September 28th, 2007

Weighing in on the Utah Voucher Program


photo credit: Flavs Paradise

Perhaps the most divisive political topic in Utah over the past few months has been the issue of state-sponsored educational vouchers. Lawmakers, organizations, reporters, and bloggers have all been sounding off in an attempt to sway voters to their side. In the commotion, facts have been glossed over, propaganda has been hyped up, money has been thrown at advertising both sides, and people on both sides have dug in their heels for the upcoming battle at the ballot in November.

But which side is right? Should Utahns pass the voucher bill this fall or not?

The basic facts of the voucher program are as follows:

  • Under this program, Utah families would receive anywhere from $500 to $3,000 per year per child to subsidize private school tuition. The amount depends on the family’s income.
  • For each child who leaves the public school system, the public school that child would normally attend would still receive funds (“mitigation money”) for that child for the next five years (unless he/she graduates or returns to public school).
  • Private schools wishing to accept voucher money must meet certain requirements established by state law and apply to the Utah State Office of Education for eligibility.

The basic arguments are as follows:

  • For: Those favoring the vouchers claim that the voucher program would allow parents to have more choice in education, using the money to help fund tuition for their children in a private school.
  • Against: Those opposing the vouchers say that they waste state funds, divert money from public schools, and mix state government with private entities through subsidies and oversight.

So again, who is right? Surely this isn’t just a matter of public opinion; are there principles to be observed in this debacle upon which we may make a correct decision?

A moral case for vouchers

Back in April there was an opinion piece in the Daily Herald titled “The moral case for vouchers”. The premise was that the government has every right to use public funds for private endeavors. The author demonstrated how opponents of the vouchers errantly believe that the public educational system is to have exclusive rights in receiving money for education:

That money is committed whether the public purpose is accomplished by public or private means. The only thing that should matter to taxpayers is that the purpose is accomplished.

Voucher opponents, though, would have you believe that the state has no obligation to fund anything but a public system. We disagree. There is no case, for example, that private schools have failed to accomplish the public purpose of educating students. If anything, they have proved themselves superior to the public system.

The moral case for vouchers exists in the fact that the money ultimately belongs to “We the People”. It is, then, immoral for bureaucrats to sponsor one child at the expense of another, or grant funds to one educational entity while denying it to another. Granted, there are many factors involved in determining how and to whom the funds should be allocated, but the simple fact exists that we the taxpayers fund the education of our children. Demanding that one family fund the education of your child while also paying private school tuition for his own is absurd, and accurately reflects the socialist mentality that many have.

NEA vs. the children

One argument made by the voucher’s opponents is that it’s not “in the children’s best interests”. The argument relies on the assumption that your child will receive a better education in public school—from “professionals” with “accountability”—than they will in another system. Thus, a vote for vouchers is a vote against a child’s interests.

Who is it that dares to assume what the interests are of every child in Utah (or in the nation)? It is none other than the National Education Association, that bastion of liberalism disguised in a “we’re fighting for you!” cloak. This is, after all, the organization that

gave away more than $65 million last year to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Amnesty International, AIDS Walk Washington and dozens of other such advocacy groups… (via)

The biggest financial backer of the anti-voucher camp is the largest educational labor union in the nation. Anxious to keep their strangehold on public schools in Utah, the NEA described on their website in March the oh-so-noble attempts of certain organizations to rally together and raise funds to “counter the deep pockets” of those favoring the vouchers:

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on March 2, “Other referendum sponsors include a former legislator and leaders of the Utah PTA, the Utah State Board of Education, the Utah School Boards Association and the NAACP.”

According to the newspaper, “The petitioners hope the long arms of these groups will be able to counter the deep pockets of Parents for Choice in Education, which sank roughly $500,000 into political campaigns for voucher supporters last year.”

What NEA doesn’t want you to know is that they themselves have now donated at least $1.5 million towards the anti-voucher cause, overshadowing the “roughly $500,000″ drop in the bucket they had commented upon.

Hypocrisy? Deceptive scheming? Who knows. The voucher’s opposition boils down to one element: unionism. Consisting entirely of economic bullyism, labor unions use their might to suppress opposition (as the NEA has done repeatedly in several states). A sure-tell sign of any monopoly is its active role in beating down any attempt at competition or mindshare.

And so while the anti-voucher crowd claims to be fighting “for the children’s best interest”, it’s entirely evident using the basic journalistic approach of “following the money” that the real interests are those of the NEA and its sister organizations (including the Utah Education Association).

On accountability

Another argument against vouchers is that private schools “will not be held accountable” to the same standards that the public schools are. I would argue that not being held accountable to follow certain government policies is actually quite beneficial to the education of our children!

The most important part of the “accountability” argument is determining who is accountable for what to whom?

Because of unions, public school teachers enjoy quite a bit of job security. Private school teachers, like most of the private job sector, have to perform on the job in order to retain employment. They indeed are held accountable for their actions, for if they perform poorly, they are let go. Public school teachers, however, are hardly held accountable for their performance, thus lowering the bar on teacher quality and excellence, despite any diplomas or schooling to the contrary.

But what are the teachers accountable for? For the grades their students receive? For their adherence to a predetermined curriculum? Rather, in the public education system it is the school itself that is supposedly accountable&#8212to the government—for its actions. The problem with this situation is that systems and organizations can never have accountability—only individuals can.

Public schools are mainly held accountable in assuring that they spend tax dollars in accordance with laws and guidelines produced by the state legislature, the Office of Education, and their local school district.
Really, they’re only accountable to making sure that they spend tax dollars in accordance to guidelines produced by the Legislature, the state office of education, and their local school district.

Voucher opponents might argue that schools are held accountable through test scores and achievement benchmarks. The main problem with a numbers-based accountability system is that the numbers can be manipulated. Whether through intentional manipulation or the lowering of the standards to boost the favorable numbers, the effect is the same. Statistics regarding the education of your child mean very little.

Lastly, to whom are the schools accountable? In our public educational system, the schools report to their districts, the state legislature, and the Office of Education. In other words, the schools are not accountable to the parents. One might argue that parents can run for the school board and hence make their voice heard, but this is a petty argument since there is very little representation. Conversely, private schools are entirely and directly accountable to the parents, the chief deciders regarding the education of their child. The Utah Rattler summed up this fact quite eloquently:

The anti-voucher side is well funded by the NEA (National Education Association), and has blown some of the money on ads trying to tell people that private schools are not accountable. Implicit in the ads, however, is that the NEA and anti-voucher groups do not believe that parents have the sense to place their children in the most appropriate school. They indicate that parents are incapable of making the right decision for their child.

Further, if the private school fails to satisfy the parents, what will happen? Tough accountability – the money and child shift to another school (public or private). The school will know they failed when they see the “pay cut” and poor performing private schools will, ultimately, go belly up.

Additionally, most private schools participate in accreditation programs as well as auditing procedures. Again, parents are not going to blindly and stupidly shove their kids in any old school to use a voucher, especially when they are still going to have to sacrifice and pony-up some money themselves. Parents, in my estimation, are the best accreditor and auditor of their child’s eduction. The first hand view of their child’s educational progress/results trumps any auditor’s matrix or spreadsheet.

Long story short – I place my trust in parents knowing what is best for their individual children, not me, nor government entities or professional organizations based in Salt Lake City or Washington DC.

For far too long parents have embraced the tendency to delegate their responsibility to educate their children, assigning such duties to “professionals” who determine what and how and when your children should learn. The NEA and its anti-voucher affiliates think that parents are complete morons who are unable to intelligently decide what school their child should attend, and why. I hope they are not right.

Lack of competition leads to lack of innovation

In a comment left by Common Sense for Utah on this blog post, the following argument is given:

The public sector feels no such pressure to innovate or provide a good service because they are shielded from the economic effects of providing a poor product. For years they have provided a product ever lessening in quality and asking for more money to solve the problem.

The mere existence of vouchers and the school choice movement is creating some political pressure to change the public school system. This is all for the good.

This is evolution. Change or die.

Regardless of your background or opinion, this is a true statement. Programs protected and guaranteed by legislation and government funding feel no impetus to excel nor reason to improve. Whereas mistakes in the private sector are swiftly punished through consumer action, those committed by government-backed institutions (in this case, public schools) are excused, subsidized, or ignored.

Imagine a world where Microsoft held a true monopoly and competition was prohibited. Would they have any reason to improve their product? Would there exist any competitors (such as Apple) from whom they could steal ideas and seek inspiration? Would they fear losing your business if it was mandated that you buy their product?

As noted above, monopolies (whether true monopolies or partial ones) fear losing power, and will actively labor to suppress competition. As Lord Acton once noted, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

In a free market, businesses (including private schools) constantly feel the exigency to excel. If they don’t, somebody else will come along and beat them at their own game, thus taking away their business as the customers will be free to come and go as they see fit. But when the government mandates where you should go, how you should spend your money, and makes it very difficult to choose otherwise, the consumer will throw up their hands in frustration and simply do what is easiest.

The benefit of choice

The importance of choice—a primary element in a free market—cannot be overemphasized. An efficient educational system would be one where schools compete for children, not the other way around. Were parents to have the same economic incentive to put their child in a private school as they do a public one, one wonders what leaps and bounds of progress the public school system would make. Instead, they lay idle, coddled by the arm of police power to enforce enrollment and enjoying the economic security of the state and national coffers.

Parents are often prone to blame the current system for failures and shortcomings. They feel they have little option in schooling their children, for it is in many cases too cost prohibitive to pay for private school tuition while still funding the education of their neighbors’ children. But if the system were imbued with competition, and the parents given absolute choice, the blame for a broken system would lay squarely at the parents’ feet, for they chose to willingly participate in that school.

Choice leads to stewardship, and stewardship leads to true accountability. Parents must be given absolute choice regarding the education of their children. Thus, the government should enable parents to have the necessary resources at their disposal to choose the education that they themselves feel is best suited for their own children.

Diversity and central planning

Like herders grouping everybody into one collective, anti-voucher groups demand that public school is the best system of education for children in America. If they had it their way, all children would conform to this system, whose educational standards and policies are dictated by an elite few.

The problem here is that a public school system will never speak to the needs of all of Utah’s children. Ever. One size never fits all. This is the beauty of the Constitution—power was pulled down from a central executive wherever possible, with the understanding that power is best controlled, disseminated, and implemented at a local level, where it can be customized and differentiated based on the needs and desires of the community.

Centralized planning does not work. Why should Utah children be educated the exact same way as children in Alabama? Who is to say that there is one right system for everybody? Does public schooling hold a monopoly on truth and efficiency?

Different children have different needs, desires, and educational interests. Central planning and uniform education standards will never adequately satisfy the needs of individual children of differing abilities and interests.

Propaganda suppresses facts

Both sides of the voucher issue have been heavily advertising their stance, primarily using brief bullet points and vague sound bytes to state their case. Some examples of commercials being used by both camps can be found here:

Obscuring facts and guiding the minds of voters is part and parcel of propaganda. Edward Bernays, father of modern propaganda, once noted:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate the organized habits and opinions of the masses constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of the country….It remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons….It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.

Potential voters who base their opinions and decisions on commercials and advertisements of either camp do a disservice not only to themselves but to our children. On an issue as important as this, one would hope that parents would ignore the media blitz from either side and seriously ponder the legitimate arguments being made by those both for and against vouchers.

Whose money is it?

The Daily Herald article above addresses the question regarding just whose money is being used for our children’s education:

Whose money is it? Or, put another way, do tax dollars properly adhere to the individual student for whom education is compulsory, or does it “belong” to the public school bureaucracy?

Fairness requires that government money follow a student to any institution that can deliver an education at least as good as what the state provides. The logic is simple: Education is a public purpose, and it is compulsory. The state is committed to a dollar value for every child of student age to accomplish that public purpose. If the public purpose that compels compliance can be accomplished through a legal alternative, then refusing to pay for that alternative is inherently unfair. It constitutes a form of theft.

In short, if the state pays for the education of one student, it must pay for all.

It is important, when discussing government funding, to understand that there is no such thing as “government money”. Frederic Bastiat described where the funds originate:

You say: “There are persons who have no money,” and you turn to the law. But the law is not a breast that fills itself with milk. Nor are the lacteal veins of the law supplied with milk from a source outside the society. Nothing can enter the public treasury for the benefit of one citizen or one class unless other citizens and other classes have been forced to send it in. If every person draws from the treasury the amount that he has put in it, it is true that the law then plunders nobody. But this procedure does nothing for the persons who have no money. It does not promote equality of income. The law can be an instrument of equalization only as it takes from some persons and gives to other persons. When the law does this, it is an instrument of plunder.

Parents are being robbed when upon choosing to enroll their child in a private school they are required to fund the education of their neighbors’ children. As the Daily Herald article mentioned, the money should follow the child, regardless of the educational institution chosen by the parents.

The “mitigation money” promised by the current voucher law to schools losing pupils is completely absurd, a waste of taxpayer money, and socialism at its finest. The failure of public schools to attract and retain customers—their pupils, through guardianship of their parents—should not be subsidized and secured through legalized plunder.

Government money equals government intrusion

Whatever the government funds, it regulates. There is no public money given without legislative oversight. By accepting voucher money, private schools will have to meet government requirements. They therefore lose autonomy and must change to comply with the dictates of a governing board with which they were not previously affiliated.

This is another downside of the proposed voucher system: the government dictates what schools parents will be able to choose, based on those that meet its approval. As this Salt Lake Tribune article points out, some private schools are wary of such oversight:

But Challenger schools – a network of 21 schools in four states – will not accept vouchers at six Utah campuses. Its leaders have philosophical concerns with Utah’s law but also worry Utah’s voucher program may lead to increased state and federal oversight of private schools.

“The thing that worries us is over time, government regulators like to regulate more, not less,” said Clint Kirry, Challenger’s Utah marketing manager. “Until we see how it’s gonna shake out, we’re really reticent to accept [vouchers].”

Mr. Kirry is correct, in that regulation will only increase over time.

Conclusion

Vouchers are a good thing, but Utah’s implementation of the voucher system is not without its flaws. While I support vouchers in theory, and will throw my weight behind any measure that provides more choice for parents and less monopoly for public schools and their labor unions, there are certainly drawback to the proposed implementation.

74 Responses to “Weighing in on the Utah Voucher Program”

  1. rmwarnick
    September 28, 2007 at 10:12 am #

    You left out the fact that vouchers violate the Utah Constitution. Also that Utah is being asked to be the laboratory for a national right-wing experiment rejected everywhere else, at our own expense!

    Isn’t it ironic that the far right is pushing an entitlement program for the rich and middle class? (No children of poor families are going to go to private school with a $3,000 voucher).

  2. Connor
    September 28, 2007 at 10:17 am #

    You left out the fact that vouchers violate the Utah Constitution.

    How so?

    Also that Utah is being asked to be the laboratory for a national right-wing experiment rejected everywhere else, at our own expense!

    Asked by whom?

    Isn’t it ironic that the far right is pushing an entitlement program for the rich and middle class? (No children of poor families are going to go to private school with a $3,000 voucher).

    With government intervention, prices inevitably rise (e.g. health care). In a free market, prices go down (e.g. technology). If we truly open up the educational system and allow free competition, prices will drop significantly. There will be more incentive for private entities to compete in the system and attract pupils.

    It’s basic supply and demand. When the supply (pupils) is low, the prices are high to cover costs. Were the system opened up and private schools allowed to truly compete, the supply would significantly increase, thus dropping prices across the board.

    And so, the excuse that vouchers are “for the rich and middle class” is a weak one in my opinion. Right now, yes, that’s the case. But if we are truly able to alter the system and allow the money to follow the children to a school of their parents’ choice, families across the economic spectrum in Utah will realistically be able to take advantage of alternative education.

  3. Jeremy
    September 28, 2007 at 10:26 am #

    Here is conservative Utah radio talker Bob Lonsberry on this topic. He made a lot of good points about why this voucher plan (he originally wrote this about tuition tax credits but the argument applies equally to vouchers) is neither conservative nor moral.

  4. Connor
    September 28, 2007 at 10:32 am #

    I rarely agree with Lonsberry, and I disagree that he is a conservative. One place he goes wrong in his article is here:

    Public education makes better voters, better citizens, better employees, better leaders, a more prosperous community, more capable taxpayers and a more stable and law-abiding society.

    Without any statistics or evidence to back up this assertion, he claims what is not true. Jacob Hornberger refutes Lonsberry’s assertion here.

    Government-run entities rarely, if ever, make “better” voters, citizens, employees, and leaders than do private institutions and personal endeavors. Any organization relying on force cannot inspire one to excel.

  5. Dan
    September 28, 2007 at 10:35 am #

    Connor,

    With government intervention, prices inevitably rise (e.g. health care). In a free market, prices go down (e.g. technology).

    WIth government intervention, prices inevitably decline (e.g. the breakup of monopolies, etc). In a free market, prices inevitably rise (e.g. oil industry).

    Sorry dude, but government intervention does not always equate to a rise in prices, nor does a free market always equate with the lowering of prices. I know you really really really love capitalism, but it’s got some seriously major flaws.

    If we truly open up the educational system and allow free competition, prices will drop significantly.

    And just what do you base this on? A revelation? No, the prices will not drop, and certainly not significantly. In fact, prices will go up, and you’ll get the rich continuing to get the higher education and the poor left behind.

    Besides, isn’t a “voucher” money from the government? From taxes? How do you actually get education to be government free and still ensure that the poor get the same opportunity of quality education as the rich? You can’t. That’s not how capitalism works. Never was, and never will be. Capitalism is cold and heartless. It doesn’t care about the poor.

  6. Dan
    September 28, 2007 at 10:37 am #

    Connor,

    Government-run entities rarely, if ever, make “better” voters, citizens, employees, and leaders than do private institutions and personal endeavors. Any organization relying on force cannot inspire one to excel.

    Here you deride Lonsberry for supposedly making a fact-less assertion and then you make this fact-less assertion. Tell me, Connor, where did you get your education?

  7. Connor
    September 28, 2007 at 10:47 am #

    Sorry dude, but government intervention does not always equate to a rise in prices, nor does a free market always equate with the lowering of prices. I know you really really really love capitalism, but it’s got some seriously major flaws.

    The main flaws of capitalism lie in the propensity of government to interfere. Claiming we have a “free market”, government constantly intervenes, setting price caps, minimum wage, tariffs, and a slew of other economic policies designed to “break up monopolies” and “encourage free trade”. The only capitalism that has flaws is the pseudo-capitalism where government is intervening behind the scenes to muck it up, and where unprincipled individuals use their power to lobby for exclusivity and unfair treatment by government officials.

    No, the prices will not drop, and certainly not significantly. In fact, prices will go up, and you’ll get the rich continuing to get the higher education and the poor left behind.

    What do you base this on? A revelation?

    Besides, isn’t a “voucher” money from the government?

    Read the Bastiat quote above. The money originated from the individual family, and as such should be apportioned to pay for the education of their child, not the collective.

    What right does government have to determine that education be equal for all persons? Since when was government intended to be the breadwinner and provider of social stability? This is not the proper responsibility of a sound government, and as such, should be rejected.

    Here you deride Lonsberry for supposedly making a fact-less assertion and then you make this fact-less assertion.

    I provided a link to a response by other individual, whose article I was summarizing with my statements.

    Tell me, Connor, where did you get your education?

    Public school. And I disliked it quite a bit.

    Why does this matter? Are you attempting to paint me a hypocrite? Is a former slave a hypocrite for speaking out against slavery? Is a woman who was abused by her husband unable to speak out against it once freed?

    I didn’t know at the time how poor my education was, and had little (if any) choice in the matter. But having seen the light, I’m actively opposing it and looking for alternative options to what I see as an inefficient, broken system.

  8. rmwarnick
    September 28, 2007 at 11:05 am #

    Utah Constitution Art. I, Sec. 4 provides:
    “No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or for the support of any ecclesiastical establishment.”

    A detailed analysis can be found here (PDF). Utah taxpayers will be stuck with the legal bills if the voucher bill becomes law and the state gets sued.

    Who is asking Utah to be the laboratory for their little privatization experiment? Ever heard of PCE?

  9. Connor
    September 28, 2007 at 11:44 am #

    rmwarnick,

    Thanks for the reference. Are there not private schools in Utah that would not fall under this category? Based on this Constitutional provision, could not the Office of Education refuse to approve, under the voucher program, any educational institution that would fall under this section?

  10. Jesse Harris
    September 28, 2007 at 11:55 am #

    Connor: I feel that the constitutionality question has been pretty well decided. Read for yourself.

  11. Connor
    September 28, 2007 at 11:59 am #

    Thanks Jesse. I agree, the Constitutionality argument is a fairly weak one, attempting to use a few LDS-oriented private schools to defeat the entire option.

  12. rmwarnick
    September 28, 2007 at 12:04 pm #

    According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s 14 Catholic schools account for about a third of the state’s 16,000 private school students. I don’t know how many are in other religious schools, but the national average is 85 percent.

    The constitutional question is not decided until it’s decided. Instead of passing another unconstitutional law, why not try to amend the constitution first?

  13. Jesse Harris
    September 28, 2007 at 12:06 pm #

    Amending the Constitution to codify a Supreme Court decision seems unnecessary to me. It would be like requiring an amendment for the right to privacy instead of relying on the Supreme Court decisions elaborating that the right already exists.

  14. Connor
    September 28, 2007 at 12:11 pm #

    rmwarnick,

    Would not this Constitutional provision be broken every time a teacher mentions the Bible, Christianity, or instructs their students on the various modes of religious worship by other countries?

    To argue that the use of religious material constitutes an endorsement of religion or “religious worship” is fairly sketchy. If a private school chooses to include the Bible as one of its required books for students to read, is that religious instruction? Is the teacher pontificating on various doctrinal points and teaching them for the belief of the students?

    To be sure, many private schools have a religious element. But so did schools throughout the nation two hundred years ago, where the Bible was highly regarded as a primary source of literature, language, and cultural instruction.

    Indeed, the complete exclusion of religious material is in a way teaching a religion of secularism itself. David Barton demonstrates this extensively in his excellent book Original Intent. Allowing religiously-oriented material into our schools as another educational asset does not necessarily endorse any religion, nor mandate instruction in its doctrines and precepts.

  15. rmwarnick
    September 28, 2007 at 12:17 pm #

    Can teacher appropriate public money for religious schools? Only if they are in the legislature. The First Amendment protects speech and freedom of religion, you know. At least, that’s what I learned in school!

  16. Carissa
    September 28, 2007 at 2:28 pm #

    How about instead of vouchers, a third option

  17. Carissa
    September 28, 2007 at 2:45 pm #

    Vouchers offer the appearance of a free market, but since the funding would still have to pass through the hands of the government before getting back to the students… well, ultimately the government still ends up being in control of how those funds can be used.

  18. Connor
    September 28, 2007 at 2:49 pm #

    Vouchers offer the appearance of a free market, but since the funding would still have to pass through the hands of the government before getting back to the students… well, ultimately the government still ends up being in control of how those funds can be used.

    Good point, Carissa. Vouchers don’t create a free market, they create a freer market than the one we currently have. :)

    It might be nice to cancel all property taxes going to public education, and instead have parents pay tuition fees for whichever school their child attends. If they choose a “public” school, they then have to pay the corresponding tuition that would have come from their property tax. If they choose a private school (or homeschool, etc.) the money is theirs to use as they please.

    Novel concept.. you know, people getting to use the fruit of their labors as they see fit. :-P

  19. Carissa
    September 28, 2007 at 3:48 pm #

    they create a freer market than the one we currently have

    True, at least for the short term. I really do sympathize with the desire for parents to have more choice (without the extra expense). But I wonder… over time, if vouchers could become a tool for further government control into all forms of education in this country. At least right now, private schools and homeschoolers have a great deal of freedom and independence to do things the way they want to.

    Brigham Young was extremely wise when he discouraged “free” education by way of taxation. Look at the mess it has gotten us into. Unfortunately, issuing vouchers doesn’t strike at the root of the problem, and may (in disguise) extend it. That is my worry.

  20. Carissa
    September 28, 2007 at 4:00 pm #

    Here’s an interesting article that compares the voucher program to an extension of the welfare system.

  21. Carissa
    September 28, 2007 at 5:17 pm #

    On the topic of society’s moral obligation to provide education…

    The Lonsberry article said this:

    That’s the reasoning the nation’s founders used as they argued for communitywide taxes to support public schools. School taxes are not tuition, they are your share of the costs for the educated society that sustains and protects you.

    What he doesn’t mention here is that originally, taxes were only used to pay for the land/building for public schools, not their continued maintenance and support as is the case today (parents used to pay tuition). This simply encouraged and made it easier for the communities to establish their own local schools. So far, so good.

    In the early days of our nation:
    “schools were publicly supplied, but not free”

    “The Land Ordinance of 1785 established a mechanism for funding public education in the United States. Until at least the 1840s, however, most schools continued to be privately owned and operated”

    “Education reformers such as Horace Mann, helped jump start the common school movement. In 1837, Mann became the first Secretary of the Board of Education for Massachusetts. Mann was at the forefront in promoting the institution of common schools. His influence on education in Massachusetts soon spread to the U.S. as a whole. By 1870, all states provided free elementary schooling.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_education

    The gradual change from being partially tax-funded to completely tax-funded has completely transformed our public schools over the years and brought many problems (such as loss of much local and parental control) that weren’t originally in “the program”. I can’t imagine that our nation’s founders would be content with the situation we have today– it is drastically different.

  22. Jeff
    September 28, 2007 at 11:51 pm #

    As a teacher, new-found believer in free market capitalism, and card-carrying NEA and UEA member, I feel somewhat qualified to opine on this issue. I’m still trying to digest this discussion (which I find quite reasoned and fair on both sides), so this might be a little garbled.

    First, this issue is extremely complex, and both sides are over-simplifying it to try to fit it in sound bites or blog posts. The politics, ethics, and consequences involved are enormous.

    Second, I agree with Carissa when she says:

    Vouchers offer the appearance of a free market, but since the funding would still have to pass through the hands of the government before getting back to the students… well, ultimately the government still ends up being in control of how those funds can be used.

    and, I disagree vehemently with Connor’s response that

    Vouchers don’t create a free market, they create a freer market than the one we currently have.

    I think that the opposite is true. Vouchers will create a more socialist bend to public ed by making private schools into quasi-public ones, receiving public funding and–as Connor noted–public regulation. This can’t be a step-by-step process. If education is to be deregulated, the taxes collected to fund public ed must be given back to the taxpayers, and education must become funded wholly by the people. If not, vouchers or another program like it, will only add to the regulations and impositions of the Federal government on parents, student, and (even though Connor might have a hard time believing this) teachers.

    Third, Federal government regulation of school sucks. It sucks for administration, teachers, students, and parents alike. Like any government bureaucracy, public schools are mired in red tape, ridiculous policies, irrational and underfunded expectations (underfunded, of course, because the bulk of the money goes to the people at the top, most of whom have never been in a classroom), useless standardized tests, and lousy parental involvement. Everyone is frustrated by the system, but no one is willing to take radical measures to change it. If we decide to deregulate it (which I believe we should do), it’s an all or nothing proposition. There are no baby steps because government sponsored deregulation (ie. vouchers) is just increased government control that will turn private schools with all their virtues into public schools with all their vices.

    Fourth, students aren’t really products, so it is difficult to apply the free-market system to them. However, I’m not sure that there is a better alternative.

    Fifth, unions aren’t the enemy of a free market. Workers should have the right to assemble and protect themselves. While I don’t agree with much of what the NEA does, I belong to the organization because my family and I need the protection in our litigious society. Unions would function well in a free market; unfortunately, we don’t have one, so unions often have problems. That being said, I have a problem with the “liberal” NEA being blamed for the problems in public ed. While they should definitely shoulder some of the blame, the policy makers who have written bad policy that was doomed from its inception should shoulder the bulk of it.

    Finally, I wish that every discussion about this didn’t turn to the “teachers aren’t motivated to succeed” line. That’s crap. I don’t know one teacher in my district that doesn’t want to succeed and help students. I don’t know one teacher who has low expectations. Teachers work their asses off to try and help students be educated, know how to think, and make a positive impact on society. I’m sick of being blamed for bad policy and of hearing teachers being denigrated because the federal government is too stupid to make the system better. So, when I read statements like

    Because of unions, public school teachers enjoy quite a bit of job security. Private school teachers, like most of the private job sector, have to perform on the job in order to retain employment. They indeed are held accountable for their actions, for if they perform poorly, they are let go. Public school teachers, however, are hardly held accountable for their performance, thus lowering the bar on teacher quality and excellence, despite any diplomas or schooling to the contrary.

    I’m instantly defensive, and I instantly find the flaws in it. My biggest problem with it is that you don’t offer evidence for it. I replaced a teacher who was fired for incompetence, and I know several others who have met the same fate. Are there bad teachers? Yes. However, the system isn’t inundated with them as your backhanded insult would suggest. Most teachers work hard, have high expectations, and do their jobs the best that they can in a broken system. We’re all frustrated by the problems that we see, and we think we have ways to fix them. The problem is that very few people listen to the people who are actually in the classroom. /soapbox :)

    I’ll probably have more to say on this. Thanks for opening up the dialog.

  23. Jeff
    September 28, 2007 at 11:59 pm #

    I just reread and realized I sounded a tad unhinged at the end of that last comment. Please don’t mistake my passion for lunacy. :)

  24. Carissa
    September 29, 2007 at 6:33 am #

    If education is to be deregulated, the taxes collected to fund public ed must be given back to the taxpayers, and education must become funded wholly by the people.

    Everyone is frustrated by the system, but no one is willing to take radical measures to change it. If we decide to deregulate it (which I believe we should do), it’s an all or nothing proposition.

    Yes! This is the solution. The only way for the people, themselves, to have more real choice, influence, and responsibility in the education of their own children is for them to directly fund the schools. Unfortunately, not many people see this idea as anything but “extreme”. Well, if that’s what it is, maybe it’s time for something extreme.

  25. Frank Staheli
    September 29, 2007 at 8:26 am #

    Government empowers those to want to resist change. While market systems improve, government systems tend to stagnate. Government is generally adverse to innovations which lead to improvement. This is the main reason that I think we need to try vouchers. The other is choice.

    Vouchers are NOT Unconstitutional and, based on the Ohio case, will not (at least very successfully) be challenged. If they are, it will be interesting to see just where that challenge comes from..I can only speculate. ;-)

    Vouchers have NOT failed everywhere else. In fact they are wildly successful where they have been given the freedom to be tried. The difference about Utah is that they have never been given shrift on a statewide basis.

    Other than this the main sticking point (and current problem) is how public schools can continue to be funded in the long run in light of vouchers. I believe in the goodwill of the Legislature to fix this problem, which good faith they demonstrated in the last session.

    I will vote FOR vouchers.

  26. Jeff
    September 29, 2007 at 9:07 am #

    Vouchers have NOT failed everywhere else. In fact they are wildly successful where they have been given the freedom to be tried.

    And where might that be? Do you have examples to back that up?

  27. Travis Gibby
    September 30, 2007 at 8:06 pm #

    Hello everyone,

    As rmwarnick already mentioned. The proposed voucher program clearly violates the Utah Constitution which forbids the use of taxpayer money on religious schools:

    Article X, Section 9

    Neither the state of Utah nor its political subdivisions may make any appropriation for the direct support of any school or educational institution controlled by any religious organization

    This is a very important to me because I am a secular humanist, which means that I believe that morality should be based upon love for each other and the power to reason which we all possess, instead of the claimed authority of religious institutions or ancient books. Many religious schools teach prejudice toward homosexuals and religious minorities. Many religious schools substitute theology for science. I respect the right of religious schools right to teach these things. All that I ask is that the government does not make me, or the countless other religious and nonreligious Utahans who are opposed to these ideas, fund the promotion of them.

    I don’t know about the voucher program in Ohio, but I do know that Utah’s state constitution is very specific about how tax money can be spent, and there is no requirement in the proposed voucher program that schools be secular. It seems pretty irrefutable to me.

    Also, Connor asked if a teacher teaches about religious beliefs and practices in the context of say a history class or something of that nature, if that shouldn’t be considered unconstitutional as well. The answer is no it should not and for one very simple reason. There is a big difference between teaching what others believe in the context of history and endorsing that belief system. That children are taught about Greek mythology in school does not imply that the school places any truth value in Greek mythology.

    I hope that if you are reading this message I hope that you will vote against the voucher program. It’s up to us to make sure private schools stay privately funded.

  28. Connor
    September 30, 2007 at 10:10 pm #

    Travis,

    The section you cite cannot be accurately compared to this voucher situatio. For example, how does one classify “direct support”? The voucher money would go to subsidize tuition for an individual child, not finance construction, conduct operations, or pay for materials for the school itself. One might argue that the tuition money being paid ultimately goes to that pursuits, but I would counter that that constitutes indirect support.

    Furthermore, the LDS-oriented private schools are not “controlled by any religious organization.” I do not know to what extent the Catholic ones are controlled by the church itself, so I cannot opine there. But this section seems to not apply to any private school desiring to teach religous principles, so long as it is not done under the purview of a church.

    While you argue that many religious schools teach prejudice towards homosexuals, one might counter that public schools endorse tolerance, acceptance, and condonation or such behavior. In his book Original Intent, David Barton argued:

    Consider the difficulty of maintaining this government neutrality when atheism and secular humanism are considered religions [as recent Court cases have stated]. For example, courts prohibit the inclusion of religious activities in schools because the presence of a religious activity constitutes an endorsement of religion; however, if religious activities are excluded, then nonreligion has been given preference and thus is being endorsed. Therefore, since either religion or nonreligion will be endorsed by its presence, how can “neutrality” and “no favoritism” be maintained under such standards?

    And so while you demand not having to “fund the promotion of [religious ideas]“, you are asking that those who disagree fund a school setting where opposing values are endorsed and promoted. This seems to be a double standard.

    Regardless of claims of “neutrality” in school, aiming to create a setting void of religion, schools inevitably teach their pupils—intentionally or otherwise—what is acceptable and what is not. By refusing to discuss Christianity while passing out “gay day” buttons and ribbons (as some teachers at my alma mater high school have done several times), schools do indeed teach a set of morals through what they choose to teach.

    If you like an environment void of religion that promotes homosexuality, then feel free to enroll your child in a public school. But that is a set of morals I do not wish for my own child, and as such, feel that my tax money used for education should follow my child to the institution of my choosing where a set of morals I approve of is being taught.

  29. Jeff
    September 30, 2007 at 11:00 pm #

    While you argue that many religious schools teach prejudice towards homosexuals, one might counter that public schools endorse tolerance, acceptance, and condonation or such behavior.

    So teaching tolerance and acceptance is a bad thing????

    Let me try again to see if I can make it work. Connor says,

    Prejudice=good

    tolerance=bad

    Nope, I can’t make that work at all…Sorry. And, furthermore, lack of religion isn’t a religion. That’s why someone doesn’t believe in or have faith in evolution. It’s not a belief. It is a set of facts and evidences that lean toward a specific idea. To conflate atheism and religion is ridiculous.

  30. Jeff
    September 30, 2007 at 11:11 pm #

    Now, back to the issue at hand. Connor is right when he says that the tax money that supports his child’s schooling should follow him or her to whatever school Connor, his wife (congrats on getting married, btw), and their child deem appropriate. However, in order for that to work, the tax dollars either need to be given back to the public, or the exact dollar amount that is spent per student in any school needs to go with the student if he/she changes schools.

    The $3000 voucher program that is being proposed doesn’t do that. First, $3000 is a pittance compared to what is being spent per student in public schools, and second, the schools that they leave are still being funded for the absent student. That doesn’t work. What will happen with this program is more regulation, not less. Government regulated competition isn’t capitalism, Connor; it’s fascism. This program will do more harm than good, and we should vote against it.

    Vouchers aren’t the answer to problems in the public school. Choice is (part of) the answer, and having the money follow the choice that is made. Vouchers, as the program is written, are no more than pell grants to attend private schools. How do you feel about government pell grants anyway, Connor? This isn’t a free-market solution. It is a fascist solution cleverly disguised as a free-market solution. Think about it.

  31. Carissa
    October 1, 2007 at 7:42 am #

    …lack of religion isn’t a religion. That’s why someone doesn’t believe in or have faith in evolution. It’s not a belief. It is a set of facts and evidences that lean toward a specific idea. To conflate atheism and religion is ridiculous.

    Actually, Boyd K. Packer conflated atheism with religion.

    There is a crying need for the identification of atheism for what it is, and that is, a religion—albeit a negative one, nevertheless it is a religious expression. It is the one extreme end of the spectrum of thought concerning the causation of things.
    Boyd K. Packer, “What Every Freshman Should Know,” New Era, Oct 1973, 4

    Moral values are being neglected and prayer expelled from public schools on the pretext that moral teaching belongs to religion. At the same time, atheism, the secular religion, is admitted to class, and our youngsters are proselyted to a conduct without morality.
    Boyd K. Packer, “The Father and the Family,” Ensign, May 1994, 19

    On the topic of tolerance:

    So teaching tolerance and acceptance is a bad thing????

    …we must recognize at the outset that there is a difference between tolerance and tolerate. Your gracious tolerance for an individual does not grant him or her license to do wrong, nor does your tolerance obligate you to tolerate his or her misdeed. That distinction is fundamental to an understanding of this vital virtue.

    The Lord drew boundary lines to define acceptable limits of tolerance. Danger rises when those divine limits are disobeyed. Just as parents teach little children not to run and play in the street, the Savior taught us that we need not tolerate evil.

    Together we may stand, intolerant of transgression but tolerant of neighbors with differences they hold sacred.
    Russell M. Nelson, “‘Teach Us Tolerance and Love’,” Ensign, May 1994, 69

  32. Carissa
    October 1, 2007 at 7:56 am #

    my tax money used for education should follow my child to the institution of my choosing where a set of morals I approve of is being taught.

    J. Reuben Clark said:

    “As a matter of principle, surely we who pay the costs and furnish the students might with propriety have some voice in what they whom we pay shall teach those students…”

    Unfortunately, when that money is tax money, it passes out of our hands and into the hands of the state before coming back to us. The state is the one who then gets to regulate and determine how it is spent. We, as parents, should all be able to get what we want but I don’t think this will ever be possible with the “middleman” method.

  33. Connor
    October 1, 2007 at 8:28 am #

    Jeff,

    So teaching tolerance and acceptance is a bad thing????

    Let me ask you this: does a parent teach tolerance for theft? For smoking? For pornography?

    Clearly not. And so, the question becomes what is morally right in the parents eyes. That value set they cherish becomes what they desire to instill in their child. Tolerance naturally begets acceptance and condonation, therefore inappropriate behavior is not tolerated by parents, regardless of others who hold opposing values.

    Government regulated competition isn’t capitalism, Connor; it’s fascism.

    I agree, which is why my post said:

    Whatever the government funds, it regulates. There is no public money given without legislative oversight. By accepting voucher money, private schools will have to meet government requirements. They therefore lose autonomy and must change to comply with the dictates of a governing board with which they were not previously affiliated.

    This is the downfall of this system; however, the government providing three choices instead of one is far better, is it not? To be sure, it would be best to have the government completely out of education, but in an environment where government oversight will exist, I’d much prefer alternatives to choose from, even if they’re all being regulated. It’s a large step in the right direction.

