Sunday, February 7, 2016

Anti-Semitism and religious schools

Jay Greene reminds us (in the comments section here) that he found "significantly lower levels of anti-Semitism among adults who had attended religious schools as children compared to those who attended secular public schools."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Alleged sexual assault at Hilldale High School investigated

The News on 6 has the story.

School choice versus religious hatred

[Guest post by Greg Forster]

For decades, we’ve heard opponents of school choice claim that the government school monopoly is our only protection against “jihad schools” that will teach children to hate and kill. In all that time, you know what we haven’t seen? Jihad schools, operating in any of the nation’s 59 private school choice programs across 28 states. In fact, the government school monopoly doesn't protect us from religious division, and it can't do so.

In the years after 9/11, there was a scare about “madrassas”—Islamic religious schools. A vast international network of schools funded by Saudi money, we were told, was brainwashing a new generation of Muslim children into our violent enemies. Something—it was never clear what—had to be done.

Well, there are plenty of Muslims who are our violent enemies, but it turned out there was no evidence madrassas had anything to do with it. In fact, a study by Peter Bergen found that Islamic terrorists were actually much less likely to come from madrasas than from other kinds of schools. Bergen also pointed out that none of the 9/11 pilots or secondary conspirators went to Islamic schools. Which is why you haven't heard anything about madrassas lately.

Unfortunately, this country has a long history of that kind of hysteria when it comes to private schools. The old fear campaigns against Catholic schools have become today’s fear campaigns against Muslim schools—often as a cover-up for what are really anti-Catholic and anti-evangelical bigotries.

In the early 20th century, with support from the Ku Klux Klan and other anti-immigrant groups, Oregon outlawed private schooling. It argued that the filthy popery of private schools threatened to contaminate the purity of our precious cultural unity. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925), the Supreme Court struck down that law and affirmed the right to private schooling.

However, even in taking that wise action, the Court was not immune to cultural hysteria. Looking more at the hypothetical fancies of the Klan than at the behavior of private schools in the real world, the Pierce court affirmed the concerns behind the law it was striking down. It granted states sweeping power to compel private schools to teach religious tolerance, the rule of law and respect for the U.S. Constitution.

Today, all 50 states have laws requiring private schools—whether they participate in school choice programs or not!—to teach children respect for these American values and institutions. Although the historic origin of these laws is in bigoted hysteria, and many of the laws are sloppily drafted, I’m still glad to have them on the books. Even if they’re “only” symbolic, they symbolize our insistence—stretching back through the American founders all the way to John Locke—that citizens have a public and (in principle) enforceable responsibility to support the rule of law and religious freedom. As Justice Robert Jackson said, dissenting from a 1949 Supreme Court decision which held that fascist anti-Semite Arthur Terminiello was exercising free speech rights when he incited a violent riot in Chicago: The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

But these laws have never been needed, because American private schools have always been eager to teach religious tolerance, the rule of law, and respect for the U.S. Constitution. Education scholar Pat Wolf reviewed a large body of U.S. studies and found a consensus that private schools are actually more effective than public schools in teaching tolerance for the rights of others, as well as other civic values and practices essential to democracy and pluralism. My review of studies looking particularly at school choice programs found the same.

Why these scares about private schools belonging to minority religions? They feel really good to a certain kind of person—to those who give in to fear about the strength of American civilization. We have always been a dynamic and even a chaotic people. We feel a constant need to reassure ourselves that there is some firm and stable center to our culture. (Europeans tend to see this in us more clearly than we see it in ourselves; it’s one of the things they most commonly dislike about us.)

Cultural integrity is a legitimate concern. But dealing with it the right way, with respect for religious diversity, is hard and painful work. The cowardly and the infantile want instant gratification.

There is, however, another factor at work. In the face of religious pluralism, many people adopt the view that only a deliberately secularized institution can be trusted to maintain tolerance and diversity. Religious institutions are obviously partisan among beliefs. So institutions are rigorously secularized in hopes that this will make them neutral.

In fact, it does the opposite. Deliberately secularized organizations have to stigmatize and exclude religious concerns from their shared life in order to maintain their secular identity; this marginalizes and alienates religious people. As Wolf’s evidence shows, it is not empirically true that secular schools produce tolerant and democratic citizens. They are actually more likely than religious schools to produce people who don’t respect the rights of others.

This is because a secular institution can tell you to be good (be tolerant, respect diversity, etc.) but it can’t tell you why. It can’t connect the rules of right behavior to deep sources of meaning, purpose, and identity. It ends up just spewing a lot of sentimental gas, and then wagging its finger at you if that doesn’t work, and then punishing you. Or it offers utilitarian, mercenary reasons to be good. None of that helps students form either a deep attachment to moral rules or the self-discipline to carry them out.

By contrast, religious schools have proven themselves effective in producing citizens who tolerate others and respect the rule of law. School choice creates harmony by allowing all religions to participate in education on equal terms. It would be a major step forward in defusing our culture wars and preserving religious peace.

[Greg Forster (Ph.D., Yale University) is a senior fellow with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. He is the author of six books, including John Locke’s Politics of Moral Consensus (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (Crossway Books, 2014). He has written numerous articles in peer-reviewed academic journals as well as in popular publications such as the Washington Post and the Chronicle of Higher Education.]

