card trickToday’s HT front-page story by Bethany Nolan detailing an informational meeting about the state’s expansive voucher program is titled “School Vouchers Praised for Adding Options,” while the online edition changes its title somewhat to “School Vouchers Praised for Broadening Educational Options”.  I won’t hold Nolan responsible for the variation, though it seems a questionable practice (which article is considered the article of “record”?); and I won’t hold the title itself against her as this is likely an editorial function.

The article quotes two women and a propagandist for the program, all who do indeed praise the “opportunity” for “options”–the propagandist for the advocacy group “School Choice Indiana” Monique Christensen is quoted as saying, “It’s wonderful to choose the best option for your child.” Did School Choice Indiana host the meeting?  The article doesn’t say.

These are interesting times, perhaps they’ve been “interesting” since Wilson Administration created an office dedicated to propaganda which had the further deleterious effect of seeding the advertising industry .  Words, words, words.  What can they mean?

School attendance is compulsory (though this can be got around via “home schooling”) and so NOT an option.  The state (in other words, the people, in other words, tax dollars) provides a public education.  Remember, the state plays the role of fiduciary–”guarding” our dollars and using them as stipulated by the constitution (both state and federal) and the laws enacted, said to conform to the tenets of those constitutions.  We, however, have little say in the functioning of this system of schools.  We surely do elect school board members but they appear to operate outside of the public sphere.

So, within this context (and with the way the economic world seems to be crumbling around about 90% of the citizens of the USA) we might ask what are our OPPORTUNITIES in education?  Well, there’s the public school system funded by public dollars which are charged with providing a common and equal education for the citizens.  Then there are private schools funded by private organizations.  These schools have no requirements as to how they offer “opportunity”; in other words they can restrict their enrollments as they see fit.  Note the contradiction if you imagine a business doing this today (after that lefty governmental intrusion called The Civil Rights Act):  “Whites Only” signs outside your school sound good?  But in effect, private schools can and do discriminate against people.  One might argue that this is private school’s entire reason for being (I won’t do so here).  They may not be discriminatory if they receive any form of public funding however–keep this in mind.

Parents can, then, send their children to public school, send them to private school (if they can pay for it AND if they are accepted), home school them, and perhaps, defy the law that requires compulsory school attendance.  Hey, you have options AND opportunities!

A commenter, “Rumpole”, at the HT online forum offers this for clarification:

To those who are puzzled why there is a lawsuit regarding the state’s decision to transfer $ from public schools to religious schools, try Sec 6, from article 1 of the Indiana Constitution:

Section 6. No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.

This is the reason the voucher program is being contested in court and in this AP report [truncated in print version] the state Solicitor General claims:

…that the voucher system does not conflict with Indiana law because the public scholarship money would go directly to parents to use at the approved schools of their choice, not directly to parochial schools.

In an earlier post about the Missouri Facebook ban, The Errant noted that lawmakers like laws that allow them to manufacture loopholes–here we see one in action.  The STATE is not funding religious education–the people are!  Done and done.

Anyway, that is not what the Errant is trying to highlight.  The court will rule and if it negates the law then perhaps the state will take the case to the SCOTUS. (It has to be somewhat amazing that the state, in charge of the system that it is claiming is failing, would rather abdicate its responsibilities rather than try to honor them.)

It’s the misleading term “choice”–a term that propagandists like to use in place of “freedom” or “liberty”.

So, after 700 words, the point: Voucher programs are not about equality of education.  They are not about opportunity in education.  They are not about offering a “better” education.

Voucher programs are a manifestation of “free market” ideologues.  As indicated above, the meeting at the MCPL was, if not hosted, led by the “advocacy” group School Choice Indiana.  This group offers itself as an extension of The Foundation for Educational Choice which is a group involved in school policy for the sole reason that schools are a massive market to which they would like to have unfettered access.

It is that simple.  A “philosophical” position of this group might be that “free markets” yield “better” living.  Of course, there is no way to offer an example of this as no market is ever “free”.

Plausibly this is the most onerous economic philosophy/political philosophy to have been hatched.  It has as its primary goal the undermining of all that is “communal” and “social”.  It is a philosophy of pure power as all of its tenets reduce down to management by the oligarchy (those most brilliant of market manipulators).  If you want a window into the soul of this “elite” manipulation of government funding check out the blog of this WalMart scholar in Arkansas.  (Don’t just read this entry–dance around in their ideology for a while.)

I might be inclined to join in the chorus that decries the kind of education we inflict on our children–it is often abhorrent to the majority of attendees as it replicates the society that has made it.  It becomes further corporatized and managerial as it forces “standards” testing on its inmates.   We encourage no act of independence or creativity and we continue to restrict funding for those pursuits that are the lifeblood of the creative soul–the arts.

What indeed is our industrial system of “education” producing (reproducing, as the economist might say)?  Canon fodder, consumption engines, and a servant class.  What else?

I can proclaim the failure of education as a failure of society generally; I can further state that the “fix” (and that’s what it is, as in “the fix is in”) proposed by the Free Market proponents of “choice” in education will make things even worse by simply seeing students as “marks”.

Obviously there is much more to say on this and we plan on saying it.

 

 

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Douglas Storm is a host and producer for Interchange on Bloomington, Indiana's community radio station WFHB. "Why then do you try to 'enlarge' your mind? Subtilize it..."

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  1. GOP Agenda Myths: Torts, and Schools, and Elections, Oh My! - August 18, 2011

    [...] Education reform (posted 8/12/11): create the measure that will advance the claim of failure; use the recession to make “tough” budget cuts seem necessary; implement broad voucher programs to transfer wealth from the general welfare to the private pockets of corporations and religious institutions. [...]

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