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.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Private schools and civil society

I appreciated this piece at City Journal, "Liberty, Government, and the Preservation of Civil Society."  In particular -- like this wonderful book by Profs. Nicole Stelle Garnett and Margaret Brinig -- the author emphasizes the structural, freedom-enhancing role of private schools, the survival of which is gravely threatened at present by policies relating to the re-opening of schools.  Here's a bit:

we need both legal and policy strategies for preserving the mediating bodies of civil society. One timely example is the need to shore up the K-12 private schools serving low-income kids—schools now in grave danger of closing en masse because of the Covid-related economic crisis. More than 100 private schools have already closed since the lockdowns. Today’s forced economic slowdown is an aberration, one that we’re unlikely—with any luck—to see again in our lifetimes. The federal government has helped individuals and businesses get through it with various initiatives. Non-public schools are an important part of civil society; they reflect the wide diversity of American history and culture, they are often longstanding institutions, and they provide valuable benefits to students and communities. Schools serving low-income students give families options other than assigned neighborhood public schools, which might be low-performing or unsafe. Short-term aid, in the form of scholarships, tax credits, or grants, could help these schools weather this storm.

Without support, potentially hundreds of these schools will close for good. Some analysts have focused attention on the price that students would pay (and the expenses public schools would have to absorb) should the nation’s private-school sector collapse. Those are important considerations, but my focus is different. Since our founding, Americans have believed that governments are formed to protect our natural liberties. Thanks to centuries of experience, we now know that civil society is an essential contributor to our freedom. We must recognize that the government has a duty to help preserve America’s mediating institutions.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink