Monday, June 20, 2005

Two items

1. Classmate and good friend Leighton Moore has this op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

2. Check out Clint Bolick's online debate with Duke law professor Laura Underkuffler about school vouchers. The most striking thing is that no fewer than four times, Bolick made the point that "[a]t the post-secondary level, students are free to use their aid at public, private, or religious schools. Your school, Duke University, probably couldn't survive if students could not use Pell Grants, the G.I. Bill, and other public funds to attend." His next-to-last comment said:
I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record, but you have refused to engage my point that the millions of dollars in K-12 school choice funds pale in comparison to the billions of dollars in post-secondary school choice funds. Most private and religious universities like Duke would have to close their doors if they were excluded from Pell Grants, the G.I. Bill, and other voucher-style funds. Is your salary as a Duke law professor the result of money laundering? Lest you experience on onrush of guilt, I assure you I don't see it that way. Because, once again, the use of such public funds at Duke University, or at Brigham Young University, or at Bruce Guadaloupe School in Milwaukee, is the result of private, genuinely independent choices. Food stamps, Medicare, charitable tax deductions, subsidized mortgagesā€”it's all the same type of neutral aid, and in our free society we let individuals choose where to use it, even in religious institutions. Everywhere, that is, except in K-12 education.
Underkuffler still refused to address that point in her next comment. Finally, in Bolick's last comment, he said:
I await your final submission with baited breath to see if you can go an entire week without responding to my repeated challenge about how we can have a postsecondary education system characterized by transportable student aid and a flourishing private and public sector, while the same system in K-12 education would result in religious jihads and the demise of public schools.
In Underkuffler's final comment, she STILL refused to answer that point. (No wonder: There's no plausible or rational answer.)


Blogger John Thacker said...

You would think someone would at least make the argument that there's a difference between choices made by adults and those made for children. One could add to that by attempting to claim that K-12 education is about inculcating common culutural values and thus should be nearly identical for everything, whereas postsecondary education doesn't need to be. There are obvious nits to pick with those assertions, but it would be at least trying to respond.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that a number of states (a dozen or so?) bar theology and divinity students from receiving state financial aid (wasn't there a high-profile case in WA a couple years ago?), but that's not quite the same as barring financial aid to all students at accredited but religiously-affiliated colleges, which so far as I know no state does.

You're quite right, Stuart: there is no principled argument for treating K-12 any differently from college in this matter. (Or rather, no really good principled argument. The best try I've seen was the line that kids are easily indoctrinated, while college students can think for themselves. Not a claim I'd want put to an empirical test if I were the one making the argument . . .

Oh, and there as I'm previewing comes John Thacker saying essentially the same thing. I think I'm fated to be redundant today.

The problem with this line to me as John phrases it is that if we were serious about "inculcating common cultural values," we'd be making public-school attendance mandatory, rather than letting anyone who can afford it opt for private schools or homeschooling. (I have a sneaking suspicion that if a couple of cases involving private schooling hadn't been worked into Griswold as parts of the "right to privacy," there are not a few people who would try to do something of the kind.) As it is, you can opt out of the "common culture" as thoroughly as you like, providing only that you can pay for it.

3:41 PM  
Blogger karrde said...

There was one college in Hillsdale, Michigan which did attempt to fight with the Feds over the meaning of accepting students who paid with Federal grants.

Basically, some Federal law said that all students receiving Federal aid had to report certain things to the US Dept. of Education about the makeup of the student body. There were other bureaucratic things associated with the claim. Hillsdale College looked through their "incoming funds" list, and quickly said, "we don't receive any Federal money."

The US DOE replied with, "Your students use Federal grants to pay for their education at Hillsdale College, ergo you do receive Federal money. Send us the paperwork."

After many years in the court system, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the US DOE. So Hillsdale College decided not to accept students receiving any kind of government-based aid.

At any rate, government money for students hasn't come "no-strings-attached", as has already been noted. But it also hasn't ruined the system, as noted.

There may indeed be a need for more uniformity among primary/secondary schools than among universities and colleges. However, there is already a large level of voluntary uniformity between colleges/universities in a particular field, enforced by accreditation agencies and market pressure.

Is there any way to put similar pressure on elementary/secondary education?

12:01 PM  
Blogger Al Maviva said...

The best try I've seen was the line that kids are easily indoctrinated, while college students can think for themselves.

Parents are supposed to be able to indoctrinate their kids in a particular educational system, if they wish to do so. It's considered a fundamental right, per Sisters of Mercy.

12:35 PM  

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