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Jack Coons

school choice

On school choice and the teaching of equality

Are we clear what we mean (or even could mean) when we fight for “human equality?” In what would a truly “equal” world consist? As a lawyer, I have more than once invoked the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment: “No state shall … deny to any person … the equal protection of the law.” But let us be clear: These words do not proclaim humanity’s universal equality. They assert only the right of every person under our national law to receive the same treatment that is accorded every other person in his specific situation. “All six-year-olds” are entitled to...
secularization

Separated and secular

Three score years ago the U.S. Supreme Court forbade the teaching and symbols of religion in public schools. God is neither to be discussed, pictured nor even sung to at Christmas; maybe at graduations and football games students may express their thanks to God – up to a point. It is proper, of course, for the teachers to relate the truths of Darwin and his theory of natural selection. But, it is improper to invite the student mind to wonder about just how all that material reality came to be in the first place. Could matter create itself; could all...
education choice

Consider downside of denying choice

Assemblyman Snodgrass would appreciate your thoughtful response to questions about school choice she will face this year in the legislature. You may respond at length if you choose. Who is better able to decide upon the school that the individual child will attend? a. Whoever draws the boundary lines of the attendance zones that determine the specific public schools to which individual children are assigned according to family residence? b. That child’s parent? If you answered “a,” is this because, without having met the child, the government is a better decider of this issue? a. Yes. b. No. If “yes” to Question No. 2, should well-off...

“Public education” is anything but public

In much of American society, children attend a school that has been chosen by their parents. Mom and Dad have picked out a home in the attendance area of a certain school that is owned and run by the government. At the very least, when they moved they knew its reputation. Whether or not the school was a major consideration, they accepted it as a substantial part of the culture that would count greatly in shaping their child’s worldview. That school of theirs will be called “public.” My Webster’s defines this word in various ways, but most prominent among these...

A school choice classic, revisited

The humble interim editor of this worthy school choice blog, one Ronald Matus, recalls to me the 40th anniversary of a certain book, “Education by Choice: The Case for Family Control” (University of California Press, 1978), hereafter EBC. I am to call up its conception, its ideological focus, its faults and future. To begin, my Berkeley colleague and collaborator, Stephen Dwight Sugarman, and I had already co-authored two books on school finance, the first with William Clune, long a professor at Wisconsin, and, like Steve, my student at Northwestern in the ‘60s. “Private Wealth and Public Education” (Harvard, 1970) was...

Child, Seek the Good!

“… the modern world is organized in relation to the most obvious and urgent of all questions, not so much to answer it wrongly as to prevent it being answered at all.”  – G.K. Chesterton It would have come as no surprise to GKC that the “most obvious and urgent” of human issues - our eternal destiny – is undiscussable in the classrooms of the American public school. For any child’s insistent inquiry about God or no God – heaven and all that – the scripted reply must be “ask your mother.” Thus, it is that – for seven hours a...

School choice bookshelf: Intellectual help is on the way

I finished a couple of books that bear upon the fate of the ordinary family in its hope to maintain authority over its own affairs, and specifically the governance of its children. Herewith, a brief report. Professor Melissa Moschella’s book asks the right question: To Whom Do Children Belong? Parental Rights, Civic Education and Children’s Autonomy. (Cambridge U. Press) The author is a philosopher in the natural law tradition. I have read some of her previous work and can, with great confidence report that she is a master of the Aristotelian-Thomistic approach to ethics, private and public. Her book proceeds from a...

Does parental authority ‘work’?

A friend has sent me a long article from The Wall Street Journal of Jan. 29. It was a report on the Milwaukee school voucher program, now approaching middle age. Roughly 25 percent of the districts’ children attend private schools, most with public help in the form of vouchers for low-income families seeking transfer from their assigned “public” school. The article’s declared intention was to determine the system’s success, bearing the end-all headline: “Do Vouchers Work?” The answer, we are told, would depend solely upon the test scores of children in chosen private schools compared to one another and to...