What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Throwing Out the Baby to Keep the Bathwater

by Tony M.

Here’s a good example of getting things topsy turvy: This piece in The Atlantic on charter schools that have religious affiliations. If you reverse everything they say, you come close to the right order of things.

Does Religion Have a Place in Public Schools? “The question of what to do with religion in school-choice programs is how, or whether, to keep the baby while ditching the bathwater.”

Only problem is, the authors get mixed up on which is the baby and which is the bathwater, and ends up trying to ditch the baby in order to keep the dirty bathwater. The question that they should have asked is whether secular public schools have a place in a nation with religion.

Perhaps the most pervasive feature of the article is an assumption by Justice and MacLeod that “what schools are for” is to train students to be good little children all supporting the secular democrat(ic) regime. [all emphasis below is mine]

From the standpoint of democratic theory, the basic problem with school choice is this…

In some ways, deregulating public education and transcending the geographic limitations of 19th-century districting laws can enhance democratic education. [which does NOT mean “the education that occurs in a democracy”]

Are charter-school conversions good or bad for democratic education?...

The answer depends on questions that courts are reluctant to ask: Which groups are running the schools and to what ends? Do the schools have a democratic purpose (and not merely a “legitimate secular” one)?...

By law, these schools should be open and accepting of students of any background and be secular in purpose and in practice…

The mission of public schools is to create engaged, smart, capable democratic citizens…

Oddly, the authors are quite willing to assume the rightness of a law that demands that the schools be secular, without asking whether that’s a good thing, but then they are willing to shake their fists at judges who refuse to ask whether the schools “have a democratic purpose” when that’s not even in the law!. What do they suppose the judge could do, say “Well, what you are doing is legal, but not democratic enough, so I am going to hit you with a fine that has no basis in law”? Naturally, any parent with an ounce of independent sense will be asking “isn’t the purpose of schools to EDUCATE my kids, not turn them into “democratic” sock-puppets of the regime? Enough with the propaganda, already.”

The second most telling thing (though it runs near a tie with the first) is the obvious animosity the authors have with religion as religion. In their minds secular = good, and religion = bad but barely tolerable if all its special meaning is drained out.

On the other hand, some religious groups preach beliefs and false information that are hostile to fellow citizens and dangerous to civil society...

Rather than changing the views of antidemocratic [read: religious] groups, choice programs can provide them with publicly funded platforms for spreading their ideology, while strings are either loosened, twisted, or dropped by the secular authorities who have no interest in holding them…

School leaders can wink at state and federal regulations, sneak religion into the curriculum, and in the most egregious (but predictable) examples, advance private agendas that clash with public values…[read: secular values]

And for the “intellectually bogus” schools – yep, you guessed it, schools that teach creation as an option to Darwinian evolution. And another, a school that teaches

that the decline in Christian values caused World War I.

Heavens, how intellectually bankrupt THAT theory is. After all, we know that if people had been truly Christian, the war would have been…what, just as bad? Worse? Because…gnome underpants? No, the authors have to reject EVERYTHING religious, even if it is a religion claiming that it’s own failure is the cause of a horrible tragedy of world proportions!

The third element, which carries the weight of the argument, is the supposed “anti-diversity” of the religious schools:

Such schools can also retard the development of citizens by balkanizing our population, curtailing the free exchange of diverse ideas, limiting exposure to diversity, and creating ideological bubbles…

Please don’t notice that “limiting exposure to diversity” means limiting exposure to trans insanity, sex ed indecency, and mindless PC claptrap. They DON’T mean by “diversity” having (a) secular schools; (b) Protestant ones; (c) Catholic ones; and (d) Jewish ones. No, that’s not diversity. Only THEIR version of diversity is fair, OTHER parties presenting their ideas IN THEIR OWN WORDS is not diverse, it’s “curtailing the free exchange of diverse ideas”. Here it is again:

But on the question of diversity—that is, the acceptance of differences not only of faith, but of race, culture, sexual orientation, and others—many faiths clash with democratic values in ways that raise serious concerns about their fitness to be school providers in choice programs.

How is it that the authors can maintain such a condescending pretense of being in favor of open-mindedness, and yet be so intolerant of religious views, and of religions teaching their religious views to anyone who wants to put their kids in the school? Because, you know, you have to ASK to get your kid into a charter school.

Here’s the core objection the authors have to any really religious point of view – disguised as their objection to these objectionable teachings:

These are not good-faith differences of opinion. The extreme and unsubstantiated claims advanced in these materials lie well outside the ambit of public knowledge. They are designed to obfuscate and distort deliberation rather than to inform debate. As such, they are direct attacks on public reason and democratic life…

There you go: religious beliefs are “well outside the ambit of public knowledge”, because public knowledge is by definition secular.

Here are the strings that can be used to make teaching a tiny bit of religion tolerable: reduce religion to a servant of the state.

