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Jack Coons

Time for faith-based charter schools

The teachers unions have discovered that charter schools are enemies of the good society. Bernie Sanders is with them, warning us that these institutions are anti-democratic and must be brought to heel – that is, in reality, to the heel of the union, which insists that charter schools are essentially private and threatening to work evil among the poor in our cities. And private they are in varying degrees depending to some extent upon the terms of their particular compact. The point of the original charter concept (1971) was to aid the liberation of the low-income parent and child from subordination...

‘Public’ schools?

A recent article in the New York Times described, and in general, approved a particular system of education choice for parents of school children. Once again, however, the Times reports the frustration of lower-income families whose very able child doesn’t quite make it into one of the super-schools – called “public” – which are populated principally by the children of non-black parents. The predominant racial group actually admitted is Asian; these children are the champs on the decisive eligibility exam. So superior are they on the determining test that their enrollment in the super-schools has been limited by quota...
religion

The true unbeliever

Belief has never, for me, been a matter of choice. A natural universe entails a transcendent (if misty) creator. Even in these times of STEM, from nothing comes nothing. And yet, more than a few human minds, some quite celebrated, simply shun that first principle of the very rationality they strive to personify. In recent years, I’ve subscribed to the atheist magazine Skeptical Inquirer hoping to better understand this intellectual boycott of the origin of all things “natural.” I even offered an essay of my own, hoping to stir conversation on the cognitive legitimacy of this taboo of theirs and thus...

Of school choice and human dignity

God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. -Emerson, intellect Picking the school that will teach one’s child is a bracing experience, one not always without issue between the only two persons whose opinions count in American law – or between them and their child. Where parents vary in their preference of school, the decision requires each to assess his or her own values. These can differ regarding religion, art, science, racial integration, music, athletics or teaching style and atmosphere. And, even if father and mother agree upon curriculum and style, they can divide on which available institution (or...
National School Choice Week group

A voice – and a song – for choice

School choice is an idea that, without offense to its opponents, one could call “happy.” It simply addresses the world of common folk, urging their personal involvement in the national political quest for educational empowerment as a liberation from an undeserved servitude of the low-income parent and child. It is, one could say, a song to be sung on an underground railroad heading for poor families’ freedom. Did you know that there is, in fact, such a song? It came out of the hail of promoted and badly designed initiatives of the ’90s, all of which failed. It survived....
school choice

Commentary: Of rights and powers: state and parent

Law uses the term “right(s)” in various ways; in its most common version, the concept includes a sub-species called “power(s),” a word that I will deploy here: We say that a scoutmaster has the right and power to expel (or not) the miscreant young Henry from Troop 40; my drill sergeant had the power to make me do push-ups. In this brief essay I will suggest that, in dealing with children and families, it could be useful to understand the parents’ authority in this way as a subcategory of right, one quite distinct from what I will call a...
teachers unions

Teachers unions: Must they be preserved?

There is nothing to prevent teachers unions starting their own charter schools. Indeed, here and there, a few have done so. Yet most union leaders constantly blast this option as “private” and “wasteful” and “un-American” and “segregationist” and . . . (fill in the blank). At least one of these intended insults seems valid, but an unwitting compliment; most charters are essentially a private undertaking. The degree of their insularity from the “public” system varies depending on state law and the terms of their individual charters, but, after all, any separation of a school from the system in order to...
school choice

Coons: More than money

Public school parents in Rhode Island have asked a federal court to declare that the state’s very spotty provision of instruction in civics and related humanities violates constitutional rights of its high school students. Their complaint has it that, especially in poor neighborhoods, children are taught shockingly little about our state and federal governments and the expected role of the citizen in jury service, voting, taxation and so forth. It seems that fewer than half our states even require the teaching of civics, and the Rhode Island suit would put that failure to the test of “equal protection” and...