Choice solves the religious holiday clash

You can’t please everyone. When Muslim parents in Montgomery County, Maryland asked for days off for Muslim holidays, the school board eliminated all religious holidays from the school calendar. It turns out you can annoy everyone.

Religion isn’t the problem, writes Cato’s Neal McCluskey on Reason. Public schooling is the problem, he argues. Choice is the solution.

McCluskey advocates vouchers for each student, so funding follows the child. “Let parents choose schools that share their values, religion, views on math curricula — you name it.”

The people of Montgomery County are diverse, and a single system of schools for which they all must pay simply cannot treat them equally. Just look at the “solution” the board came up with: ending official recognition of Christian and Jewish holidays, but holidays like Christmas and Yom Kippur remaining days off because attendance would be too low to operate. Muslims, meanwhile, are too small a minority to greatly affect attendance, so the schools will still be open on their holidays.

. . .  Values-based conflagrations are constantly flaring up across the country, whether the flashpoint is school holidays, student prayer at graduations, reading Huckleberry Finn, the content of history curricula or myriad other matters.

Parental choice — funded by taxpayers — could improve social cohesion, he argues.

. . . some empirical research has shown more meaningful connections between students of different races in private than public schools, perhaps because choosing a school based on shared values or interests provides a bonding agent more powerful than the things that divide groups. Finally, research has suggested chosen schools are better than public schools at instilling basic American civic values like voting and tolerance of others.

It’s almost impossible to treat everyone equally within a single school system, McCluskey concludes. “To foster peace and real unity, educational freedom is key.”

Merry Christmas

I’m taking the day off to celebrate with family.  Well, not all the family. My mother, who made a near-miraculous recovery after her horrible fall last December, was supposed to join us for a week. She fell again last week  — it’s our Christmas tradition! — and had to stay home. My niece stayed with her and my sister drove down.  The rest of us are flying or driving down to see her tomorrow. (My nephew has to work, but that’s a near-miracle too.) I’ve decided to embrace the stress.

Anyhow, thank you for reading the blog, commenting and being part of the community of people who care about education and family issues. Happy holidays to all.