A Gem In The Garbage Dump
Everyone knows that when the White House wants to bury a story, they release the details on a Friday afternoon in the middle of summer. Last Friday, on a beautiful summer day, the Education Department released the results of a study that found that public schools outperformed private and charter schools in both reading and math. These findings are not surprising in the least for those of us who have kids in public school, but don’t expect the Bush administration to be touting these statistics anytime soon. With any other administration in power, this would be considered good news to be released with much fanfare on a Monday morning. “Isn’t this great? Our taxpayer dollars are being used wisely and our public schools are working!”
There has been a perception for a long time that private schools are better than public schools and the Bush administration has done everything they can to foster this myth by instituting policies to ensure that public schools fail and that when they do, the money can be diverted away from public education and into the private sector. But this study highlights the failed reasoning in giving preference to private schools over public schools. Our schools are outperforming private schools despite being disgracefully under-funded and over-taxed with new testing requirements. Private schools are not the answer to failing public schools, what we need to do is fund our public schools fully and properly. Education is the great equalizer and making sure that public funds are dispersed equally throughout our public education system will help ensure that all kids are given the opportunity to succeed. You can throw money at a problem if you have really good aim.
This is not the first study that has found that public education works. In January of this year, a study out of the University of Illinois came up with much the same findings. The most interesting part of both studies is that when they break down private schools by type, Lutheran schools performed best and Conservative Christian schools faired worst. In fact in Conservative Christian schools, the kids scored a year behind their public school counterparts in math. Not surprising really, but it did provide me with a good chuckle. Considering that math is the language of science and Conservative Christians have a very difficult time resolving the conflicts between their religious beliefs and science, it makes perfect sense that they would lag behind those children receiving a secular education. Teaching creationism makes for an easy exam, but does little to help kids understand the physical world in which we live.
The startling thing is that Conservative Christian schools are the fastest growing type of private school in the country. The last thing we need is more of the worst performing type of schools. If the Bush administration gave any weight to statistical analysis that doesn’t support their agenda, the idea of giving public money to private schools that are failing at teaching kids the basics would finally be put to rest. Unfortunately they don’t and it won’t. This may be a setback for the voucher and charter school movement, but they will not give up on destroying our public schools, even if the result is an inferior education for our nation’s children.
One of the best aspects of American society is that we educate all of our children. The fact that public schools would score better than conservative Christian private schools in math shouldn’t be surprising at all considering that the agenda is totally different. Public schools educate all students in the basics, preparing them to become productive working members of society, whereas Conservative Christian schools prepare their students to be good Christians. Not the same thing at all.
I honestly believe that the purpose of No Child Left Behind, Charter schools and vouchers to private schools are all designed to destroy public education. What better way to ensure that there’s a permanent ruling class than to make education dependent on the amount of money one can shell out to buy one? And not only does the religious right want the masses to be left with an inferior education, they want to make sure that the education we are able to access for our children is a religious one. If all kids were forced into Conservative Christian private schools, paid for with taxpayer dollars, just imagine how ill equipped we’d be to analyze the behavior of our government, much less engage with our representatives in the way that is necessary for a strong and vibrant democracy. Good for the ruling class, not so much for the rest of us.
One would think that on the heels of this new government study, now would be the perfect time to give more money to public education. It isn’t “throwing money at a problem” to fund what is proven to work best. I seem to remember hearing Republicans talking a lot about accountability and focusing on programs that work rather than funding what obviously doesn’t. If Republicans really believed their own rhetoric, we’d never have to hear about charter schools or vouchers ever again. But if Republicans believed their own rhetoric, they wouldn’t be Republicans now would they?