Stephen Macedo, a politics professor at Princeton University, has argued that such strings can even encourage religious groups to modify their beliefs and practices

A different kind of conversion, more typical of Roman Catholic parochial schools, reconstitutes a religious school that serves no particular cultural group or even religious one, but hews instead to a mission of Christian service and (usually) light evangelism

It is important to note that not all religious groups make war on science. There are clear differences among faiths and within them. While it still retains miraculous elements in its rituals and doctrinal teachings, for example, the Roman Catholic Church has reconciled itself to modern science, including Darwin’s theory of evolution.

If I were the bishop of a diocese and I knew that some of my schools were responsible for this judgment of the authors, I would have heads rolling within the hour. Not so much the “reconciled itself to science” but the rest of the insinuation that Catholic schools have had their teeth pulled and are now little secular schools with a mere veneer.

Of course, I would be tempted to take a little comfort in the fact that the authors don’t have a clue what Catholicism actually is, given that they say things like this:

As part of his effort to clean up the public image of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis famously asked, “Who am I to judge [gay priests]?” a seeming reversal of his predecessor’s statement that homosexuality is an “intrinsic moral evil.”

But I am not so naïve: their ignorance of Catholicism is almost matched by a fair number of Catholic priests and teachers.

I can’t let one twisted sentence go without correction:

Homophobia is one area of bigotry where many faiths find common cause, even as public schools across the country are building anti-bullying programs and safe spaces for LGBT youth.

Naturally, what they mean is that public schools across the country are building BULLYING programs to force kids to accept the perversions of gays and trans as “normal”. But you knew that already, didn’t you? Just in case you didn’t get the Newspeak occurring here, the authors bring it home:

George Orwell could not have imagined it better.

The question that the authors ignore, the question so large that they cannot even wrap their minds around it, is this: should Christian states ever have allowed non-religious schools to begin with? Can Christians hope to pass on their religions via secular schools? (The evidence shows otherwise.) Is it moral (just) to have government pay for schools for the secular religion while refusing to pay for other religious schools? Should we even ALLOW there to be state schools? Is education too damn important to leave to the (secular) government? Do we really want schools to indoctrinate out kids with propaganda? Do we want schools to take on roles beyond that of education?

It doesn’t in the least surprise me that the liberal stupidigentsia is still churning out this level of crap all the time. What surprises me is that something like the Atlantic is willing to let such blatant drivel go out under their banner: it’s not only the relentless, dripping venom of the authors toward religion. It’s their ignorance of what they are writing about. It’s the superficiality of their questions. It’s the mindlessness of their assumptions. It’s almost like they were themselves the product of their own government schools. [Oh, wait…they probably are. The prosecution rests, your honor.]

Comments (7)

There's no question that charter schools will be neutered in precisely the ways that these guys want them to be. *Muslim* charter schools have sometimes tried to fly under the radar but have been caught, not that I really am overly thrilled about Muslim parochial schools teaching Koran and sharia being paid for by my tax dollars. But in general, you can't have a really distinctively Christian charter school. Charter schools are public schools, period. I often remind parents of this. Their main advantages are

a) They are usually more successful than ordinary public schools at preventing teachers and students from literally being beaten up and/or threatened with physical violence,

b) they are usually more successful than ordinary public schools at maintaining classroom order so that more actual learning can take place,

c) they are somewhat independent of the *mechanisms* of PC thought control through being able to make use of their own curricula and educational standards, though Common Core may be changing this,

d) related to c, they can use different standards for teacher accreditation besides the ordinary educrat ones--e.g., having a MA in the relevant subjects.

But other than that, they really are not allowed to be distinctively religious.

More interesting, I searched for the word "voucher" in the Atlantic article and found that (no surprise) the authors mention vouchers only to warn against the great danger that schools would receive vouchers and continue to maintain their distinctive religious identity.

It has been hoped in the past by conservative activists that vouchers, more than charter schools, would be a type of "school choice" that would allow religious schools to be really religious.

I believe that it would not do so, and therefore I am opposed to vouchers for practical reasons--the state control just isn't worth it.

I believe that it would not do so, and therefore I am opposed to vouchers for practical reasons--the state control just isn't worth it.

Ultimately, I don't want to see state control of education. Period.

But if we can improve things somewhat, I am willing to live with interim measures until we rediscover the beauty of having families and neighborhoods and towns in control of their own schools. I admit the problem with vouchers being still subject to state control: in practice (at least at the moment) states aren't going to allow vouchers without having a lot of state control over them. One could imagine, though, vouchers in a setting where a state did NOT insist on a lot of oversight and control. Something perhaps a little easier to imagine having less oversight is having "tuition tax credits", though there again it is certainly feasible for states to try for control.

