Monday, April 20, 2015

Of discrimination, indoctrination and school choice

Writing in the Journal Sentinel, Barbara Miner says that private schools participating in the choice program can "ignore" Wisconsin laws prohibiting discrimination.  She then goes on to bemoan the fact that her tax dollars are being used to indoctrinate children in ways that do not meet her approval.

She makes clear that her concern is about Catholic and more traditional religious schools, singling out schools that might teach that " homosexuality is wrong, sex outside of marriage is a sin and artificial birth control is contrary to the law of God."  In a jaw dropping statement, she suggests that, in her youth, the Catholic Church was more concerned about social justice than human sexuality. Ms. Miner is older than I am, but I went to Catholic school long enough ago to have attended the Tridentine Mass. I am pretty sure that there was not some "golden era" where the Church was "cool" about premarital sex, sexual orientation and abortion or contraception. In fact, based on my son's experience in Catholic school, I'd  guess that sexual matters are less emphasized today that when Sister Maria Immaculata was in charge

In any event, Miner is wrong about the reach of anti-discrimination laws. While there are certainly laws addressing discrimination that do not apply to private schools, there are specific prohibitions of discrimination that apply to the voucher program. Schools cannot discriminate in the selection of students. As to those voucher students attending private religious schools, state law expressly provides that these schools "may not require [a voucher student] to participate in any religious activity" if his or her parent or guardian requests in writing that they be exempt. Sec. 118.60(7)(c); 119.60(7)(c)
To be sure, religious schools may teach willing students things that Ms. Miner thinks are wrong. But, every day, public schools teach children things that religious traditionalists believe to be wrong. Absolute neutrality is simply impossible and "public policy" in a diverse society ought to focus on respecting different points of view rather than enforcing orthodoxy.

Miner is wrong about one more thing. She says that test scores for students participating in the voucher program are "no better" than for children attending public schools. When properly evaluated, this is not true. But even on the flawed measure that Miner is using (comparing an annual snapshot of average WKCE stores among schools), a recent report by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty found that the test scores for voucher students in Catholic and Lutheran schools (many of which are run by the conservative Wisconsin and Missouri synods)  are higher than those for comparable student populations in Milwaukee. In other words,  the very religious schools that Miner objects to seem to do a very good job of educating poor children. 

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin

1 comment:

Dad29 said...

she suggests that, in her youth, the Catholic Church was more concerned about social justice than human sexuality

Proving that delusion is the normal state for the Left.