  34. Jeff
    October 1, 2007 at 5:24 pm #

    Carissa,

    The difference between atheism (or secularism) and religion is that most secularists get their views from science and empirical observation. Religion gets its view from faith. Richard Dawkins explains it this way in his book The God Delusion:

    Fundamentalists [Dawkins uses this as a near synonym of religionist] know they are right because they have read the truth in a holy book and they know, in advance, that nothing will budge them from that belief. The truth of the holy book is an axiom, not the end product of a process of of reasoning. The book is true, and if the evidence seems to contradict it, it is the evidence that must be thrown out, not the book. By contrast, what I, as a scientist, believe (for example, evolution) I believe not because of reading a holy book but because I have studied the evidence. It really is a very different matter. Books about evolution are believed not because they are holy. They are believed because they present overwhelming quantities of mutually buttressed evidence. In principle, any reader can go and check that evidence. When a science book is wrong, somebody eventually discovers the mistake and it is corrected in subsequent books. That conspicuously doesn’t happen with holy books (pg. 282).

    Science and reason, the fundamental principles of atheism and secularism, are not religious in nature, so it is impossible to conflate the two. While I respect Pres. Packer, I disagree with his statement on this issue. As for your “hate the sin, but love the sinner” idea of tolerance, I would prefer to discuss that somewhere else because my answer would be quite lengthy and would definitely be a thread-jack.

    As for the topic at hand,

    Unfortunately, when that money is tax money, it passes out of our hands and into the hands of the state before coming back to us. The state is the one who then gets to regulate and determine how it is spent. We, as parents, should all be able to get what we want but I don’t think this will ever be possible with the “middleman” method.

    This is exactly right, and it is why we should vote no on this referendum.

  35. Travis Gibby
    October 1, 2007 at 5:33 pm #

    The section you cite cannot be accurately compared to this voucher situation. For example, how does one classify “direct support”? The voucher money would go to subsidize tuition for an individual child, not finance construction, conduct operations, or pay for materials for the school itself.

    I think were playing semantics here. I understand you like the voucher program. I would not have a problem with a voucher program so long as the eligible private schools were held to the same secular standards. But as I see it, any money made payable directly to the school itself constitutes direct support.

    Furthermore, the LDS-oriented private schools are not “controlled by any religious organization.” I do not know to what extent the Catholic ones are controlled by the church itself, so I cannot opine there. But this section seems to not apply to any private school desiring to teach religous principles, so long as it is not done under the purview of a church.

    I am less concerned with LDS-oriented schools although funding those would also violate Utah’s constitution. However there are evangelical private schools that teach that people like me are going to suffer in some awful place forever simply because we do not believe in their religion. It is their constitutional right to teach those things but not their right to receive tax dollars so that they can teach them. Also I don’t want to fund schools that teach things like young earth creationism and try to pass it off as science. Would you want to fund a school that teaches alchemy instead of chemistry, or astrology instead of astronomy? Me either.

    one might counter that public schools endorse tolerance, acceptance, and condonation or such behavior.

    I’m sure that sometimes it happens just as sometimes teachers and administrators feel compelled to preach their religion in school even though it is an abuse of their position. Teachers who teach that homosexuality is good should be held accountable and possibly fired, the same goes for the ones who teach that homosexuality is bad. It simply is not an appropriate topic for a teacher to address and should be left up to the parents. However I should point out that if intolerance toward homosexuals, like violence or other mean spirited behavior, occur in public school it is the teachers duty to step in. Tolerating homosexuals does not imply that you endorse homosexuality.

    David Barton argued:

    Consider the difficulty of maintaining this government neutrality when atheism and secular humanism are considered religions [as recent Court cases have stated]. For example, courts prohibit the inclusion of religious activities in schools because the presence of a religious activity constitutes an endorsement of religion; however, if religious activities are excluded, then nonreligion has been given preference and thus is being endorsed. Therefore, since either religion or nonreligion will be endorsed by its presence, how can “neutrality” and “no favoritism” be maintained under such standards?

    This is a fallacy. You may, if you like, call secular humanism a religion. To me religion means something different but that is beside the point. Secular humanism is the philosophy/religion/whatever you want to call it, that holds that morals should be based only on your own love for others and your ability to think and reason. We don’t believe in basing morals off of what holy books say or what religious institutions say. The fact that a school may endorse certain values on a purely secular basis, such as not fighting and not cheating, does in no way imply that secular values are the only legitimate kind of values or even that they are the best type of values.

    Another important point that some people do not realize is that many religious activities are permitted so long as it is the students who are initiating it and not the administrators. Children have the right to pray at school and they do not need permission. They have the right to read scripture and the supreme court has upheld these rights and I think that those decisions are sensible.

    If you find neutrality toward religion to be the same thing as hostility toward it, consider how you would feel if your child came home and told you that his class held a séance. Keeping religious dogma from being promoted in the classroom not only protects the right of religious minorities and irreligious people, it protects your rights as well.

    It is not true that I think the schools should be completely void of religion because I think the right to express our beliefs is a fundamental human right at home, at school or just about anywhere. I only say that the school system should not promote one ideology or another. This is difficult to implement but it is possible, and I don’t think that gay day buttons should be handed out at school.

  36. Jeff
    October 1, 2007 at 5:42 pm #

    Connor,

    Let me ask you this: does a parent teach tolerance for theft? For smoking? For pornography?

    Let me ask you this: Can a case be made against theft, public smoking, and pornography using a secular system of ethics?

    Absolutely. Can the same case be made against homosexuality without bringing in religion?

    Not so much. IMO, if you can’t make the case without religion, the case shouldn’t be made in a government-funded school. The SCOTUS and the Constitution would agree with me.

    Finally, you say this about the referendum,

    the government providing three choices instead of one is far better, is it not?

    No, in this case, it’s not. Right now, private schools excel for a couple of reasons: 1- they aren’t regulated by the government, and 2- they have large parental involvement because parents pay to send their kids there. This bill would remove both of those things from private school, making them into public schools and adding public school vices to private schools. Public funding (and the eventual ruin) of private schools is not a fair price to pay for choice in education. Also, as has been noted above, the voucher won’t allow low-income students to go to private school anyway, so most of the people it will benefit can already afford the choice if they so desire.

    Finally, voting against a socialist system by supporting a fascist one doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s that “lesser of two evils” way of thinking that got Europe in trouble in the ’30s. Isn’t it?

  37. Jeff
    October 1, 2007 at 5:49 pm #

    Teachers who teach that homosexuality is good should be held accountable and possibly fired, the same goes for the ones who teach that homosexuality is bad. It simply is not an appropriate topic for a teacher to address and should be left up to the parents. However I should point out that if intolerance toward homosexuals, like violence or other mean spirited behavior, occur in public school it is the teachers duty to step in. Tolerating homosexuals does not imply that you endorse homosexuality.

    Well said, Travis. You make a good case for secularism in your response and also give a clear explanation of the role of religion in the public sphere. Thank you.

  38. Carissa
    October 2, 2007 at 8:41 am #

    Jeff,

    Not everyone accepts the same definition of religion, and apparently Pres. Packer simply holds to a broader interpretation of what it means. According to Wikipedia, religion is defined by some as the “framework or medium that shapes the entirety of life and thought” or one’s “primary worldview“.

    The things learned, or not learned (intentionally or unintentionally) at school, where an impressionable child is spending a majority of his/her day, all contribute to that child’s “worldview” in some way, whether we call it religion or not. They way I understood it, Connor was basically trying to make the point about neutrality that Pres. Hinckley was:

    “What has happened to our schools? There are still many that are excellent, but there are very many that are failing. What has become of the teaching of values? We are told that educators must be neutral in these matters. Neutrality in the teaching of values can only lead to an absence of values.” Speech given at U.S. Conference of Mayors, SLC Utah, Sep 25, 1998

    Anyway, sorry for the threadjack. I agree that over time, vouchers will probably have the effect of “neutralizing” private schools through regulation, leaving us with less diversity of choice instead of more.

  39. Jeff
    October 2, 2007 at 10:16 am #

    Carissa,

    I agree with Pres. Hinckley’s statement; however, I don’t believe that values are tied to religion. Honesty, integrity, loyalty, charity, etc. can all be taught and demonstrated without any mention of religion. They are ethical, humanist values and not exclusively religious values. The “value” that I don’t believe belongs in school is that “homosexuality is a sin.” That can’t be justified using anything besides a religious justification, and not even all religions agree on it. It is a narrow interpretation by a certain group of individuals based on a specific religious view. Unlike honesty and integrity that are easily endorsed as “right” by the majority of the people, a view against homosexuality is only endorsed as “right” by people with a certain religious leaning.

    The point of all this is that one doesn’t have to teach religion or bring God into the picture to teach values. In fact, I would argue that by bringing religion into schools in that way, we are actually numbing some values like mutual respect of all people.

    BTW, the wikipedia definition of religion it too broad for my taste.

  40. Tim
    October 2, 2007 at 2:23 pm #

    First, a couple of mini rants…Please explain to me what specific religion is being promoted when the bible is used as the basis for moral definition in our society? Especially in light of our founding fathers clear intent and statements that such morality MUST exist in our nation for it to survive.

    Second, please explain to me what ‘Government’ or ‘Public’ money is? Government does not ever ‘own’ money. They are merely a middleman in the process.

    Now, a minor example of where some of these arguments go wrong. Let us take discrimination as an example. I am a member of the most discriminated group in the United States. And, in fact, I am a member of what appears to be the only group it is LEGAL to discriminate against. What group is that? White, straight, Christian and Male. Look at all the groups for the various minorities or the various programs created for them, such as college scholarships. Do you think I could get away with creating a large organization, similar to the NAACP, whose purpose was to ensure the rights of the white man while burying the rights of others? What about creating a scholarship that could only go to a white, straight, Christian male? Government, in promoting any group, blocks another.