Until any of that happens, I am happy to see anything that makes parents once again aware of what it means to NOT have the state bureaucracy govern every aspect of a schools curriculum and standards. Charter schools at least have that much. At least for parents who really are more or less secular, a charter school is a step in the right direction. Maybe after a generation of lots of such kids graduating and becoming parents, they will push for something even better, like eradicating state education departments.

But if we can improve things somewhat, I am willing to live with interim measures until we rediscover the beauty of having families and neighborhoods and towns in control of their own schools.

I agree with your emphasis upon the direction things are going. Sometimes x is better than where we are.

However, in the case of vouchers, I'll be frank: I believe they would be *going* in the wrong direction. Here's why: A voucher would be offered to a Christian school that was not previously accepting any state/federal money. If the school accepted it, from the perspective of that school, a relationship of dependency would be set up that didn't previously exist.

I grew up in the 70s when the Christian school movement in the Protestant world was at its height. This was before home schooling really got going. And believe me, independence from government control was a *huge* driver. To the extent that any of these independent Christian schools out there still exist (and I believe that they do), vouchers represent a siren song and a descent from their current state of freedom. So a voucher, for a school not currently under any government control, is an "interim measure" in the *wrong direction*.

It would be especially unwise for a Christian school to accept vouchers *now*, knowing what we know now, knowing how powerful the people are who think exactly like those Atlantic authors think. I would say it would be madness. It might have been one thing for, say, Christian schools in Northern Ireland decades ago to be government-funded. Now (I hear) the government is starting to pressure even them to be secularized. But for a school in 2017 in the United States to *start* accepting government funding when it didn't previously do so would be to turn a blind eye to mountains of evidence about what is going to happen, and what is going to happen very soon, too, not decades down the line.

There is much to what you say. In the corrosive environment of today, it is very problematic to start down that road.

My own experience is somewhat more muted than yours, though. I have kids in 2 different Catholic colleges, Thomas Aquinas College and Christendom College. Now, Catholic colleges and universities have for the most part covered themselves in ignominy in this regard, having long ago bought into the mindless liberal claptrap. However, almost universally, they did it WITHOUT the kind of pressure we are talking about here: they voluntarily chose to become like modern secular colleges in all ways except having crosses on campus, without any "do it or you will lose your funding" being directly at stake. (And they all did it decades ago.)

However, the two I mentioned have a 100% record of resisting the siren song of "be like us..." that the others have succumbed to, and they have repeatedly been in the forefront of direct, official repudiation of ostensible demands to cave in to the nonsense. (Thomas Aquinas College was one of the organizations that said "we won't" to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, and successfully forced the government to cave in.) Both schools are very careful about not being pushed into diluting their Catholicism by taking government money, but they have taken different decisions: one does not take federal grants but allows for federal student loans, the other takes no federal money of any sort but takes state credits. Admittedly, they were started 40 years ago, before the intensity of the current pressure was on them, but every so often they have to re-consider their stance and how to go forward, and there is always financial pressure.

I would say that speaking generically and not with regard to the current moment, vouchers are a only a second best but better than nothing; speaking with regard to the current climate, taking vouchers would certainly make it much more likely that you will come under government pressure that may not be reconcilable with the faith.

But all that is only a side-light to the charter schools in the article. Charter schools ARE government schools, with the government choosing not to apply all of the usual government rules. I see it as at least plausible that making what was until recently an ordinary public school into a charter school represents a kind of "anti-infection" or vaccine that the government is injecting into itself, it might not do a lot of good, but it can't be WORSE than not having turned the ordinary public school into a charter school, ceteris paribus.

I see it as at least plausible that making what was until recently an ordinary public school into a charter school

Subject to correction, my strong impression is that charter schools are always started anew, not started by turning a former ordinary public school into a charter school. Sometimes a college will start one up. I believe Hillsdale has a "franchise" group of charter schools in, of all places, Phoenix. Their existence, I agree, is for people who are determined to (or can only afford to) send their kids to free public schools, better than nothing. That is to say, somewhat better than the ordinary public school.

On the other topic, I would just note that K-12 regulation by the government (when the government can) is and has always been much stricter than regulation of colleges. Even when both are taking government money. I don't even know what legal reasons go into this, but that's definitely how it is.

In any event, at this point I'd give the same advice to a new college start-up--not to become dependent on government subsidies of any kind, because we are in a very, very hostile and aggressive environment and you may well not be able to afford the legal costs of trying to resist the coercion. It's (in some ways) like any other business start-up: If the business is going to go out of existence if x happens, then you don't start with a business model that puts you in danger of x in an environment where x, on that model, has a significant probability.

• 84 percent of operating charter schools are start-up schools and 16% are conversion schools. • Of the first 100 charter schools (through 1995), 40 were conversion schools.

The Ins and Outs of Converting a Public School Into a Charter Public School


I agree about not starting a school as a charter school.

Huh, I never hear of any being converted now. I maybe need to get out more.

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.