Don't expect a system designed to regulate a monopoly to be good at regulating a marketplace

"Schools participating in voucher, tax credit, and education savings account programs are held accountable by the families who choose whether to enroll their children," Michael Q. McShane writes.
These families need good information to make that choice, so administering tests and making the results public is important, but private schools should not have to participate in the same regulatory scheme that governs public schools. We should never have expected a system designed to regulate a monopoly to be good at regulating a marketplace, and given that state-mandated testing regimes constrain what private schools can do, they ought to be reconsidered. The purpose of testing should be to inform the marketplace, not to impose a uniform vision of what makes a quality school. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Islam in the public schools?

The Islamization of America proceeds apace, David Solway writes, and the education establishment is complicit. 

This is nothing new. Eric Buehrer has written about this for Breakpoint, and Michael Patrick Leahy has written about the parent rebellion brewing over Islam-centric educational standards.

Police arrest Tulsa student in alleged sexual assault of female student

The Tulsa World has the story.

School choice in America: What does research tell us?

Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), testified this week before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fallin praised for ESA stance

"Gov. Mary Fallin deserves high praise for the vision she demonstrated in this week’s State of the State address," OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos writes today in The Journal Record.
People ... need to know that their leaders have a policy agenda that will address the fundamental challenges facing their state. What are these challenges? The first is an ineffective education system that, despite extraordinary spending increases in the last three decades, has produced no discernible improvement in student achievement. ... 
In education, the governor calls for the single reform that has the greatest chance of sparking systemic change––the establishment of education savings accounts. ESAs, by providing families with a significant portion of the state funds allocated for their children’s education, will empower parents to choose the educational services that will most benefit their children. Parents can choose to spend the funds on a variety of educational services, including private school tuition, tutoring, materials or even college tuition savings. 
Our state’s children will benefit because they will receive the services that best serve their needs. Our state’s public schools will benefit because, as in every other segment of the economy, the challenge of competing with other providers will foster institutional innovation and improvement.
And on the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City (at the 2:50 mark below), Patrick McGuigan discusses the ESA legislation being debated at the state capitol.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Local superintendents use public schools to advocate for political policies

Jay Chilton has the story.

Oklahoma considers parental-choice tax credit

Oklahoma's political leaders "should consider providing individual tax credits for education expenses," former OCPA research assistant Patrick Gibbons writes in this month's issue of Perspective.
Parents paying for private education or home education have to pay twice: once in taxes to support public schools and again for tuition, fees, textbooks, and school supplies. To address some of this unfairness, some states now offer tax credits for these education expenses. Illinois has the largest tax credit program with nearly 300,000 families earning credits up to $500 for educational expenses.

Individual tax credits for education expenses are subject to one major criticism: you only get tax credits up to the amount you owe in taxes. Since wealthier families tend to owe the most in taxes, they will get the largest tax credits. One solution is a refundable tax credit for educational expenses, such as exists in South Carolina. That program allows parents of special-needs children to receive up to $10,000 in tax credits for educational expenses. If the credits exceed your tax bill then you receive a tax refund for the difference. This ensures that the rich aren’t the biggest beneficiary of the program. 
Because "parents have not only the responsibility, but also the right, to rear their children in accordance with their consciences," philosophy professor Melissa Moschella points out, the state should not "penalize parents (even financially, by requiring them to pay both school taxes and private school tuition or homeschooling costs) for not sending their children to a school operated by the state."

Recognizing the importance of parental rights, Oklahoma state Sen. Kyle Loveless has introduced Senate Bill 1280, the Parental Choice Tax Credit Act. According to OCHEC, the Oklahoma Christian Home Educators' Consociation, this legislation "could be positive for the homeschool community."

It's important to note that OCHEC wants nothing to do with vouchers or education savings accounts (ESAs). But tax credits are different.

"There are two types of tax credits," OCHEC explains. "One is refundable, which means at some point money will exchange hands. The other is a non-refundable tax credit, which means no money ever changes hands."
This bill creates the Parental Choice Tax Credit Act. It is a non-refundable income tax credit for educational expenses. Qualifying expenses include enrollment in a qualified (private) school and the expenses that are associated with that. The bill also would allow parents who provide instruction by other means (i.e., homeschoolers) for their children from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The expenses that could be claimed by homeschool families would include tutoring fees, correspondence school fees, the cost of computer equipment, software and services, textbooks, workbooks, curricula and other written materials used primarily for academic instruction. ...
The bottom line is that this tax credit could reduce a parent’s income tax liability based upon the educational expenses that they have paid for their family. It would be up to each family to decide whether they wanted to claim the credit. Since the credit would not be refundable it would only allow parents to keep more of their own money. Any parent claiming this tax credit, assuming it passed, would not be taking state funds.
Freedom of conscience requires school choice, as Boston University professor Charles Glenn and others have observed. Let's hope Oklahoma's political leaders act to secure this fundamental freedom.

Four Norman North wrestlers charged with raping teammates on bus, at school

The Tulsa World has the story.

Former Luther band director arrested for sexual misconduct with student

News 9 has the story.