    So, how can government decide what is right and wrong to teach in the schools. I say destroy the public schools, get Governments hand out of it, and let us return to the foundations laid out for this great land. If that means that the dollars I pay into taxes go to a school I don’t support for now, so be it. Let the rest have the choices they want until the system stops supporting itself and the fundamental change has to occur. Such an extreme event will not occur until an extreme catalyst occurs.

  41. Jeff
    October 2, 2007 at 4:39 pm #

    Tim,

    Please explain to me what specific religion is being promoted when the bible is used as the basis for moral definition in our society?

    Gee, that’s a tough question…Christianity!! Duh, since the Bible is the holy book of the Christians, using it to write the moral code for the nation is definitely endorsing Christianity.

    Especially in light of our founding fathers clear intent and statements that such morality MUST exist in our nation for it to survive.

    Most of the founding fathers were Deists, and the ones who were religious didn’t come here to establish a religious state; they came to escape one. Our country wasn’t founded on Christian principles; it was founded on secular ones. Again, I have to reiterate that religion doesn’t have a monopoly on morals. People can be good and be atheists just as easily as people can be good and be Christians.

    I am a member of the most discriminated group in the United States. And, in fact, I am a member of what appears to be the only group it is LEGAL to discriminate against. What group is that? White, straight, Christian and Male.

    Puh-leeze! Could you tell me what grievous injustices you have suffered by being white, Christian, and male? Have you been beaten by your gay neighbor, enslaved by your black coworkers, or raped by an angry group of females? Have you been denied anything because of your “membership” to your “privileged” class? What have you had to sacrifice for being straight, white, Christian, and male? I have a feeling that the answer is not one damn thing. Do you know why there’s a black history month? Because there are 11 white history months. Do you know why there’s gay pride week? Because there are 51 straight pride weeks. Walk a day in a gay man’s shoes, and then see if you really should be complaining about your persecution. Your argument is pathetic.

  42. Connor
    October 2, 2007 at 5:26 pm #

    Jeff,

    You should read the book Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion, authored by David Barton. He thoroughly refutes every single argument you make here in comment #42.

    I doubt you’ll buy and read a book that supposedly refutes all your ideas, but hey, just thought I’d pass along the suggestion. :)

  43. Travis Gibby
    October 2, 2007 at 6:18 pm #

    Well said, Travis. You make a good case for secularism in your response and also give a clear explanation of the role of religion in the public sphere. Thank you.

    Thank you Jeff, I appreciate that.

    First, a couple of mini rants…Please explain to me what specific religion is being promoted when the bible is used as the basis for moral definition in our society? Especially in light of our founding fathers clear intent and statements that such morality MUST exist in our nation for it to survive.

    If you want to get technical, it depends on which version of the bible you are talking about, the Tanakh, The Roman Catholic Version, The New International Version, The King James Version? Also it depends on how broadly you define religion. If you define it as broadly as some of the people here do, that even atheism is a religion, than you would have to consider theism a religion as well, in which case any version of the bible would promote a religion. I don’t consider atheism and theism religions, I do consider Christianity, and Judaism religions and you cannot introduce any version of the bible into the school system without endorsing one or the other or both.

    As for the religious views of the founders, they varied, some were religious, some were not. Some, like Patrick Henry, were in favor of compulsory religion. Fortunately that view did not win out. Many of the founding fathers including Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison saw organized religion as an oppressive force, I have to agree with them.

    I think one thing that we can all agree on is that morality is critical for any societies well being, but the bible simply does not have a corner on morality and contrary to what some people would have you believe, our government was never intended to be exclusively Christian.

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” Treaty of Tripoli 1797 signed by President John Adams and ratified unanimously by the senate.

    Second, please explain to me what ‘Government’ or ‘Public’ money is? Government does not ever ‘own’ money. They are merely a middleman in the process.

    I understand what you are saying, and I agree that tax money belongs to the American people. I also don’t think it’s fair to take money from Americans and put it into a faith based group regardless of wether or not they share those beliefs. If we simply want to give parents more choices than we should not tax anyone who does not have children attending public schools to support the public school system. In other words, have the public schools operate off of tuition only, that way only those who have children attending the school get charged.

    Now, a minor example of where some of these arguments go wrong. Let us take discrimination as an example. I am a member of the most discriminated group in the United States. And, in fact, I am a member of what appears to be the only group it is LEGAL to discriminate against. What group is that? White, straight, Christian and Male. Look at all the groups for the various minorities or the various programs created for them, such as college scholarships.

    Discrimination can happen to anyone. I am aware of a few circumstances where Christians have been discriminated against. A child was sent home from school for dressing up like Jesus of Nazareth on Halloween a year or so ago. Another girl was told she could not read the bible on the school bus and the supreme court upheld her right to. In my opinion these things happen usually because misconceptions about other church-state separation cases, that the media perpetuate, make school official paranoid that they are going to get sued if they allow the slightest religious expression in the school. But I don’t think that straight Christian, white, males are the most discriminated against group. However, if it turns out I am wrong, it still does not justify discrimination against others.

  44. Carissa
    October 2, 2007 at 8:53 pm #

    I definitely agree with you, Travis and Jeff, that religion does not have a monopoly on morals. Just like it would be unfair to take tax money and use it to support a particular religion, though, some parents might feel it unfair that their tax money is used to support a secular institution that contradicts the things they believe in and are trying to teach their children. (I’m not trying to argue whether or not public schools contradict anyone’s religion– but simply acknowledging that some might feel that way under certain circumstances).

    If we simply want to give parents more choices than we should not tax anyone who does not have children attending public schools to support the public school system. In other words, have the public schools operate off of tuition only, that way only those who have children attending the school get charged.

    I agree.

  45. Jeff
    October 2, 2007 at 9:42 pm #

    Connor,

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I just ordered it along with Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Nine. I had been meaning to order Toobin’s book anyway, so I piggy-backed your suggestion onto my order. It saved my $6 on shipping from Barnes and Noble. :)

    Just so you’re aware, I love reading books that challenge my ideas, and I often find my world view changing as I learn more and examine more. For instance, I read Ayn Rand when I was (in essence) a socialist, and now I subscribe more to free-market capitalism; I read Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins when I was a theist, and I now tend to lean more toward the atheist camp (I was struggling with theism when I read them, and they helped me understand the concept of moral atheism). However, it should be noted that I don’t just change with everything that I read. I read some of Barton’s website today, and I think that he’s practicing revisionist history to try and support his evangelical world view, but I will withhold judgment until I read the book. I’ll let you know what I think.

    Thanks for the suggestion.

  46. Jeff
    October 2, 2007 at 9:58 pm #

    Travis,

    Thanks for saying in a level-headed way what I was trying to say in my heated bit of ranting.

    Carissa,

    I think that we agree on the virtues of school choice and on the failings of the current voucher proposal in promoting that type of choice that we desire. It’s interesting how this discussion has turned away from the subject at hand and toward religion. Strange.

  47. DeeDee
    October 3, 2007 at 2:02 am #

    “You left out the fact that vouchers violate the Utah Constitution. Also that Utah is being asked to be the laboratory for a national right-wing experiment rejected everywhere else, at our own expense!

    Isn’t it ironic that the far right is pushing an entitlement program for the rich and middle class? (No children of poor families are going to go to private school with a $3,000 voucher).”

    WRONG on both counts. You want to talk experiment? Talk to the children who came out of my husband’s years of schooling in Utah when they “experimented” with worthless see and say teaching with the results that half of that era can’t read.

    And your also WRONG about a poor family not being able to go to a private school with a $3,000 voucher. My daughter’s family live in a very modest home, drive rattle trap cars and go without all the nifty adult “toys” in order to put their children in a private school. That $3,000 voucher would pay for all but $500 of tuition. Going without cable TV would more than take care of the $500 difference.

  48. Tim
    October 3, 2007 at 7:37 am #

    Jeff,
    Seperation of State and ‘Religion’ was never defined in our founding documents. Neither was seperation of State and ‘Faith’. Neither, in fact, was State and God, as in the Judeo-Christian God, mentioned. The ONLY thing ever enforced was the creation of the Church of the United States, ala the Church of England or the control the Catholic church had over the Kings of other nations. The Government, per the Constitution and not the legislative judges since then, could easily provide funds approved by law to a church. The difference is, those funds would have to be available to all churches. Again, the education system has done a WONDERFUL job of educating our children. I am grateful to be one of the exceptions going through the public school system years ago. Back before it was taboo to say the Pledge of Allegiance or have other rights and freedoms granted.

    As to my discrimination argument, it is simple. When you promote ANY group as special and protected and leave out another, you discriminate against the left out group. Ergo, by giving special dispensation to these groups, I have been discriminated against. This is why these programs don’t work. Anti discrimination actions typically end in another group being discriminated against, even if it is because they do not receive the special protections of the group who ‘won’.

    Sorry to hijack.

  49. Travis Gibby
    October 3, 2007 at 6:11 pm #

    I definitely agree with you, Travis and Jeff, that religion does not have a monopoly on morals. Just like it would be unfair to take tax money and use it to support a particular religion, though, some parents might feel it unfair that their tax money is used to support a secular institution that contradicts the things they believe in and are trying to teach their children. (I’m not trying to argue whether or not public schools contradict anyone’s religion– but simply acknowledging that some might feel that way under certain circumstances).

    You’re right, the public school system does contradict some peoples religions. I understand why those parents feel that it is unfair too. I don’t think that there is a solution to the problem that will make everyone happy. Some parents teach their children that the earth is no more than several thousand years old and some teach that it is several billion. Some parents teach that the Big Bang theory and the theory of evolution are lies. Some parents interpret neutrality toward their religion as hostility. I wish there were a way to make everyone happy, but I think the only sensible solution is let scientist decide what is and isn’t science. Of course it is easy for me to say that since I don’t feel that science conflicts with my beliefs most of the time; and when science does conflict with my beliefs, to me it is a sign that I may need to reevaluate them.

