Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Disestablishing our secular schools"

I've long been a big fan of Charles Glenn.  I think he's an outstanding scholar of public and private education.  His "The Myth of the Common School" is a must-read.  Here, in First Things, he makes the case for "disestablishing our secular schools."  A taste:

. . .  We have reason to hope that America may achieve a degree of pluralism in its schools, but important changes are needed. American public education should be disestablished and demythologized, liberated to provide a true education and not simply instruction, to be as concerned about the character of its students as it is about their academic accomplishments. Government should play a significant role, setting standards for essential outcomes on which there is a societal consensus and ensuring that family circumstances never prevent a child from receiving an adequate education, but public education should be no more synonymous with government-operated schools than public health is with government-operated hospitals. Parents should be free to choose the school their children attend without financial penalty.

This is only possible if we give up the fruitless effort to make public education “neutral,” as though anything so intimately associated with the shaping of human beings could ever avoid choices among alternative views of human flourishing. The sort of lowest common denominator schooling into which public schools have been forced, the “defensive teaching” in which their teachers engage to avoid controversy, can never provide a rich educational environment. Indeed, the false belief in neutrality has fostered an idea of teachers as a kind of secular clergy . . . .


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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Interesting article, with useful historical context. However, the education problem is more serious, as the government has imposed a virtual monopoly, with roughly a 90 percent market share upon a market which should be atomistically competitive. Deregulation is the policy solution. Industries such as airlines, trucking, telecommunications have all been deregulated leading to huge benefits to consumers. Even the post office faces competition. Primary and secondary education seem to be the last major bastions of state-supported monopoly power. Universal vouchers would allow parents to choose the form of education best suited to their children. Everyone would benefit, both people of faith and secularists, rich and poor, Republican and Democrat.

Posted by: malcolm coate | Jan 3, 2012 7:48:29 PM

I am enjoying Glens argument,however Federal Government should stay out of regulating and controlling the public educational system.Just take a look down memory lane to view the Federal Governments ineptness.I do not see any progress of sanity in Businesses they manage.

Posted by: Joseph Schwab | Mar 6, 2012 10:20:34 AM