 30 14:10:12 MDT 2002
Published on Monday, July 29, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
The Tyranny of Vouchers
by Laurin Suiter
Whence it becomes expedient for promoting the public happiness that
those persons, whom nature hath endowed with genius and virtue, should
be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and able to guard
the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens...
it is better that such be sought for and educated at the common expense
Thomas Jefferson - A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge
I contemplate with sovereign reverence the act of the whole American
people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting
an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,
thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
Thomas Jefferson - Message to the Committee of the Danbury Baptist Association
The Sage of Monticello understood it clearly: there is a necessary relationship
between personal liberty and the availability of a free public education
for all, regardless of wealth or social class. Knowledge needs liberty
in order to thrive, and a knowledgeable public is necessary to forestall
endangerments to liberty.
The recent and regrettable decision by the United States Supreme Court,
to uphold a decision supporting a private school voucher program in Cleveland,
Ohio, is a two-tiered assault on liberty in the United States. The first
tier is the obvious First Amendment violation of the establishment clause
- so artfully described by Jefferson as a wall of separation between
church and state. The second tier is the assault on the public schools.
Private school voucher programs, used most often to publicly subsidize
private and usually religious-based education, severely undermine the
public school system in our republic.
Entropy in the public school system is widely believed to have begun
with the property-tax revolts fashionable in the 1970s. California,
with its tradition of trend-setting in all matters cultural and political,
led the way with Proposition 13 in 1978. Because of public schools dependence
on local taxation, especially when tied into property values, there have
been increasingly disturbing inequalities in the system and added resistance
to reform. The American Class Divide, long taboo to mention in public
discourse, is reinforced and growing larger. The poor and lower-middle
class children are denied the education they deserve because their schools
do not easily foster achievement and success, and the better-off get
the best funding, the best facilities, and the most opportunities for
their future. Upward social mobility, especially achieved through quality
education, was long a staple of the American Dream, and is now passing
into near-mythical status. Lowered expectations and the hope of just
getting by have become an acceptable replacement for this fading ideal.
This is intolerable. [...]
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