    Travis,

    Thanks for saying in a level-headed way what I was trying to say in my heated bit of ranting.

    You’re welcome Jeff.

    Separation of State and ‘Religion’ was never defined in our founding documents. Neither was separation of State and ‘Faith’. Neither, in fact, was State and God, as in the Judeo-Christian God, mentioned. The ONLY thing ever enforced was the creation of the Church of the United States, ala the Church of England or the control the Catholic church had over the Kings of other nations. The Government, per the Constitution and not the legislative judges since then, could easily provide funds approved by law to a church. The difference is, those funds would have to be available to all churches.

    It is true that the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution. There are some who claim that this must mean that the whole concept of church-state separation is, “the lie of the left”. The first amendment says:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

    The establishment and free exercise clauses in the first amendment were largely due to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s influence. Thomas Jefferson wrote about the amendment in a letter to a religious minority group, the Danbury Priests who were concerned that they would not be treated equally.

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that 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.

    James Madison used a similar term as well.

    There remains . . . a strong bias toward the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between government and religion neither can be duly supported. Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such is its corrupting influence on the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded. . . . Every new and successful example of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance. . . . And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. . . .

    Religion in America, Opposing Viewpoints Various Authors

    As for the government providing funds for churches, that is exactly what Patrick Henry wanted, as well as mandatory church membership, but others were opposed to it and the view that it is wrong to force someone to support an ideology he is opposed to won out.

    to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern

    Thomas Jefferson in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

    As to my discrimination argument, it is simple. When you promote ANY group as special and protected and leave out another, you discriminate against the left out group. Ergo, by giving special dispensation to these groups, I have been discriminated against. This is why these programs don’t work. Anti discrimination actions typically end in another group being discriminated against, even if it is because they do not receive the special protections of the group who ‘won’.

    I won’t argue with you there. I’m not arguing for special treatment of nonreligious and religious minorities, or special laws to protect them specifically. They should be given the exact same treatment as anyone else.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state_in_the_United_States

    http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/facts/democrac/42.htm

  50. Tim
    October 4, 2007 at 7:46 am #

    Well, it appears on one hand, many of us agree. Abolish the tax system, remove the Departments of Misinform…Education, and get the government out of the ‘education’ game. Then, you have people with income to school their children as they feel is appropriate and each group can have their ‘school’ of choice. Too bad the right choices seem so ‘radical’ anymore.

  51. Chris
    October 4, 2007 at 10:04 pm #

    Connor, great post but dude you are married now! Where do you find the time? :)

  52. Ran
    October 5, 2007 at 8:28 pm #

    Jeff,

    Conner said:

    While you argue that many religious schools teach prejudice towards homosexuals, one might counter that public schools endorse tolerance, acceptance, and condonation [of] such behavior.

    You said:

    So teaching tolerance and acceptance is a bad thing????
    Let me try again to see if I can make it work. Connor says,
    Prejudice=good
    tolerance=bad
    Nope, I can’t make that work at all…Sorry.

    Let me help. First, Conner didn’t claim prejudice=good. Second, tolerance is normally OK. And America IS tolerant. Christian America is tolerant of homosexual behavior, even — we don’t usually kill homosexuals. Some places on Earth can’t claim as much. We tolerate a lot of other things, too.

    See, tolerance is allowing something to continue or even to exist when the preference is that it did not. It does not mean accepting or granting moral equivalence. The problem we have, however, is that moral equivalence is exactly what homosexuals and other groups are crying for. It’s not enough for them to simply be, they have to be validated, accepted, and even celebrated. They are asking for more than is due them in a society with the right of free association, which our society does still (barely) enjoy. Society tolerates a certain amount of crime, it doesn’t accept it, encourage it, and celebrate it.

    As for all the atheism stuff, you might be interested in The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day.

  53. Travis Gibby
    October 6, 2007 at 12:54 am #

    Hi Ran,

    Let me help. First, Conner didn’t claim prejudice=good. Second, tolerance is normally OK. And America IS tolerant. Christian America is tolerant of homosexual behavior, even — we don’t usually kill homosexuals. Some places on Earth can’t claim as much. We tolerate a lot of other things, too.

    True, there are places where homosexuals are treated alot worse than they are treated here. But there is alot of hate and prejudice toward homosexuals right here in this country. The Westboro Baptist Church’s, Jerry Falwell’s, and Pat Robertson’s rantings are only extreme examples.

    The problem we have, however, is that moral equivalence is exactly what homosexuals and other groups are crying for. It’s not enough for them to simply be, they have to be validated, accepted, and even celebrated.

    There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone wants to be accepted. But the truth is that what homosexuals want more than anything is to be treated like human beings. To be quite frank, I don’t know why people are so obsessed with what consenting adults do in private anyway. Don’t we have more important things to worry about?

  54. Dustin Davis
    October 9, 2007 at 5:51 am #

    Connor,

    When I first heard of this voucher program I thought, “sounds like a good idea to me.” Then it hit close to home. My wife wants to put our daughter in private school and her parents have even agreed to pay for it. I said no.

    The problem is that I can’t really explain why I don’t want my kids in private school. I would say that whatever education they may not get in school, we can help provide in our home. I admit, I’m cheap. I don’t want to pay private school tuition for each of my kids my whole life and I don’t want my in-laws paying for it because I can’t afford it. I don’t want to separate my kids from the rest of society. I don’t feel like I should shield them from life’s temptations or trials. Certainly God does not shield us from everything. It’s necessary for our growth. Even his Only Begotten was not reserved for the best environment – rather he was put in the middle of the worst. My hope is that we can fortify and strengthen our home enough that my children can go out and be and influence for good on society.

    I understand all these points can easily be argued, but when it comes down to it, to me, it just doesn’t feel right.

    I read Lonsberry’s post as well as an email from my dad who has been a public school teacher his whole life and the points they make are valid as well.

    So I have flip-flopped on this one. I’m opposed to the voucher program. Yes, public schools need reform. There are a lot of things broken in America, but I don’t think private schools are the answer. I would rather see parents spend their efforts getting involved to help fix the public school problems.

    (Needless to say, the favorite son-in-law has now fallen from grace) :(

  55. Travis Gibby
    October 9, 2007 at 11:01 pm #

    I don’t want to separate my kids from the rest of society. I don’t feel like I should shield them from life’s temptations or trials.

    I definitely agree as a parent and a freethinker. It is critical for a child’s growing process to be exposed to other ways of thinking and other viewpoints even though I as a parent may not agree with all of them. Of course it’s important to shield children from certain things especially when they are very young, but I think many parents go too far.

    Kudos to you Dustin to allow you’re children to learn other ways of looking at life and hopefully decide for themselves. It takes courage, but I believe if everyone did it, the world would be a better place with more love in it and less prejudice.

  56. Andrea
    October 15, 2007 at 11:06 am #

    My biggest issue with vouchers is this: Have you read the Dr. Suess book about the Star Bellied Sneetches? If not, you should. It’s a good one. At any rate, what about parents who can not afford to send their kids to a “better” school, whatever that may be? I am a big fan of parents being involved in deciding what is best for their children. But it doesn’t seem very fair that only the parents with money can make that decision. The poor kids who have reduced lunch and have to walk to school don’t get to make that choice. Plus when public schools start closing because there isn’t enough kids, and they don’t bus as far out as the kids live, and the parents don’t have cars to drive them, what then? I think we need to think more about the entire population rather than just what is best for the few who don’t really need the help in the first place.

  57. Andrea
    October 15, 2007 at 11:13 am #

    And one more, to add on to Dustin’s comment above. I agree with what he said. There is an LDS private school in Spanish Fork, and I think the kids who go there are poorly prepared to enter the world when they graduate. Being in Utah, we’re sheltered enough as it is without being put in a private school where the curriculum is determined by the administration. I don’t think the kids there are taught about evolution- how will they react when they take basic biology in college? It does them a great disservice to not teach them the curriculum determined by the state, which has been determined over very long periods of time by many able and knowledgeable people. Public school curriculum is not just something thrown together by a couple of who-ha’s who have better things to do. As a future educator, I appreciate the public school system, and see both the flaws and the good parts of it. Private schools, I don’t know. Just don’t impress me much.

  58. Connor
    October 15, 2007 at 11:24 am #

    At any rate, what about parents who can not afford to send their kids to a “better” school, whatever that may be?

    If public schools are so good, couldn’t they simply leave their children in public education? They would enjoy smaller class sizes if some other students leave, thus receiving more personal attention and individualized instruction.

    As I argued in the post, the subsidy isn’t enough, but it’s a step in the right direction. In an ideal system, the money would follow the student, so that the subsidy would be larger and allow a parent to choose a school without having to continue to pay into the public education pork barrel.

    Plus when public schools start closing because there isn’t enough kids…

    I really doubt that would ever happen under a Voucher program. Has it happened in other areas of the country where vouchers are available? No. Would there be a mass exodus of students from public schools? I highly doubt it. The funding situation would actually benefit public schools while allowing those who wish to opt out to do so.

    I think the kids who go there are poorly prepared to enter the world when they graduate.

    Is this the fault of the school, or of the parent?

    You see, this raises an important issue: who is responsible for a child’s proper education and development? The state, the school, or the parent? Parents must take responsibility for the educational upbringing of their children, and thus it is their fault if their child is “poorly prepared to enter the world”, whether they have attended a public or private school.

    Being in Utah, we’re sheltered enough as it is without being put in a private school where the curriculum is determined by the administration.

    But if the parents had the choice of what school to attend, if they didn’t like the curriculum they could simply choose another. And is it not better to have local people choose a curriculum than bureaucrats thousands of miles away who think that all children should receive the same exact education that they deem best? In a federalized educational system, autonomy is taken away from the school districts to have any say in the curriculum.

    It does them a great disservice to not teach them the curriculum determined by the state, which has been determined over very long periods of time by many able and knowledgeable people.

