All schools teach values
If vouchers go to religious schools, taxpayers will finance the teaching of values with which they may disagree. Tough luck, writes Eve Tushnet in Jewish World Review. All schools teach values of some sort. The question is whether parents can choose which set they want their kids to learn.
As a parlor game while I was writing this piece, I decided to see if I could list the ways my high school endorsed views I now find deeply wrong: the gay club (which I helped to start … sigh), the standard-issue Protestant propaganda in my European history class, the degrading sex ed. Don’t get me wrong — I got a great education there, and many of my teachers were simply stellar. Many of them challenged us to question the received wisdom of the leftist school community. But I have to admit that this often-admirable school promoted a lot of things I can’t abide.
The Supreme Court will decide whether the state of Washington can bar a student from using a state scholarship to study theology at a Christian college. If the court rules the ban is religious discrimination, states couldn’t bar parents from using vouchers to pay religious school tuition.
In public schools, taxpayer money directly funds the promotion of various moral beliefs, several of which (from gay clubs to abstinence-only education) offend many of the taxpayers. With vouchers, on the other hand, what we’re directly funding is parental choice in education. The government need not implicitly endorse any belief other than the basic beliefs that parents are generally the best directors of their children’s education and that taxpayer funds should be used to ensure that all children are educated. Via public schools, the government implicitly endorses a host of moral claims; via vouchers, only these two.
Think about it this way: We’d be outraged if food stamps couldn’t be used at kosher delis or halal shops. We understand, with food stamps, that the money is meant to provide choice–not unlimited choice (you’ve gotta use food stamps for food ), but a fairly wide array of choices. No one would complain that he was being asked to “fund religion” if he learned that a food-stamp recipient was shopping exclusively at a kosher market. We understand that we’re funding the broad category “food for the poor.”
As long as taxpayers are forced to fund education in general, some will be funding views and values which they find offensive or misguided, Tushnet argues.
After all, there are Americans offended by mass recitation of the pledge of allegiance and others offended if students don’t recite the pledge. That’s just the first 60 seconds of the school day.