    I’d suggest some reading by John Taylor Gatto to refute this sentiment. I disagree that the state’s determined educational standard is praiseworthy. As I linked to in the article, there are numerous evidences that numbers are fudged and standards are reduced, all because schools are failing and children are becoming “dumber”, as it were. Clearly there are problems with a federalized education that can only be addressed by local action and autonomy.

    As a future educator, I appreciate the public school system, and see both the flaws and the good parts of it.

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on its flaws, and what you suggest be done to fix them.

  59. Ran
    October 15, 2007 at 11:38 am #

    Andrea,

    Life isn’t fair.

    My biggest issue with vouchers is this: Have you read the Dr. Suess book about the Star Bellied Sneetches? If not, you should. It’s a good one.

    There’s a point here, I just KNOW it. (I’ve read it. It seemed to be about wanting to fit in, but I can’t remember.)

    Plus when public schools start closing because there isn’t enough kids, and they don’t bus as far out as the kids live, and the parents don’t have cars to drive them, what then?

    Then, of course, the sky will fall. What are you suggesting? That the system we have now will just suddenly ignore these children? Is that even thinkable? The bus routes will be extended. Or the parents will start a local homeschool program. Or some enterprising capitalist will introduce a low-cost Internet-based curriculum. What then is any number of things, but at least it won’t be “stay trapped in a proven-to-fail school.”

  60. Your Gpa
    October 15, 2007 at 5:31 pm #

    All that you have written above would take me a week to research and write. My brain don’t work that fast anymore, but I do have some thoughts on this subject.
    I am for vouchers, but this law is not what I would like to see. I don’t like the fact that it has a special funding part to it. This will only raise the cost of schooling and maybe our taxes as well. I would like to see the vouchers funded out of the school funds. They complain that it will take students out of the Public Schools and I say that so what if they are that bad. Parents won’t take them out when they are getting a good education. That is what I am taxed for, to have our children educated. I feel a little competittion will make the Public Schools better.
    This is a letter to the editor of our local paper that I wrote and was published recently:
    To the Editor:

    It seems to me a little odd that here in the state of Utah, there is so much resistance to Parents having a choice of where to send their children to school. I have always thought that we as a people believed in the right to choose. I don’t understand all of the pressure that comes from outside our state with the funding to fight against this right to choose. There are two signs in my neighborhood that ask us to vote against, but I don’t see any to ask us to vote for it. What are the Public School officials and teachers afraid of? If the schools are good then that is where the parents will choose to send their children. Some Parents might want to send their children to a school that opens the day with Prayer. Some might want their children taught the principles of the Founding Fathers, as they stated them originally. The government they gave us was all about the right to choose.
    The past while Nebo School District has taken the students out of two schools here in Springville and built new ones. These older schools could be used. I would imagine that a Private School would be more than happy to make use of those schools.
    Now we have a choice to make in the November referendum, I hope you will take the time to vote.

  61. Travis Gibby
    October 17, 2007 at 5:20 pm #

    There is an LDS private school in Spanish Fork, and I think the kids who go there are poorly prepared to enter the world when they graduate. Being in Utah, we’re sheltered enough as it is without being put in a private school where the curriculum is determined by the administration. I don’t think the kids there are taught about evolution- how will they react when they take basic biology in college?

    Very good point Andrea. The theory of evolution is the most important theory in biology today. Many children are not being taught about it. What is worse is that many children are being misinformed about evolution and in some cases lied to. I hate to use strong words like “lie” but unfortunately it’s the truth. Sometimes science is replaced with theology. Whether a theory falls into the category of science or metaphysics is not decided by popular vote. Theories have to meet very specific criteria in order to be called science, most importantly they have to be falsifiable. In other words, there has to be a way to prove the theory wrong. Divine intervention is not falsifiable because assuming a supreme being exists and does not want us to have scientific proof of his existence, he could always design things in a way to appear naturally caused.

    In an ideal system, the money would follow the student, so that the subsidy would be larger and allow a parent to choose a school without having to continue to pay into the public education pork barrel.

    Ideally everyone would have the money to send their own children to the private school of their choosing and then their would be no need for vouchers, no need for public schools, and no need for the government to use our tax money to support religious schools. Remember that everyone who pays taxes supports the schools, not just those with school age children. I do feel that parents should have the choice to send their children to the school of their choosing. I do not feel that it is the parents right to receive tax money to send them to the school of their choosing regardless of whether or not the schools are religious based or meet good standards for science education.

    The funding situation would actually benefit public schools while allowing those who wish to opt out to do so.

    This is something I don’t get. It seems that some of the voucher advocates want to argue that the system will increase funding and force them to compete at the same time. I can understand how it will increase funding for 5 years while the school continues to receive funding sure, but after that they would be receiving less funding because they would be competing. I don’t see how you can have it both ways. It’s like saying that Harmons will get more funding if I shop at Walmart because they will have fewer customers to serve.

    Some Parents might want to send their children to a school that opens the day with Prayer.

    That’s fine. They should have that choice, but they should do it with their own money, not mine and other taxpayers who do not want to support religious institutions that they don’t agree with.

    Some might want their children taught the principles of the Founding Fathers, as they stated them originally.

    I think that most parents want that, which is why don’t want to support private schools as some of them have their own version of history that they want to promote.

  62. Dustin Davis
    October 18, 2007 at 6:21 am #

    The theory of evolution is the most important theory in biology today.

    Blah! The theory of evolution is utter nonsense. I went to a public school and didn’t learn this. My 9th grade biology teacher basically skipped right over that chapter by basically saying “some people think we evolved from apes.” The funny think is she was not LDS. I don’t even know if she was Christian.

  63. Travis Gibby
    October 18, 2007 at 2:57 pm #

    I’m sorry that your teacher did not teach you about evolution Dustin, she did you a great diservice. But before you dismiss evolution, I would suggest that you read up on it. Read the creationist literature and then read some books by actual scientists as well. You will find that the creationists are for the most part fairly ignorant about science and that they frequently build strawman evolutionists by use of selective quotation and taking them out of context.

    Also, you don’t have to be a Christian to be antievolution. many Jews and Muslims are as well. The LDS church’s official position is that it does not feel that evolution conflicts with their doctrine. Most Christians in the world have accepted evolution just as they have accepted that the earth really does revolve around the sun. In the USA though most people do not believe in evolution and I think it says something bad about our education system.

    I suggest reading “The Language of God” by Francis Collins to get a Christian who is also a scientist’s view on evolution.

  64. Dustin Davis
    October 18, 2007 at 3:48 pm #

    There are probably a million books on the earth I’d rather read before touching a book on evolution.

  65. Jeff
    October 18, 2007 at 4:18 pm #

    There are probably a million books on the earth I’d rather read before touching a book on evolution.

    Might I suggest that before you dismiss something as “utter nonsense,” you should be willing to study it and find out what it really is. Most people who dismiss evolution don’t understand it, and the ones who understand it and still dismiss it usually do so because of faith, not because of a flaw in the theory. Kurt Wise is an excellent example. So, I wouldn’t dismiss evolution without studying it. Of course, I won’t dismiss anything I don’t know about, but that’s just me. :)

  66. Dustin Davis
    October 18, 2007 at 4:29 pm #

    Well, good for you Jeff. I have studied it. Nonsense.

    I understand you and Travis are atheist so it’s futile for me to argue with people who believe they are smarter than their creator. So I probably won’t waste my time commenting further on the matter.

  67. Frank Staheli
    October 18, 2007 at 5:03 pm #

    I know I am taking this thread further afield, but The LDS Church has no official position on evolution. It was at one time President David O. McKay’s opinion, though, that evolution made some sense, because, to paraphrase, ‘the ultimate result of evolution is perfection–to become like God’.

    That sounds pretty reasonable to me. So I like to read stuff on evolution and let my reasoning and other powers help me decide what is true and what is not.

  68. Carissa
    October 18, 2007 at 5:49 pm #

    The LDS Church has no official position on evolution

    The Origin of Man, a statement made by the First Presidency of the church in 1909 was reprinted in the Ensign in 2002 with a heading that says it “expresses the Church’s doctrinal position on these matters”.

  69. Travis Gibby
    October 18, 2007 at 6:53 pm #

    There are probably a million books on the earth I’d rather read before touching a book on evolution.

    Actually the book I reccomended is not about evolution, it is about what Francis Collins considers evidence for a god. If you don’t want to read books about evolution that’s your perogative. I think it’s unfortunate that people choose to be ignorant in the 21st century but it is your buisness and I wish you all the best.

    I understand you and Travis are atheist so it’s futile for me to argue with people who believe they are smarter than their creator.

    Actually, I don’t think I am smarter than my creator, I don’t believe one exists. If you think that makes me unworthy of having a discussion with, I respect your right to do as you please.

    I know I am taking this thread further afield, but The LDS Church has no official position on evolution. It was at one time President David O. McKay’s opinion, though, that evolution made some sense, because, to paraphrase, ‘the ultimate result of evolution is perfection–to become like God’.

    My mistake, thank you for correcting me Frank. To be honest I don’t really know much about the LDS church’s position on evolution I just remember a conversation I had with a LDS candidate in the last election. I was asking about her position on the evolution bills that Chris Buttars was sponsoring. She quoted the David O. McKay article that you mentioned. She had asssumed that I was supporting Buttars bills.

    That sounds pretty reasonable to me. So I like to read stuff on evolution and let my reasoning and other powers help me decide what is true and what is not.

    Good for you. I wish more people would.

  70. Brack
    October 30, 2007 at 1:34 pm #

    Here is great response to the oreo ad: The REAL oreo voucher ad

  71. Carissa
    November 14, 2007 at 8:42 pm #

    What about tax credits for education instead of vouchers?

    It’s time to end the 40-year Washington stranglehold on education by returning control -which means returning tax dollars- to parents and local school systems. The best immediate approach is to give parents a federal tax credit for amounts spent on education. Ultimately, however, we can only resurrect our public schools by following the Constitution and ending the federal education monopoly.Ron Paul 2002

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    [...] – Weighing in on the Utah Voucher Program “Whatever the government funds, it regulates. There is no public money given without [...]

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